1st XV Match Report vs Jed-Forest
It’s probably fair to say that there were mixed feelings in the 1st XV camp going into Saturday’s match.
Yes, it would be great to be back on home turf after two successive (and unsuccessful) away trips to Glasgow. And yes, there had maybe been a slight reduction in the number of players unavailable due to absence or injury, with Happy and Nick Winton both restored to the starting lineup.
But, on the downside, the squad was anything but settled, with captain Howie dropping out after training on Thursday and only three men on the bench. We would also probably have preferred to play a less accomplished team than Jed as we attempted to get our league campaign up and running.
We began the game well, taking the game to Jed via good breaks from James Ferguson, Nathan Ross and Jamie Sword, but the men in blue managed to keep us well away from their line with some typically dogged Borders defence. It also felt, at times, that that defence had been informed by some wise video analysis of our recent performances, with Cammy Taylor (for one) being well policed any time he was about to embark on one of his trademark breenges.
Jed then took the lead after 12 minutes, some slack tackling in our midfield allowing centre Monty Mitchell to claim the score.
We actually dominated possession for the next half hour of the game, but, crucially, didn’t threaten the Jed line to any great extent during that time. Euan Bowen had one shot at goal after 43 minutes but pulled what looked like a fairly simple kick to the right of the posts at the castle end.
Jed scored again one minute after that, stand off Yourston snapping up an aimless clearance kick in midfield and launching an attack that became a 3 on 1 assault on our line. Winger Robbie Shirra-Gibb claimed the try, with centre Ewan Scott’s conversion giving Jed a 12-0 lead at half time.
The second half actually panned out pretty much like the first one, with us enjoying the bulk of possession but, for some inexplicable reason, not being able to do very much with it (although Murch was held up over the Jed line at one point). Our scrum and lineout were solid, the backs looked lively … but we just couldn’t seem to break through the Thin Blue Line.
Jed, on the other hand, continued to prove that they were masters of the waiting game, soaking up our pressure then choosing their moment to counter attack. This enviable ability to do the right thing quickly at any given moment led to them running in a further five tries during the second half, with Mitchell and Shirra-Gibb both claiming braces and Rory Marshall, Callum Young and sub Elliot Stewart also dotting down. Four conversions and a penalty from Scott made the final score 48-0 to Jed.
The Jed committee were typically magnanimous at full time, opining that the game was never a ‘48 pointer’, and expressing some concern at the amount of possession that their players had conceded and the number of errors they had made. Noble sentiments, but, to be blunt, it’s easier to be critical of your team when you’ve got five league points tucked away in your back pocket.
It’s hard to say why we were so off our game, though the fact that all of Jed’s points were scored by backs does suggest that it is behind our scrum that the injury list is hitting us particularly hard. While Euan Bowen put in a good shift and diligently swung the ball wide to unleash our dangerous wingers, you do wonder whether Scott Docherty might have had more luck unpicking the Jed defence. But, to paraphrase our old coach Al Christie heavily, you can only play with the cards you have been dealt, and there’s no point in moping over what might have been – Doc was injured, along with various other key players, and it was up to our match day squad of 18 to step up and give Jed a game.
Not too many plus points to take away from the game, though the pack did put in another fine performance at the set piece – you do wonder, in fact, whether we might have been better sticking the ball up our jumpers a bit more than we did, given the danger posed by the Jed backline. We also kept plugging away for most of the game, despite the lack of any scoreboard action as reward for our efforts – it was only really in the last 10 minutes that you sensed heads were beginning to drop.
Our discipline was also good – no cards collected – though you do sometimes wish that the players would get so fired up that they can’t help but see yellow as a result.
We go again this weekend, with a short (Lothian) bus trip to Musselburgh on the agenda. The Stoneyhill men have also had a pretty uninspiring start to their season, losing at home to Selkirk and Accies and away to Kelso and GHA. Crucially, though, all bar one of those games (the Accies one) were pretty close, which is why Musselburgh now sit above us in the table on points difference.
Yes, Stoneyhill is never an easy place to play at, but the table doesn’t lie – Musselburgh are tenth for a reason, so we’ve got to regard Saturday as a potential eight (or even ten) pointer. We should be a lot closer to our strongest team provided training is safely negotiated this week, and there is absolutely no reason why we can’t start climbing the table on Saturday.
I’m not one to turn to inspirational quotes during times of trouble, but I’ll finish with a line that one Gregor Peter John Townsend came up with when he was addressing the SRU Club Conference on Sunday:
“Learning from mistakes and learning from failure is what makes you better”.
Take it away, boys!