1st XV vs Falkirk: Match Report
Stewart’s Melville’s simple aim for the first part of the season is to qualify for the ‘B’ League by finishing in the top four of Premier 2.
To that end, the result on Saturday was a huge relief; there has been a great effort from committee, coaches and players over the summer, and a setback would have been a bitter pill to swallow. Indeed, you could almost feel the energy that has been injected into our club as you entered Inverleith on Saturday.
We never do things the easy way, do we? After promising early handling, we were rocked on our heels by a good try from the Falkirk flanker, Nathan Walls; Jonny Hope banged over the conversion and we were seven points down after ten minutes. We continued to look comfortable on the ball, however, and had supremacy in the set-piece – and, therefore, enjoyed the lion’s share of possession.
Stu Ker settled nerves by converting a penalty and adding the extras from Phil Hendry’s charge (and how good is it to see him back in the red, black and gold?) Then, when Stu converted another penalty to give us a 13-7 lead at half-time, everything started to look straightforward.
After half time, Liam squeezed in at the corner and the resultant 18-7 scoreline did not flatter us in the slightest. One try makes all the difference, however – and so it proved after the referee awarded (after consulting with a perfectly placed assistant) a try to Falkirk. The stand side crowd went ballistic, as it seemed the scorer had lost control of the ball. How would we react to this setback?
Badly, was the answer. Falkirk seized the momentum and Nathan Walls crossed for a try, again converted by Hope to give Falkirk a 24-18 lead going into the last quarter.
Our task was made somewhat easier, however, as Falkirk were on the receiving end of several yellow cards, and, when we took the scrum instead of a straightforward penalty, it seemed only a matter of time before we would retake the lead. Unfortunately, we chose that scrum to spoil our 100% set piece possession, and it seemed anxiety was taking over as Falkirk defended tenaciously.
But, with five minutes to go, the backs managed to engineer an overlap, and Liam once again squeezed over in the corner. That try meant it was 24–23 to Falkirk with the kick to come. So, up stepped Stu to slam it over the sticks from the most acute of angles. There is probably less pressure on kickers when the conversion is from the touchline rather than nearer the posts – where they really should convert – but full marks to Stu for hitting it perfectly.
We played out the last five minutes without undue alarm, but Falkirk had dangerous backs and there was always the chance of a breakaway. Then, in the last minute, a conundrum: a penalty to the home team, what do we do? Convert the penalty and leave Falkirk having to score a try, or go for the bonus point and deprive Falkirk of the losing bonus point? Scotty B settled for safety and the resultant long blast of the whistle brought an end to proceedings.
Where does this leave us for the future? It is difficult to say, as there were a lot of close games in our division on Saturday. At our level, and with places like Hamilton, Peebles, Biggar and Jedburgh to visit, you need a pack that is not going to be bullied, and we have the makings of that.
It would also help if the Liams, Haydens and Borths – our flair players – stay clear of injury.
When the weather gets foul, you need half backs that can control the match by strength of character more than anything else, and Jamie and Stu have that in spades.
We don’t know how strong Falkirk will be – they certainly have some dangerous backs, and could end up one of the top sides in our division. It was a break to play them at Inverleith.
What about the new guys, Reese, Roddy, Joni and Willie – do they look the part? The forwards played well, and, as they get used to each other, they will get better. Willie looks an uncompromising character, and, apart from one scrum where, as a result of a substitution, he was on the wrong side, the scrums went well.
So, in the words of Gary Barlow and Louis Walsh, ‘Willie: it’s a yes from me’.
‘We were a bit anxious in open play – we were making good ground by breaking tackles then risking a speculative offload rather than recycling. The set-piece was very good. We need to look at how many we need at the breakdown and how many we need in midfield. Lack of decisions in this area made us look a bit unfit.’
Bob Wylie (Falkirk coach)
‘No complaints. Having got our noses in front, it would have been nice to hang on, but, in all honesty, it would have been a steal. I was pleased with our defence – we didn’t look like a new team, and that is a new backline. We had good organisation in defence.’
Lloyd Linton (Referee)
‘I found it more difficult than I expected – in the first half, there were a lot of niggles. The second half was better, but I enjoyed my day – both teams used the ball well and the skills were of a high level.’
Hannah (Reese’s bird) : ‘Awesome.’
Jane Aitken (Willie’s Mum): ‘Really enjoyed it.’
Jodie Barnes (a useful Barnes and our new physio): ‘It was exciting.’