Scotland: A weekend of play-offs and Grand Finals to round of this season`s Premiership

So what is at stake this weekend at Glasgow Green? This season`s champions title, European positions along with promotion/relegation outcomes.

The process starts on Saturday with the play-off semi-finals for the championship and Europe.

In the women`s competition first up are champions Watsonians against fourth placed Western Wildcats – looking at league form the former finished the league programme undefeated, only dropping two points in the entire campaign. In addition, having finished the very competitive EuroHockey Club Trophy in fifth place, two places above their seeding, coach Keith Smith will be keen to use the experience of the occasion to have another tilt at the Trophy next season.

To do that Watsonians must see off Western Wildcats and follow that up with a victory in Sunday`s final.

So the Cats may take on the role of underdogs, but in a one-off contest with winner take all, the Auchenhowie side have absolutely nothing to lose. Although the Cats lost both the league outings to the champions, last season they did hold Watsonians to a 1-1 draw.

Further, although the Cats finished fourth in the league, they have made the Scottish Cup final for the first time, so there has been things to cheer about at Auchenhowie.

However, Watsonians have lots of firepower for the Cats to deal with through the likes of Sarah Jamieson and set piece expert Emily Dark and a host of others.

The other semi-final brings together Edinburgh University and Clydesdale Western. The students have had the upper hand this season, winning 3-2 at Titwood and 5-0 last weekend at Peffermill.

But is league form much of a guide in a cup-tie situation? Doubtful. Also Clydesdale Western have had a memorable record in Europe over the decades, they missed out this season, so captain Laura Paul will be anxious to rectify that situation.

Sam Judge`s Edinburgh University side have had a good season so far, they finished second in the table, five points behind Watsonians and eight ahead of Clydesdale. And last month they held Watsonians to a 1-1 draw, Louise Campbell getting the equaliser with ten minutes left.

The situation is similar in some respects in the men`s competition.

Grange will be hopeful to see off Watsonians in the first semi-final. Yet, when the sides met earlier this month the Premiership winners only triumphed by a single goal from Robbie Croll – so Watsonians might fancy themselves.

Watsonians have had a bit of an up and down season to date, but they did well to make the top split and even better to make the play-offs after a 3-1 win at Hillhead. And they have a potential match-winner in penalty corner expert Dan Coultas, if he is in lethal form then Watsonians could cause Grange a problem.

The other tie between Edinburgh University and Western Wildcats could be an intriguing affair.

At first glance the students would appear to have the upper hand this season, it started with a 6-4 win for Hamish Imrie`s men in November. And only last weekend Edinburgh came to Auchenhowie and left with a 2-0 win, Keir Robb and Luca Muller were on target. However, these statistics may count for nothing on Saturday.

However, a win on Saturday could give Edinburgh University a ticket into Europe for the first time.

On that possibility, coach Hamish Imrie reflected. “This is a great opportunity and it would be a great achievement, but we have to go and beat a very strong Western side for that to happen.  But our primary focus doesn`t change and that is the development, and growth of our athletes at the University of Edinburgh.”

Western Wildcats won the play-offs this time last year, and despite a few wobbles this season, they are more than capable of doing so again when the chips are down.

The final places in next season`s Premierships are also up for grabs on Sunday – Hillhead take on Dundee Wanderers in the women`s while ESM are up against Gordonians in the men`s.

This represents a contest between teams from this season`s Premiership who have had a tough season, but at a higher level, against sides that have built up a win ethic at a lower level – so which will prevail?

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Tickets available here: https://www.seetickets.com/event/grand-finals/glasgow-national-hockey-centre/3004110

Live stream (PPV) available here: https://tv.scottish-hockey.org.uk/

by Scotland Hockey

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