1st XV vs Jed-Forest: Match Report
Every point is precious in our league now – not just for us, but, on Saturday, for our opponents, Jed-Forest, who are themselves likely to be involved in a few anxious moments before they can ensure National League 1 rugby for next season.
Over the years we have found that playing Borders sides requires full concentration – give them an inch, and, before you know it, you are at the wrong end of an upset.
Credit must be given then, for emerging with our third consecutive bonus point win in this league campaign – but greater accuracy will be needed in the forthcoming weeks if we are to achieve our goals for the season. The key –whether it is Scotland or Stewart’s Melville – is that, when you are in the ascendancy, you must execute the skills that we undeniably possess.
Defences are sufficiently organised nowadays that overlaps and mis-matches are the key – simply running at your opposite number is just as likely to end in turnover rather than breakthrough. The positive feature of our play, however, is the willingness our three-quarters exhibit to turn defence into attack, and this develops a confidence in your team-mates’ handling skills. This confidence can be required when the chips are down, or when a bonus point try is urgently required. Indeed, Angus Rennie’s try described below came as a result of this confidence.
An early start to accommodate events at Murrayfield can be unsettling to players, as the normal pre-match routine is affected. Everything seemed to be going to plan, however, when Fraser Morrison peeled off a driving maul to touch down. Bear in mind we were playing into a fairly stiff breeze.
The precursor to this try was a penalty of the sort that leads everyone in the stand to bellow ‘take the points’, knowing that our success rate from driving mauls spawned from an attacking lineout isn’t the best. The team proved the crowd wrong on this occasion, though, to establish a lead with 20 minutes gone.
Jed-Forest, with a dangerous looking back-line boasting the Young brothers and evergreen ‘Herky’ (Fraser Harkness), then engineered a half gap for Gregor Young to skip through to tie things up. With a couple of minutes remaining in the half, Ritchie – ignoring the advice of the Jed faithful – elected for a pot at goal from around half-way. His successful penalty gave Jed a narrow lead, but they then ‘switched off’ on the restart, allowing McCashin to release Rennie to touch down on the opposite side from the stand. The move originated from a quickly taken short penalty and meant that the half time score was 10-8 to Stewart’s Melville.
The second half was a nervy affair, with Stewart’s Melville mainly in control but the very real threat of a breakaway ever present. Mike Hanning spotted a gap and backed himself to open up an advantage built upon by McCashin’s conversion – but back came Jed-Forest through Grieve to keep the margin at four points.
With seven minutes remaining, we kicked a penalty to the corner at the Clubhouse, and, after a few charges through the forwards, Matt Morrell clung onto the ball (in spite of being tackled) to secure the bonus point try.
Jed-Forest then threw everything into their play to try and eke out at least a losing bonus point, but it was not to be. A line out steal from Ruaridh Stewart signalled the end of the match. Stewart’s Melville, with the replacements on, were looking to score tries rather than close things down. With centres like Hannay and Hanning now on the pitch, there was not going to be much tactical kicking.
Before the game, on paper, it looked as if Stewart’s Melville should have the upper hand at the breakdown and in the set piece, with Jed-Forest’s best chances coming through their runners in the three quarters. It did not pan out like that, with Jed managing a couple against the head and their back row competing well – albeit they periodically fell foul of the referee’s whistle.
Watsonians, then, next Saturday, large turn-out required. On that note, the attendance on Saturday for a morning, pre International game was reasonable, but we need to build on that. Watsonians will be desperate to put us back in our box, but, if we execute our skills, the prize is in sight.
Some encouraging news emerged about Frederick Charles Hubert McLeod’s recovery from pneumonia at the game, and, if you are reading this, Freddie – get well soon.
Photo of Angus Rennie’s try c/o Steve Rennie