1st XV Match Report vs Hamilton
Hamilton arrived at Inverleith in the knowledge that a victory would add momentum to their bid to overtake Aberdeen and move clear of the second relegation spot. Hamilton field, on occasion, four sides, and their second team has recently held onto their place in the top flight second XV league – this is the league above the one in which our second XV currently plays. Hamilton, therefore, will look at themselves as a club who have a natural habitat in, at least, National One.
Inverleith was poised to cater for events in the Six Nations later in the afternoon but the ground conditions, unseasonable warmth and willingness of both teams to throw the ball about provided a pleasing aperitif to the (some might say) main event in south west London.
The manner and control with which Hamilton attacked, out of the blocks, was an early indication that the consequences of defeat were all too obvious. The physicality and determination of the side that has to win is always bound to be greater than that of the side that merely wants the victory. The possession and territory figures made depressing reading from a Stewart’s Melville point of view, and, gamely though we tackled, it was surely only a matter of time before Hamilton built up a commanding lead.
The inclusion of former Inverleith favourite and Glasgow Warrior, Richie Maxton, in the Hamilton second row threw up the interesting fact that he is older than the combined ages of our two inhabitants of the row – Sword and Hodgson. Although it is tempting to report that ‘Jamie put Maxton to the sword’ – it would not be entirely accurate.
Andy Wilson knocked over a penalty after 23 minutes, which was scant reward for the repeated recycling that Hamilton had previously achieved. It was somewhat ironic that Hamilton’s try, when it did arrive, came from a ricochet in midfield, with Wilson winning the race to the line. In any other club ground in Scotland the race would have been fruitless, but our expansive in goal area proved our undoing on this occasion.
On the stroke of half-time Michael Hanning pulled back three points with a penalty. A ruck had formed outside the ‘22’ with Stew Mel attacking and the ball appeared on the Hamilton side, the referee deemed illegally, but that decision was not greeted with equanimity amongst the Hamilton support. They maybe had a point.
Half Time Stewart’s Melville 3 Hamilton 10.
The introduction of McCashin at half-time, with Mike reverting to full back, immediately paid dividends as Sir Nick threaded through a nicely weighted grubber that obligingly bounced correctly for Sean Murchie to gather and pin his ears back to touch down. Mike missed the conversion but was on hand to convert Jack Somerville’s debut try nine minutes later. Jack’s try was cleverly engineered by some thrilling back play, with serious pace on the ball, as Stewart’s Melville started to hit their straps.
Hamilton responded with a penalty but Somerville – this time with work to do – bulldozed his way through the, by now tiring, Hamilton defence to increase our lead. Mike’s conversion put us more than a converted try ahead.
Sean Murchie provided the ‘icing on the cake’, following up a kick and chase (where he was at least second favourite) to register our bonus point try. Hamilton, apparently, have been in a winning position many times this season but have somehow not been able to finish the job – so this was, from their point of view, more of the same. From a Stewart’s Melville perspective the result was hugely satisfying as the development of our players and team continues.
The win was not without cost, as Spowart, Sinclair, Hodgson and McCashin all required treatment – but the most serious, in terms of availability for Dundee in a fortnight, was ‘Happy’ Morrison, who hurt his back. Happy has been a real find for us this season and let’s hope he is fit for the remainder of it.
Somerville and Sword made their first starts on Saturday and both looked the part. Somerville received no ball in the first half, but, in the second, looked for work and finished impressively; Jamie, with a good pre-season under his belt, will be a regular starter for the first XV. Both these boys, plus Oli Williamson, Tom Spowart, Lewis Scott and Mark Sinclair, have developed in the second XV to be able to play National League rugby, emphasising the role a decent second and third team have in the success of our club.
At this stage in the season injuries take their toll – but it is the same for all clubs – let’s make the effort for all three teams to finish the season in style; anyone involved who might be reading this – please make yourself available for selection.
Full Time Stewart’s Melville 29 Hamilton 16.
Match photos care of Fred Palmer at 39 Design Photography