1st XV vs Hamilton: Match Report
A large crowd assembled to watch our first competitive home game since mid-November, and, although the new season structure has its critics, nobody can argue with the excitement that these meaningful games bring.
The crowd was swollen due to the well supported lunch and the fact that the only local rugby grounds to beat the frost were Inverleith and Goldenacre. The large and vociferous travelling support added to the numbers, and, as half time approached, it was they that were enjoying the occasion the most.
Hamilton had established an eight point advantage and we had our number 12 – Hayden Lingard (about whom definitely more later) – in the ‘bin’. The fact that we recovered our composure and ultimately secured five points shows how far we have come as a unit this season.
The first half began fairly evenly, with Craig Inglis winning the race to touch down beside Willie’s house, but this was countered by Liam moving into fifth gear to slip through a gap and score beside the clubhouse.
Richie Maxton from Hamilton, who previously played for Stewart’s Melville and Glasgow Warriors, later awarded Liam Man of the Match. It is not hard to see why – if you kick to him, he is always going to run back at you, and, in Steele, Borthwick and Hughes, we have a more than useful back three counter attacking threat. In addition, Liam strikes the ball so well that his kicks invariably turn the opposing defence.
We then moved into the lead, Angus Lean popping up in the backs to break through and provide Hayden with the chance to touch down. Mike missed the relatively straightforward conversion but we were now in the driving seat.
There followed a passage of play when, if we had accepted some of the chances, we could have put the game beyond Hamilton. Matt, Liam and Richard beat their opposite numbers on separate occasions, but a combination of good scramble defence, unlucky refereeing decisions and lack of composure saw no addition to the 10-5 score-line.
Hamilton came back into the match with a Ross Inglis penalty, and the last twenty minutes of the first half were pretty much all Hamilton as they tied us down in our own half. Unlike the Hawick game – where, because of the ground conditions, we could stop the opposition by running at them to close them down, or diving at their feet – here we coughed up a series of penalties that ended with Hayden in the bad boys’ corner.
Ross Inglis scored two tries in this period, the second, on the stroke of half time, awarded after consultation with the assistant referee. The Hamilton support confirmed that the ball was probably not grounded, but these are the things you have to cope with – and, suffice to say, the half-time scoreline of 10-18 did not flatter Hamilton one little bit. Referees have a tough job but the officiating team worked well together to control the match.
Hayden returned to action soon after half-time, and, when Hamilton’s Steele saw yellow, we managed to cut the deficit after Alex Edmonstone rounded off a forward drive.
Hamilton had a chance to increase their lead when, after back-chat, we were marched back the extra ten and Sutherland was presented with a 35 yard kick from straight in front, but he was unable to convert.
Tempers were becoming a bit frayed, and Craig Inglis was next to receive his ‘cooling off’ period for a spot of fisticuffs with Hayden. The Stew/Mel support held its breath as the referee also summoned Lingard, but he escaped with a finger wagging (here’s a tip for any Stew/Mel schoolboy reading this: Always remember your PE kit, you don’t want to get Mr Lingard cross!)
The referee then spoke to Stephen Turnbull, a typical terrier of a scrum-half, who was appealing for every decision like a Pakistani leg-spinner looking for the last England wicket.
Andrew Hughes then accepted a pass on the half way line and changed direction a couple of times, in a mazy run reminiscent of his school days, to score underneath the posts, with Mike Hanning adding the conversion.
From the restart, with the experts in the crowd shouting for Liam to kick for the corner, Kaide stepped up to slam over a penalty from over 40 metres. This gave us a seven point margin, one, to be fair, that we never looked like relinquishing as we closed out the last ten minutes in the Hamilton half. After the Hawick game, where our set piece had been disappointing, we rectified matters, and the Roddy/Mark combination was spot on. In the front row we had a couple of those wheels when possession is overturned and everybody claps.
After the second round of matches we are lying in one of the promotion spots. A lot of our players are playing at a level never previously thought possible, and much of credit for the performance and consistency reflects not only on them, but also on the coaching team. Can we get promotion? If Edinburgh can qualify for the quarter final of the Heineken Cup on the back of innovative rugby and team spirit, why can we not qualify for the Premier League on the same basis?
‘Happy with the five points, it was never going to be straightforward.’
Dale Lyons (Hamilton coach)
’Slightly disappointed with Stew/Mel, to be honest, you were good out wide but not very direct round the fringes. We are looking to develop our team for next season and have a different agenda from you.’
Referee Kevin White (ERRS)
‘Two teams desperate to win. It was not easy to control – there were a lot of niggles. I ended up blowing up early round the breakdown to keep the lid on it.’