The St Andrews women’s rugby team welcomed the University of Glasgow team to University Park last week in a key BUCS fixture.
Glasgow sat second in the table following early season wins over Dundee and Aberdeen. The team scored 127 points in the process. The Saints, on the other hand, were in last place due to a solitary victory over Glasgow Caledonian sandwiched between competitive defeats against Dundee and Aberdeen.
Glasgow was the clear favourite for the game, but both sides began very tentatively. Neither was able to establish a firm foothold, and the game’s first point, which was won by the home side, only came after 11 minutes. An excellent break from winger April Higgin looked as though it would result in a try, but Ms Higgin was tackled into touch. The Saints were not to be denied, however, and scored from the resulting line-out thanks to Fiona Cooper. Her try was converted to give the Saints an early seven-point advantage.
The Saints were valiant in defence, but Glasgow got its first try five minutes later. A missed conversion, however, meant that the Saints still led 7-5. This was a lead the team would maintain until half-time, as all fifteen players were astounding in defence. Glasgow kept knocking on the door and threatening to take the lead, but St Andrews ensured the door remained firmly closed. Considering the defensive frailties that were all too plain in the team’s opening varsity defeat, this was a much-improved performance and a credit to the work the coaching staff and players have put in during the intervening weeks.
St Andrews almost added to its score before the break, with scrumhalf Lanita Gutieva going close from a long break. She was caught just before the line, and although the ball was recycled, the team was unable to find a breakthrough. The half ended 7-5 in favour of the home side.
One of the key questions for the second half of the match was whether the Saints could maintain their incredible defensive intensity from the opening period. Glasgow was the much more physical side and had been attacking for most of the first period, meaning the Saints had exerted an awful lot more energy.
St Andrews’ resolve in the second half was impressive, and the team held on for 13 minutes before Glasgow added their second. The conversion was missed again, meaning that the Saints trailed 10-7 with just under half an hour still to play. The game opened out in the second half, as both teams demonstrated fatigue and made increasingly common handling errors. Glasgow added a third on the hour mark after some scrappy play in the St Andrews 22. The conversion, again taken by the team’s loosehead prop, was missed, meaning it was still only an eight-point game.
If I were to give out a woman of the match award, it would definitely have gone to St Andrews try scorer Fiona Cooper. The inside-centre was one of the Saints’ most dynamic threats going forward, and she was resolute in defence. It seemed painfully ironic that as the Saints enjoyed their best spell of the second half (thanks to Ms Cooper’s hard running), the ball was turned over and the Glasgow centre ran almost the length of the pitch to score under the posts. That try was converted to take the score to 22-7 with just over 10 minutes remaining. Glasgow added a fifth before the end, with the game finishing 27-7.
However, that scoreline does not do justice to how fantastic St Andrews was for the majority of the game and also how much the team has improved in the opening weeks of the season. Considering the margins of victory in Glasgow’s previous wins, the Saints certainly did themselves proud, and their young squad looks in great shape for the remainder of the season.
Glasgow’s win pushed the team above Stirling to the top of the table, and St Andrews also rose in the table as a result of the defeat. Due to points differential, Aberdeen’s 65-12 away defeat at the hands of Dundee relegated both to the bottom of the table. St Andrews also moved above Glasgow Caledonian, which has still only managed to play two of its fixtures. The Saints’ next league game at home is against Glasgow Caledonian on Wednesday 16 November. The team will be hoping for another victory and continued improvement which, based on this performance, is only inevitable.
The Saints face the Durham second team in cup action the following week, and this match will also be a real test of their ability. Durham’s team competes in the Premier Northern Division and currently sits fifth, with a solitary victory over Sheffield Hallam University from three opening fixtures.
The future looks bright for the women’s rugby team, which is young but seems close-knit and continually striving for improvement. Perhaps more importantly, though, the team members seem to be playing for each other and not just themselves. This means that more positive results are sure to follow in coming fixtures.