1st XV vs Selkirk: Match Report
Who, watching the match on Saturday, realised what offence the match winning penalty was awarded for?
The Stewart’s Melville support clapped the decision as if it was the most obvious penalty they had ever seen, and Selkirk were apoplectic, convinced it was never, in a million years, a penalty. But what did the referee or his assistants see that made him blow up and offer us a chance to win the game?
Rugby has become such a technical game, with the referee and his team such key figures, that it is very risky, at amateur level, to try to defend within opposition kicking range. Indeed, early on in the game, we were penalised for squint put-in. Players have every right to be confused: there wasn’t a single straight put-in during the entire Rugby World Cup!
Somehow, when Cassidy put Selkirk ahead with four minutes left on the scoreboard, one felt that Stewart’s Melville would get another chance to retake the lead – and, sure enough, we had four chances. From the restart kick-off after that penalty, a Selkirk prop knocked on. We had established a foothold in Selkirk territory. Next, we were awarded a penalty at the very edge of Mike’s range and Roddy, for a reason that he chose not to share with his colleagues, took a quick tap. The referee signalled that Selkirk had not retired and so we had the option of doing one of those deliberate ‘knock on things’ to get no advantage, and thus claim the penalty.
Confusion reigned and we continued to put in the phases until it looked as if Angus and Joe had a two on one beside the clubhouse. That did not materialise, and, from the resultant ruck, Selkirk intercepted underneath their posts. Both sets of players were now desperate for the ball as the referee signalled one minute to go – and then the shrill blast into the chill November air echoed round the stand.
Up stepped Mike Hanning, as unerring as a Luke Donald approach shot, like a tracer bullet, from a spot near where, four minutes earlier, we had been awarded a penalty – oh, for the certainty and confidence of youth!
The late withdrawal of Fraser Morrison with flu like symptoms added to the number that had struggled during the week with similar problems – and, in truth, Kaide Whiting only played because, endearingly, he was desperate not to let Stewart’s Melville down. We seemed to afford Selkirk too much respect in the early exchanges – one particularly horrible ‘eye off the ball’ job from the backs fortunately went unpunished. The large Selkirk contingent added hugely to the occasion and purred contentedly as Craig found space to touch down near the pavilion.
When Cassidy converted and then added a penalty, we were ten points down after ten minutes, and had hardly touched the ball. Hanning took over kicking duties from Kaide and we managed to reduce the deficit. Indeed, this happened when Neil found himself in the naughty corner for an offence that was not immediately obvious to anyone in Stewart’s Melville colours. We started to get a bit of ball at this point, however, and had several (and these have been a feature of our success this season) good, productive rolling mauls. The unlikely figure of Joni Hare was a productive and main source of line-out possession.
On the stroke of half-time, Clapperton accepted an inside angle and crossed the line, with Cassidy again converting: 3-17. Could we come back against a Selkirk side that needed victory to become one of the Fabled Four? The large crowd that had turned out to watch our final Premier 2 match of the season certainly had plenty of reservations – and with due cause, because we were not playing well.
Angus Lean went over after Selkirk lost Clapperton to the bin and we controlled possession through our forwards, and, suddenly, with Mike Hanning’s conversion, we were back in the match and within a goal of Selkirk. Joni Hare then looked to have pulled us level, but Mike’s conversion to the car park end from the Arboretum Road side was wide. The lead was to change hands shortly after as Mike nailed a penalty. Around this time Cassidy had uncharacteristically missed with a couple of attempts, but he made no mistake with four minutes to go: 18-20, and the stage set for the thrilling denouement.
A word about Joe Parvin; he has earned his stripes, answered any defensive questions that Selkirk posed and has thrown the coaches an interesting option. Both Joe and Ethan have only turned 18, so both are works in progress, but with real potential. Both are ambitious, likeable boys and Scottish qualified – we’ll see!
Congratulations are due to the players for the spirit we have exhibited this season. We have come out on the right side in plenty of close games – Falkirk, Hamilton and Jed-Forest spring to mind – and that is down to spirit, and playing for your team-mates. We have seven cup finals coming up, with the first one on 14th January against (we think) Hawick at home. There will be plenty of speculation as we endeavour to finish in the top two, and we must be careful not to focus on others and things we can’t influence. Everyone within the club should concentrate on themselves and on upping their effort and commitment – that will be enough.
Next week it’s Cup duty against Watsonians …
The penalty was awarded for Selkirk bridging – putting a body between the ball carrier and the opposition, thus not allowing Stewart’s Melville to compete for the ball.