1st XV Match Report vs Edinburgh Accies
Panta rhei, everything flows, as Heraclitus had it.
One season ends, another looms on the horizon. Nothing stays the same – Heraclitus opined that no two steps in the river are the same. Your body changes, the river changes – different water. Panta rhei.
Regular followers of this column will recognise this as the opening of Dad’s final match report of last season, a narrow 17-20 reversal to Falkirk. At a family gathering the day after the match, he read it out to the family. Mum had to leave the room, sick to the back teeth of Dad’s obsession with those ‘bloody match reports’. But Heraclitus struck a chord with me. Everything flows. How beautifully poetic, yet painfully tragic, that we marked his passing at his beloved ‘Invers’ with a pre-match lunch and minute’s silence. Nothing stays the same, indeed.
After a summer break, surely our friend Heraclitus would agree that the opening fixture of the season is almost like no other. For players, coaches and supporters a new season awaits; full of hope and expectation, defeats past now a distant memory. Dad, in particular, would have looked forward to this one, with his son-in-law Iain Berthinussen a key part of the Accies coaching setup.
Expectation amongst the home faithful would, however, be tempered by the knowledge that, since their relegation from the BT Premiership in 14/15,, Accies had won the four renewals of this fixture comfortably.
As the sides took the field, the first impression was that Accies were the physically more conditioned side. This assertion was supported when, in the first 10 minutes, the Stew Mel scrum was forced to retreat and Accies took one against the head. Despite this, the early exchanges were scoreless, with both sides ‘sussing out’ one another.
The turning point was in the 15th minute, with Accies attacking the Stew Mel line. The ball was spun out to the backs. Neil Bowie, looking to match Accies’ physicality, lifted the legs of an Accies centre above the horizontal in the tackle. From a distance it appeared the landing was a safe one. But such is the high profile nature of these tackles nowadays that a card of one colour appeared inevitable. For the home support and the game as a contest, thankfully it was yellow.
With a one man advantage, Accies smelt blood. After opening the scoring from close quarters through captain Jamie Sole, they opened up. The ball went wide at every opportunity, with impressive inter-linking of backs and forwards. Two well-worked tries followed in quick succession from second row Ronan Seydak. As a former lock myself, surely there is no finer sight than one of these big beasts with ball in hand in open play. Think Stuart Grimes vs Ireland in ’99.
Despite Stew Mel being restored to the full complement, the direction of traffic continued to be one way. Josh Pecqueur dotted down in the corner to register a bonus point for Accies before the half was out. A sense of foreboding accompanied the half time whistle. With Accies in the ascendancy, the home support feared heavy defeat.
HALF TIME – Stew Mel 0-24 Edinburgh Accies
The half time interval reinvigorated the home side, though, and, in the opening minutes, quick feet and a nice line from fly half Scott Docherty opened Stew Mel’s account. The 10 was impressive all game, taking the ball to the line, and, by doing so, setting the tone that his team were by no means finished in the contest. This galvanised the home side, and, soon after, full back Sean Murchie jinked his way through to narrow the deficit further. Accies seemed shell shocked, their slick first half handling replaced by sloppy errors and a porous defence. Proof, if it was needed, that, if you can just hang in there, how quickly momentum within a game can change.
The score was 14-24, and we had a game on our hands. The next turning point came in the 55th minute. Stew Mel had a penalty on the Accies line and opted for the scrum, having gained parity in this area. Accies reasserted their physical dominance, turned the scrum over and cleared their lines. Having gained territory in the Stew Mel half, Accies then extended their lead. A ‘garryowen’ from the impressive Accies 10 Richard Mill was not dealt with, and Jack Bruce pounced on the loose ball to score.
Stew Mel stayed in touch when some nice handling down the blind side led to a third try by substitute Nathan Ross, bringing the score to 21-31. The contest was put to bed, however, when, after a series of pick-and-goes, substitute Clement Lacour emerged with ball in hand to extend the lead to 21-38.
Of course, there was still the four try bonus point to play for and the home side kept plugging away. After a tenacious driving lineout made yards, Stew Mel were rewarded for their persistence when the hard-working Ruairidh Mitchell scored from close range. With minutes to go, this brought the losing bonus point within range. Despite a few forays, Accies held out and that completed the scoring.
FINAL SCORE – Stew Mel 26-38 Edinburgh Accies
Plenty of positives, then, for the home side. At half time, a 50+ point defeat against a bigger side seemed more likely than not. Other teams, and this team early last season, would have crumpled. That this team didn’t suggests they can look forward to their next two fixtures – away trips west to GHA and Cartha – with confidence. Accies will surely challenge for the title. A point is no disgrace.
But also look to the bigger picture. A win for the 2nd XV. A full club house, both for the dinner beforehand and for the post-match deliberations. A pitch and clubhouse at the envy of most in Scotland. Plenty of committee men with Stew Mel in their blood, driving things on. The club has a ‘community’ feel to it, and it was a pleasure to be part of the day where we all remembered Gavin Calder.
I’ll leave you with words from his match report vs Dundee on the 5th November 2016. What a man.
Choose life, Choose Inverleith, Choose National One rugby dogfight, Choose Denise.
Choose pitching up for training twice a week after work when you can’t be bothered, Choose committing for nine months, Choose Nick McCashin’s leg.
Choose reading about yourself on Facebook and Twitter and posting inappropriate messages on Instagram. Choose Rappestad’s tries.
Go to the Ball with your mates and without a woman … and then breathe … you’re an addict, so be addicted, embrace it, choose the minis for your kid and start the story all over again.
Gavin Calder (Wee Gav)