County Women travelled to Goldenacre, knowing that a win would secure a play-off semi-final in January. Defeat would see County drop out of the top four and almost certainly see hosts Heriot’s through to the semi-finals. County had not won away in the league this season and lost 43-19 at Bridgehaugh to Heriot’s earlier in the season.
Under pressure, County produced the most complete performance of the season. In a seesaw first half, Stirling opened the scoring after just five minutes, with Kirsty Wilson finishing off some slick handling and scoring on the right wing. Heriots got back in the game when County didn’t claim the re-start. After some sustained pressure, they opted to kick a penalty and Lisa Martin brought the score to 3-5.
County hit back with another try for Kirsty Wilson. Almost a carbon copy of the first one. Some great handling from forwards and backs, to put the winger into space. 3-10 to Stirling but Heriot’s replied and converted their try to level the scores. County pulled ahead again when more patient phase play led to a powerful break by Orla Proctor and an off-load for centre partner Rachel Shankland to score her 10th try of the season. That made it 10-15 to Stirling but Heriot’s scored next, following a marginal penalty call on half way. Heriot’s put an excellent kick into the corner and powered over from close range. With the conversion, Heriot’s took the lead for the first time.
The final score of the half went to Stirling. With County playing more good rugby, Orla Proctor ran a great switch line with Evie Gallagher and went under the posts. Kirsty Wilson added the conversion to make it 17-22 at the break.
County haven’t had a good track record after half-time. They set the record straight. Good quality rugby steadily built pressure. After 15 minutes Evie Gallagher crashed over. Reward for her unrelenting work at number 8. That took the score to 17-27. It was another 15 minutes before County could start to relax a little. Another try on the right wing with Kirsty Wilson recording her hat-trick. She went under the posts, making her equal top try scorer with 10 for the season. Kirsty also added the conversion to make it 17-34. The icing on the cake came when Lauren Davies capped an excellent return to her best form. She powered over from close range to extend Stirling’s lead to 22 points.
Heriot’s threatened at the end of the game with a break from inside their own half but Neve Henderson showed typical bravery and technique as the last line of defence. That was the last act of the game.
Final score 17-39. County into the play-off semi-finals. A very different feeling to the pain of the previous week. This was joy and satisfaction, from a performance of genuine quality. On a superb pitch, in front of a good crowd, this was a first-class advert for women’s rugby in Scotland. Both sides contributed to an open, exciting game with 10 tries scored.
For County there were strong performances right through the squad. Katie Lindsay deserves special mention for a relentless and powerful performance in the second row. Second row partner Sarah Murdoch also worked incredibly hard. It’s that sort of grit that underpins an away win. With seven tries in this match, Stirling have now scored 42 tries in 9 matches and are the top points scorers in the Premiership. The challenge now is to back this up with a win in the final league game at Watsonians on Sunday 28th November.