1st XV vs Jed-Forest: Match Report
In a game that was uncannily reminiscent of our Premier B decider last year, Jed-Forest trailed the entire match before finally edging into the lead with four minutes of the game remaining.
Jed-Forest, to be fair, merited their win, but, having controlled the game, it was hugely disappointing not to finish on the winning side.
Since Christmas, our team has performed with much heart and no little skill to grind out victories against Kelso, Watsonians and Hamilton. Our one defeat, with a weakened side, against promotion favourites Hawks was a credit to those who took part – particularly the debutants.
In view of the foregoing, the performance on Saturday was all too reminiscent of Stew Mel sides of the not too distant past, when we were viewed as something of a ‘soft touch’ by Border sides when it got down to the ‘nitty gritty’. This result shows, however, how closely matched our National League is, how all the games are hard fought and how enjoyable and entertaining these games are.
In mitigation, it has to be said that Jed-Forest are fighting for their lives, although, with home ties against Hawks and Hawick to come, their grip on National League status is somewhat tenuous.
It all started so promisingly, and, without Jed-Forest touching the ball, we scored two tries, firstly through Damsteegt after Hannay had sliced through the Jed-Forest midfield, and then Greig, finishing another tidy backs move. Both tries were neatly converted by Hanning.
Playing towards the castle, we looked lively and ‘up for it’, and another try at this point would surely have knocked the stuffing out of our opponents. The game, however, was only eight minutes old, and, following a penalty by Chisholm, Lewis Young scored. With Chisholm converting, the deficit was quickly reduced to a mere four points.
Jed-Forest had introduced Nua Fono-Hunt , from Wellington in New Zealand, since our last encounter. He took a bit of looking after, but Mike Hanning relished the challenge, with some copybook round-the-ankles tackling. Fono-Hunt relinquished the kicking duties to scrum-half Goodfellow, meaning every time he received the ball he was looking to involve his threequarters. The Jed threequarter line, with Lewis Young and Robert Hogg eager runners, somewhat belies their league position.
Before half time Liam drilled a penalty deep into the opposition 22. Liam’s kicking from hand is all about timing as the distance he achieves looks effortless. We then engineered a ‘truck and trailer’ rolling maul for Chris Damsteegt to touch down. Mike missed the conversion but we entered the half time break with a 19-10 lead.
On the resumption, Richard Borthwick dinked a clever ball into the danger area and Matt Hannay gathered the ball cleverly to score with a ‘backstroke’ dive. Mike converted the bonus point try, and, at 26-10, we should have had the composure to close the game out.
What follows does not make pretty reading from a Stewart’s Melville point of view, as Jed rallied to score three tries in quick succession. Chisholm claimed the first, then Goodfellow charged down Mike’s attempted clearance and finally Chisholm touched down again after a break by Lewis Young – suffice to say the match video will not make comfortable viewing!
The 26-10 scoreline was now 26-25, but Richard, on what may be his last home game (we all hope not!), found room wide out at the Arboretum Road end to give us a bit of a breathing space.
Jed would not be denied, and, after good continuity, Lewis Young split through the middle to dot down under the posts and Chisholm slotted the conversion: 31-32.
There is much debate about the league structure, and, certainly, the delay until our last league game at Selkirk on 23rd March seems, at best, unfortunate. It must be difficult for the coaches to plan sessions without the prospect of live action for a month.
This season has seen us play some terrific, committed rugby, with forwards and backs playing together at a high level, and, at our best, we look a very accomplished side. A strong performance at Selkirk is eagerly anticipated as we attempt to gain revenge for our narrow loss earlier in the season at Inverleith and to finish off with a flourish.