the semi-final will not be a walk in the park, but Emma Turner is looking forward to it

CORSTORPHINE COUGARS skipper Emma Turner has spent her week walking her dog as part of her job with a company called Sal’s Pals, but this afternoon she will take to the pitch with her rugby buddies during the semis -Tennent’s Premiership women’s play-off finals.

It’s been an exciting top-flight season so far with the Turner Cougars and Stirling County really upping their respective games to cause trouble for the top two from the pre-pandemic era – Watsonians and Hillhead/Jordanhill.

The Edinburgh-based Cougars came flying out of traps at the start of the 2021-22 campaign and won their first five outings, including away triumphs at Myreside and Hughenden, as well as positive results against County, Heriot’s Blues and Cartha. That left them leading the pack halfway through the regular season in a six-team league.


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At the end of the regular season, Watsonians were top of the standings after a strong second half while Hillhead were second, the Cougars third and Stirling County fourth.

All of this means Watsonians host Stirling County at Myreside this afternoon in a play-off semi-final while Hillhead/Jordanhill and Corstorphine meet in the last four at Hughenden in Glasgow.

Both matches kick off at 1.30pm and Turner, a 22-year-old second row, said: “The team can’t wait for this game, it’s been a while since we’ve played a competitive game but we’ve had this Hillhead/Jordanhill game has been in our sights for a while now.

“Over the past couple of weeks the extended squad have been training hard ahead of this one and the spirit in the group is very good. So many players have raised their hands for selection that I think coaches Eric Jones and Gav Paul have had some positive selection headaches and everyone is pushing in the same direction.

“We know how good a Hillhead/Jordanhill team can be in their time and we respect them, but this season has shown us that we have the ability within us to compete with the best teams in the country and we believe in our own abilities. . .

“Last summer – and at the start of this season – there was a great atmosphere around the team, led by the tireless work of Eric, and we had a good mix of experience and young people who are reunited after the pandemic who were all just desperate to play rugby.

“First we beat Stirling County and then going to Myreside and winning 17-0 gave us confidence because Watsonians were the [2019-20] champions.

“A win at Heriot’s followed before an 11-5 win at Hillhead. It was a day where we learned a lot about the group because it wasn’t the best match, but we deepened and tactically we played very well to come out on the bright side.

“From then on things got a bit more hectic, but we certainly weren’t hard on ourselves. We know we’ve had a good season so far and we want to continue in this semi-final.

Corstorphine and Hillhead’s second regular season meeting was part of the final ‘split points’ weekend in December when the six clubs gathered in Stirling to mark the sad passing of County and Scotland player Siobhan Cattigan.

As a result, this weekend will be just the second time the two clubs have locked down since rugby resumed and as the Glasgow squad boast Scottish players like Louise McMillan and Evie Wills in their starting XV, the Cougars have a former internationalist in Tanya Griffith at 10 years old, an exciting pairing center for Sula Callender and Jess McClintick and a solid pack to keep them going.

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So how did Turner get into rugby – and, indeed, how did she start walking her dog?

“I started playing rugby under Stevie Leckie when I was a pupil at the Royal High School in Edinburgh and I loved the game,” she explains.

“When I left school I started playing for the RHC, then when the club split in two I stayed with the women’s team as we became the Corstorphine Cougars.

“At this point we moved to Union Park and had to rebuild things, but Eric gave the setup a real focal point and things have only gone from strength to strength since then.

“In terms of dog walking, I was a modern apprentice with Scottish Rugby working in local primary schools in Edinburgh before the pandemic which was great, but when that role was no longer available I had to look for new other things I could do.

“I love dogs and like many people I had a puppy during one of the lockdowns and then a job opportunity came up with a company called Sal’s Pals.

“Caring for and walking a number of dogs from Monday to Friday certainly has its challenges, but I love it and it’s really fun.”

It should be a close encounter in Hughenden and many expect a close semi-final in Myreside as well.

County had one of their best performances of late to defeat ‘Sonians 48-19 at Bridgehaugh in October and it stung the Edinburgh side as they won their next four league matches thereafter.

The final is scheduled for January 29.

Meanwhile, the fifth and sixth place play-offs between Heriot’s and Cartha have been postponed due to Covid concerns and, according to the Scottish Rugby website, will now be played on January 22.

PLACE: Hughenden at 1:30 p.m.

TEAMS –

Hillhead/Jordanhill: E Barlow; McGowan C, McHugh H, Wills E, Bennet K; C McDonald, M Wales; P Abernethy, S Kyalikunda, A Johnston, K Yeomans, H Telling, F Campbell, L McMillan©, D Lee©*. Subs: H Lockhart, F Wood, R Millar, M McDonald, L Mills.

*Louise McMillan and Debbie Lee are co-captains

Corstorphine Cougars: K Feeney; E Mullen, J McClintick, S Callender, L Berlinghof; T Griffith, Z Turner; M Danks, K Fraser, E Dunbar, E Turner©, R Moody, L Park, L Glendinning, F Cooper. Subtitles: to be confirmed.

KEY BATTLE: Evie Wills vs. Sula Callender

PLACE: My residence at 1:30 p.m.

TEAMS –

Watsonians: J Lyons; F McGhee, S Clements, B McNamara, M Nelson; C Bain©, R Law; A Tucker, K King, S Donnelly, N Brown, S Jones, S Kearley, L Wilkie, F Walker. Subs: J Relph, R Sinclair, C Lauder, S Macey, B Nelson.

County of Stirling: N Henderson; K Wilson, R Shankland, R Cox, F Keys; B, J Hutton Streets; A Luke©, P Benson, S Maclean, K Lindsay, S Murdoch, L Hagan, H Davis, E Gallagher. Subs: G Duncan, J Farrell, E Hanson, A Coyle, E Sinclair.

KEY BATTLE: Rachel Law vs. Jodie Hutton


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