1st XV vs Hamilton: Match Report
The result on Saturday owed as much to the spirit of the side as to any technical superiority or coaching masterplan. The sheer dogged defence ultimately proved the defining feature as we clung on to secure a victory in a contest where the conditions dictated the way the match would unfold.
The pitch at Laigh Bent was beautifully prepared – the result of substantial investment – and the facilities at Hamilton match the club’s ambition – first class. The absence of ‘Shergar’, one time Inverleith favourite Richie Maxton, in the home ranks was undoubtedly a boost for our chances.
The sight of the television cameras at one of our games inevitably puts the mockers on any free flowing rugby. And so it proved on Saturday, when, apart from a couple of penalty misses by both sides, Joni Hare’s try was the only highlight of the first 40 minutes of rugby and, therefore, provided a rare glimpse of what we are capable of.
Nowadays, it is not enough to bang the ball into the opposition 22, as the opposition can run back at you and you can often fare worse in the subsequent aerial ping pong. Particularly, as Steele, the Hamilton full back, had an assured presence under the high ball.
If you try to find touch, inevitably the throwing-in side retain the ball. Hamilton certainly had good line out drills involving Jonny Gray (the younger brother of Scotland lock Richie), so the likelihood of a steal was minimal.
In conditions like Saturday when the ball is a bar of soap, however, if you do try to move the ball upfield through the hands, mistakes are made. Somehow the ball is more slippery at this stage in the season when the grass is lush rather than in the dead of winter when there is a bit of mud to make it sticky.
Having said all that, there were a few bad handling errors on our side, including a few times when we picked up scrum ball and spilled it. More concentration is required in the giving and taking of a pass in these conditions. We never shook off the presence of Turnbull, Hamilton’s number 9, who harried our scrum to good effect and posed plenty of questions with the ball in his hand. He was inclined to be greedy, though, and we can be grateful for a tap penalty under the posts when he went for the try rather than take the points.
How did we win, then? We were better at the breakdown; we got more numbers to the collision area. There was absolutely no way, José , through the centres, and, eventually, Hamilton stopped trying this route. We looked better than Hamilton when we managed to play with pace and continuity. Our forwards looked more athletic and more purposeful with the ball in hand. A graph showing territory would firmly favour the home side, although possession would be more evenly split.
Moments like Matt Hannay timing a great man and ball tackle, or Willie verbalising his frustrations with our mistakes, all make us look like a team – and rugby is a team game. There is a feeling throughout the team that, once we click, we can really turn in a performance.
Finally, a glance at the Points Against column in the league table shows we have conceded the least points in the league, and that is a statistic to be proud of.
‘We missed Liam at full back and we missed Borth on the wing – but that is what happens (with injuries). I felt the front row were going well and it was too close to change (tough on Roddy and Ethan). You are the second person to tell me about Aussie Joe’s hat-trick for the 2s and he will get his chance – but today wasn’t a day for him.’
Next week’s website coverage sees a real treat for nostalgic Stew Mel website readers – for one match only, the return of Riggers’ Review!