WHILE former Tennent's Velvet Premier-ship champions Watsonians have spent most of this season fighting to steer clear of the relegation frame, it has by no means all been doom and gloom down Myreside way.
The club's fledgling women's team is poised to give them something to celebrate in south-west Edinburgh by lifting the Keyline SWRU Division Three title in their first year together.
They need only a victory at home to Aboyne in tomorrow's final league match to add yet another piece of silverware to the club's impressive collection of trophies, and founder Viki Mendelssohn admits their success has caught everyone unawares.
'It's hard to believe that we've come this far so quickly. It was only in August that I was approached by a number of girls new to the sport about the prospect of forming a team. They had no opportunity to break into the established Edinburgh women's sides, Accies and Wanderers, who are packed with international players,' she said.
'I managed to organise things through Gavin Hastings and we started out with just five players. Now we have a squad of 17 and the numbers are growing all the time. It's great the way we've been accepted by the men. To them, we're just another of the club's XVs.' Skipper Mendelssohn, who also founded the highly-successful Edinburgh Accies women's team ten years ago, has used her renowned powers of persuasion and persistence to recruit a number of rugby celebrities to boost the team's promotion push.
Scott Hastings, now Watsonians' director of rugby, has been along to lend a hand at training, while this week Henry Edwards has taken time off from preparing the Scottish Districts for Sunday's match against Spain to provide some useful pointers.
The ladies' success hasn't suprised their French coach Patrice Langlois, who has been involved in Scottish women's rugby for more than a decade.
He told Sportsmail: 'Generally, the standard of play in women' s rugby has improved dramatically since the World Cup was held here six years ago.
'It's amazing to think that half of the Watsonians girls had never played rugby before this season, but they have an advantage in that they tend to learn quicker than the guys.
'Most of them are at university but they are just as committed to making a go of their rugby. Some of the sides we've played against this year have been physically stronger than us, but we've become technically sound in various areas, particularly in the forwards.
'The girls have all the rugby skills and, perhaps most importantly, we've managed to get their fitness levels up.
'We've only had a handful of seasoned players like Viki and Scotland A hooker Pam Woodman to call upon, but the rugby newcomers have played their part superbly. It has been a real team effort and I'm proud of them.'
Langlois believes his charges will round off their restricted nine-game league programme in style against the team two places below them in the table and enable him to start preparing for life in the elite Division Two.
Despite Scottish rugby's long winter of discontent, the champagne could yet be flowing in the famous old clubhouse.
"Luck be a lady for Watsonians; Myreside welcomes the lasses with a winning touch." Daily Mail [London, England] 2 Apr. 1999