WOMEN'S rugby in Dunfermline is on the up as participation numbers increase alongside an upturn in results on the field.

Dunfermline Rugby Club's ladies side are preparing to contest a series of 'play-off' matches to determine final placings in Scottish Rugby's Midlands / East Division Two, of which they proudly sit top after six wins from seven matches.

After the first round of fixtures, which each team faces each other once, the eight-team division will split into the top four and bottom four, where another round of games will take place.

Under the guidance of head coach, Gary Kenhard, who was appointed to the role in July 2022, the team have managed victories over Dundee Valkyries second XV, Perthshire, Bannockburn, Kirkcaldy and RDVC so far this season, whilst a fixture against Leith was awarded to them after their opponents had insufficient players to raise a team.

Their only defeat was away to fourth-placed Lismore, by a close 17-7 margin, and has given them a significant opportunity to finish top of the league.

It continues an upward journey for the women's team, which began its path in January 2019 when the then head coach of the men's first XV, Mark Dobson, who is now Scottish Rugby’s regional manager for the Caledonia Midlands area, first organised a free training programme for female players at McKane Park.

Two months later, a Dunfermline team had played its first match, and took to the field in September 2021 for its maiden league season.

A first-ever competitive win followed in March last year and Sheryl Wilson, who captained the team on that occasion, is thrilled with the progress the team has made.

Dunfermline Press: The women's team are top of their league.The women's team are top of their league. (Image: David Potter.)

Injury has kept her out of playing action this season, with Lisa Hamilton-Martin taking on the captaincy, with Chloe Alcorn her vice-skipper, but she has maintained involvement on the sidelines.

Speaking to Press Sport about the progress the team have made, Sheryl explained: "We started our league on the 20th of August this year, against Dundee's second team, with a win, and ever since then, we've been powering our way through the league this year, which is obviously a big improvement from the last couple of seasons.

"We had Dundee, followed by Perthshire, Bannockburn, and we won all three games. We had a game against Leith, however, that was unfufilled game, so we got the automatic win for that one.

"We won against Kirkcaldy and, most recently, RDVC as well. The only game that we unfortunately had a loss with this season was on September 17. We were away against Lismore but, even though it was a defeat, it wasn't a massive defeat. We lost 17-7, so it was very close.

"I definitely see a big difference this year. We've had a lot of new players join us, some of which have played rugby before, but a lot of them had never played rugby before, and they've all taken to the sport really well. They've all taken to the team really well, merged themselves in, and you could see that on the pitch, and by the score as well.

"As much as women's in rugby in general, in our divisions, we do struggle with numbers, and every team struggles with the same thing - we've had these struggles for the past 2-3 years - I feel like, this year, we're a lot more comfortable with our numbers.

"While you still see a lot of teams borrowing players from our other teams for their games on a Sunday, we're finding that this is having to happen less and less. Instead of having to borrow players to bring ourselves up to 15 players, we're now finding that teams are doing that to fill their subs bench.

"I feel that, because we've had this influx of players this year, it's definitely made a big difference. We're going into games a lot more comfortable.

"We started off as a development team, and we had a couple of seasons in the league where we didn't do so well, but I feel like, now, we're just starting to get a wee bit more comfortable, playing the teams that we're used to playing, and we're getting a bit more of a feel for it."

Dunfermline Press: The team have made significant progression from their beginnings as a development side.The team have made significant progression from their beginnings as a development side. (Image: David Potter.)

The addition of specialist forwards and backs coaches is just one of the things Sheryl believes has contributed to their success so far this season, as she continued: "There's loads of things. We've been working on our attack, our defence and our handling skills in training, we've been doing all we can to keep the numbers up, keep drawing in more people, keep the injuries down, so I just think it's an abundance of everything to be honest.

"Having a forwards coach and a backs coach as well has really helped. We've had joint training sessions sometimes with Kirkcaldy, and we've tried to integrate ourselves in with the girls team as well, the younger team that will hopefully, one day, come up to join us when they reach the right age "I think we're just doing everything we can at the minute to integrate ourselves more with the club, with other teams, and just to play rugby, which is the main thing we want to do."

Dates for the play-off fixtures have yet to be announced, but the team are inviting anyone interested in playing to McKane on Saturday November 18, November 25, December 2 and December 9, from 10-11am.

Dunfermline Press: The ladies are on the lookout for players to join them.The ladies are on the lookout for players to join them. (Image: David Potter.)

Dunfermline Press: The club hope to continue the growth of their women's section.The club hope to continue the growth of their women's section. (Image: David Potter.)