Silver Saturday 2022 | Preview
After a two-year absence due to Covid-19, Silver Saturday finally returns to BT Murrayfield this weekend.
Whilst rugby returned to somewhat of a normal run this season, with teams continuing to be impacted by covid infections and other postponements, the decision was taken to focus on the completion of the Tennent’s men’s leagues.
However, with the women’s season structured in two halves – with the Tennent’s League season running solely between September and January – the women’s Cup competition was able to run as usual.
This means for the first time, Silver Saturday will be a Women’s only finals day!
The titles being contested for are; the National Bowl, National Plate and the Sarah Beaney Cup.
All three fixtures will be refereed by women, making the event an excellent showcase of talent across the women’s game.
It is expected that over 2,000 supporters will come to watch the three fixtures at BT Murrayfield, but for fans who are further afield, the matches will be live streamed via the Scottish Rugby website.
The digital match programme can be viewed, HERE.
National Bowl: Greenock Wanderers v Cartha Queens Park 2XV
Silver Saturday will kick off at 12pm when Cartha Queen’s Park 2XV take on current title holders Greenock Wanderers in the National Bowl final.
It has already been a momentous season for Cartha Queen’s Park 2XV, also known as the Claymores.
The Claymores became the first women’s 2XV side to play in the Tennent’s leagues, making their competitive debut in the Tennent's West division league this season.
The Wanderers and Claymores are certainly familiar with one another, having previously met in the Tennent’s West division league this season. In Round 5 of the competition, Greenock took a 69-7 win.
However, with changes to their coaching staff and improved team performances since then, Cartha can take a lot of confidence going into Saturday’s final.
The Glasgow-based side secured their place in the final with an impressive 0-36 win over the Caithness Krakens.
“Our head coach Stephen McLoughlin only came on board in December, but he’s helped create a solid infrastructure and style of play for us which has obviously worked out well as we’ve made it to Silver Saturday”, said Lynsay Taylor, captain of the Claymores.
“It’s not been without a fight though. We came up against really tough opposition in the pool-stage of the competition and in our semi-final against Caithness. Our pool games, we only won against Glasgow University by four points, and it was a last minute try against Inverness Craig Dunain that won us that game. But those experiences really galvanised the squad.
“We know that Greenock are a physical team, they’re strong around the breakdown and their scrums are solid. We’ll work hard to counteract and put pressure on those areas where we can.
“We’re very much aware that we are the underdogs going into this game, so we know it’s going to be difficult. Fundamentally, we’ll be going out there with smiles on our faces.
“I’m just so proud of everyone who has pulled on a Cartha jersey this season and have helped make this season so memorable. No matter what happens, this will be a day to remember.”
This final is equally important to the Greenock Wanderers, who are the current title holders after beating Livingston in the 2019 competition.
The West Coast outfit amassed a staggering 266 game points in the four pool fixtures, before overcoming Kirkcaldy in the semi-final with a 10-22 win.
Captain Beverley Addison is excited for her squad’s return to BT Murrayfield, saying: "The team are so excited to be part of this amazing showcase of women's rugby at Silver Saturday. Our team has almost entirely regenerated since our last final in 2019, with 11 of our team playing in their first ever final and six of them are entirely new to rugby this year.
"We are looking forward to being able to show how much we have grown and improved since the last outing and perform our own brand of rugby on the big stage.
“Anyone in any women's rugby team in Scotland will know the amount of hard work, dedication and championing of the game that goes on from behind the scenes at every grassroots club, and the girls in our squad have done that this year in bucket-loads. They really deserve this amazing opportunity and I'm so proud of them all for getting us here.
“We know Cartha are going to be a really tough team to play. We both play in the West division league and our outing at the end of 2021 was a tough and physical battle, so we are expecting Saturday will be more of the same.
“Cartha has also grown and improved so much since then and have great players in their squad with lots of experience, so we know it will be a hard but exciting game.”
National Plate: Ayr v Biggar
Both Ayr and Biggar are jumping into the unknown in the National Plate final, which kicks off at 2.30pm. Playing in different league divisions, they haven't met this season.
Despite the curveball of a global pandemic, Biggar’s Women’s team have made great strides during their short spell as a competitive side.
Established in 2017, the team made their league debut in the 2019/20 season in the Tennent’s West Division league, finishing third in the table behind West of Scotland and Greenock Wanderers.
This season Biggar, went onto win the West Division and secured promotion into Tennent’s National 1 after a tight 15-22 win over Dundee Valkyries in the regional play-off.
Biggar’s journey to Silver Saturday has been equally as strong, topping their pool with wins over Livingston and Wigtownshire. They then went on to beat Dundee Valkyries 51-0 in the semi-final to take them to this weekend’s final, a first for this relatively new team.
“This has been our first year properly going for it”, said Abbie Bailie, captain of Biggar.
“From day one our goal was to get promoted and have a good run in the Cup. We’ve worked really hard for it, and we’re excited for the challenge ahead on Saturday.
“We’ve never played Ayr before, and they’ve spent the season in the league division above us so we aren’t sure what to expect. We feel like we will be the underdog but we’re not going to think about that. Our focus is going to be on the areas where we know we are strong and exploit that to our advantage.
“A few of us have had the privilege of playing on the pitch at BT Murrayfield before through Youth Finals, but for a lot of the girls this will be completely new, so to now be doing this together is really special.”
Similar to Biggar, the opportunity to play at BT Murrayfield is a brand-new experience for many of the players on the team.
The Ayr side we have seen playing this season is for the most part entirely different to the one we have seen in previous years. With players retiring or moving on, head coach Stuart Fenwick has worked hard to recruit new players, with some 15 players of their match-day 22 being either brand new to the sport or have transitioned from youth to senior rugby this season.
“We spent a lot of time delivering introductory sessions, touch rugby and rugby fitness sessions to encourage women in the area to come down and give rugby a try, so we have built up a completely new squad from the one we had pre-pandemic”, said Stuart.
“We faired alright in the Tennent’s National 1 league this season. Being a brand-new team in terms of our player base it took a bit of time to get into a rhythm and we came up against some really experienced sides.
“But as the season progressed and throughout the Plate competition so far, the team has just got better and better. It’s been really heartening to watch them flourish.”
And flourish they did! Ayr fended off competition in the pool round from Dundee Valkyries (43-27), Broughton (24-29), Shetland (3-55) and Livingston (36-17) in the semi-final.
“The team are really excited about playing in the final”, said Stuart
“The main thing for me is that I want them to have a good time. With so many of our players being brand new to the game they’ve only ever sat in the stands or they’ve watched Scotland play on the TV, so for them to now have the opportunity to play on the international pitch at BT Murrayfield, it’s massive and they’re buzzing about it.”
Sarah Beaney Cup: Watsonian FC v Hillhead Jordanhill
And the final fixture of the day is a battle that those familiar to Women’s rugby in Scotland will know all too well.
In East versus West, the currently title holders, Watsonians take on Hillhead Jordanhill.
This is now the third time Hillhead and Watsonian’s have competed against each other for the Sarah Beaney Cup, with one win each so far. The Glasgow-side have previously won the title three times (2013, 2017 and 2018), whilst Watsonian’s secured the Cup for the first time in 2019 when it was last contested.
Hillhead Jordanhill strung together three successive wins in the Pool stage of the Cup against Stirling County, Stewartry and West of Scotland before beating Corstorphine Cougars 26-20 in the semi-final. Their only loss was their opening pool game against Heriot’s Blues (7-13).
The two sides have met on three occasions this season in the Tennent’s Premiership league. In the regular league Watsonian’s took one win (12-21) and the sides shared a 22-22 draw.
The third fixture played between the two sides was played in January in the Tennent’s Premiership final where Watsonian’s prevailed with the win (67-0).
However, four months have now passed since their last meeting and the West outfit are confident that improvements will be seen in this weekend’s final.
“The cup run for us been a real growing and learning curve for both the players and the coaching team”, said Aird Jardine, head coach at Hillhead Jordanhill.
“The Cup run has definitely had its ups and downs, but I believe through the challenges we have faced it has brought us a lot closer as a squad than we have been before.
“After a tough fought win away to Stewarty, the squad has played some of the best rugby I have ever seen them play during my time coaching them. This comes down to the journey they have taken themselves to get to the final. They have gone back to core of rugby, remembering to enjoy the journey they are on with each other.”
Jardine is hopeful that the marked improvements from his team will lead them to regaining possession of the Sarah Beaney Cup this weekend.
“Saturday’s final will be a massively physical game as it always has been with Watsonians. I’m going to be looking for my players to each take ownership off their own roles and responsibilities and that will move the team forward as a unit.
“We are going to approach the game with the mentality of enjoyment. We will be focused 100 percent on ourselves and how we can all reach our potential on the day and live in the moment, not just as a team but as individuals as well.
“It would mean so much to bring the Cup back for these ladies. I know how hard they all work and the sacrifices they must give to be able to train and play each week so it would be an unbelievable achievement, especially after the journey they have all been to get here.
“For a few of the players, it will be their last game with this Hills team so it would be the perfect send off for us to say goodbye. No matter what happens or the result on Saturday, if the ladies can put in everything they have got and work from the first to the last whistle I will be unbelievably proud of each one of them.”
Watsonians had a slightly shorter journey in this year’s Cup run with Garioch pulling out of the pool due to player injury, but they topped the pool with a 10-24 victory over Corstorphine Cougars and a 38-0 win over Cartha Queen’s Park 1XV.
Their semi-final fixture against Stirling County (51-5) sealed their place in the final.
“I am so proud of Watsonians Women this season”, said captain, Alice King
“We have come so far and I cannot wait to run out onto BT Murrayfield this Saturday. We have been putting in a hard graft throughout the Cup run and are delighted to be back playing in the Sarah Beaney Cup final.
“It is bound to be a tough match against Hills but we are ready to give it our all and smash it up the pitch. Captaining the team has been an absolute pleasure. There's no other group of people I could imagine playing this game with. To finish it off with a win would mean the world.”
Whilst ultimately on the day the two sides will be rivals, Watsonians and Hill will join in unison to pay tribute to Stirling County's Siobhan Cattigan by wearing wristbands with her name and taking part in a minute's applause prior to kick-off to honour the contribution she made to rugby in Scotland and her love for Silver Saturday.
This year, all three games will be refereed by women.
Yvonne Tunnicliff will take charge of the National Bowl fixture at 12pm.
Allana McLean, winner of the Match Official of the Season in the East Community Recognition Awards, will be in the middle for the National Bowl fixture, kicking off at 2.30pm
Mary Pringle will oversee the fixture between Watsonians and Hillhead Jordanhill in the Sarah Beaney Cup at 5pm.
Dr Rebecca Wheater is also be the time keeper for the National Plate and Sarah Beaney Cup.