1st XV vs Heriot’s: Match Report
Strangely, after conceding forty points to our near neighbours, the mood in the Stewart’s Melville camp was remarkably upbeat about our development as a team, and, more particularly, our readiness for the Selkirk game next Saturday.
Reasons to be cheerful included the fact that:
- Our scrum had the upper hand against that of our much vaunted opponents, and even managed a collector’s item for a Stewart’s Melville pack – a push over try.
- Mike Hanning looked as if he could easily do a job for us at centre, and new boy Sam Hampson (complete with ink) looked another in the Morrell/Whittingham mould who relishes the physical engagements.
- There was a spirit in attack and the joy of support that first appeared in our victory at Kelso and has re-emerged periodically since then. This comes with team spirit, and manifested itself in charges from both Brewster and Sangster, and, after they were introduced, Denis Pech and Scott MacColl.
The pitch was firm and the conditions good as Heriot’s – who showed us the respect of fielding their top side (including our former pupil George Turner) – kicked off towards the Castle. Before the clubhouse had fully emptied, and after a routine Heriot’s backs move, we found ourselves seven points in arrears.
We replied quickly, however, through Sangster pirating a lineout – unfortunately, Nick McCashin missed not only that conversion but also a penalty soon after from a similar position. His efforts are well struck and nobody is more frustrated than him when they don’t go through the sticks – if Jonny Sexton can miss them …
To be fair, Heriot’s are a pretty useful outfit. Wilson conducts them well at scrum half and their threequarters have pace and precision – hence, on more than one occasion, we were grateful for Nick’s covering tackle as they engineered an opening.
We lost both Seb Trotter and Rhys Morgan to the bin in the opening period as both were adjudged to be slowing the ball down. We conceded a penalty try at this stage and, then, as we were down to 13, Heriot’s were awarded a penalty. We naturally assumed they would be taking us on in the scrum, but they caught us napping and used the backs, instead, to cross more or less unopposed.
Just before the break, Turvey saw yellow for Heriot’s, and, rather than take the three points, we went for the attacking lineout. From the resultant forward carry, Scott Brewster crashed over – half time 21-10.
The second half was delayed as Heriot’s disappeared for a while – perhaps in homage to the Dr Who celebrations – before returning to the field, having been holed up in their dressing room. Unfortunately, soon after the break, an angled kick from Nick found Liam Steele, our former player, with a little bit of space. We know from experience what a beautiful attacking runner he can be – nippier than Nicola Sturgeon – and he demonstrated that he had lost none of his attacking skills by touching down. Wilson converted the bonus point try.
At this stage, the visiting support were starting to watch through their fingers, but there was to be no lying down from Stewart’s Melville, and we really had the best of the next twenty minutes, culminating in the aforementioned push over try. The pace of the game was undeniably quicker than the National League, but Stewart’s Melville adjusted to that pace and, because the opposition were keen to attack, we exploited gaps when their moves broke down. The clear out at rucks and ball presentation was much better than we are used to, and it is to be hoped we learn from this higher level of rugby.
We narrowed the gap to 26-17, and, with ten minutes remaining, allowed ourselves the chance to dream of glory. Heriot’s had the last word, however, with two further tries, including one in the last minute as substitutions and fatigue led to a loss of shape.
The forwards stuck manfully to their task, and, in particular, the front five worked with an endearing honesty. It is gratifying to see Jon Hamblin offering himself in support, and the enjoyment he is getting from his rugby is reflected in his play. Rhys, also, is revelling in the unglamorous chores.
Unfortunately, Sam Rowlands, desperate to impress, suffered a knee injury – but, by the end of the game, he had convinced himself he was fine. Whether this is ratified by medical opinion remains to be seen.
The lineouts were, for the most part, good. At RABO level, if a throw is marginally not straight and the opposition is not competing, the thrower is forgiven – we could do with similar clemency at our level, because there wasn’t much wrong with Nick’s arrows.
Selkirk next week, then, and it would be terrific if the firsts and seconds managed to reverse a very depressing visit to Philiphaugh earlier in the season – though, in truth, whatever the results on Saturday, both teams have come on in leaps and bounds since that day. We know how Selkirk play, and we know how to counter them – so let’s enjoy the day.
Finally, a word about George Turner. He looks to be throwing in better, his physique is impressive and his rugby is terrific – why don’t Edinburgh just pick him when Ford is out? Find out if he is good enough – what are they waiting for?