1st XV vs Murrayfield Wanderers: Match Report
On reflection, it was always going to be difficult to replicate our league performances of recent weeks. The simple truth is that, if you start with only three players in the same position from the previous week, it is going to take some time before everyone gels – rugby is a team game, after all. Throw in a 12.30 kick-off, a first half penalty count of 12-2 against and a miserable morning with a greasy ball – it was never going to be plain sailing.
The object of this exercise was to win the game with a bonus point if possible – then give the opportunity for those that deserved it (either through their performances at training, or with the second XV, or their bench duty). There was also the necessity to rest some regulars to keep them fresh for the league programme ahead.
The game started with bigger numbers on the field than off, but the attendance quickly rose to a respectable level for a lunchtime kick-off. We had the best of the opening plays, but Wanderers scored first through Prasad, a Fijian soldier and an accomplished 10 – based, for the time being, at Redford Barracks.
After a good rolling maul and strong forward play, our former player Ricky Simms touched down for Wanderers. Ten nil down after twenty minutes – things were definitely not going to plan. This deficit was quickly wiped out, however, when, firstly, Morrell showed his class to power through the middle, eventually finishing off in the corner. Then Ross Anderson benefitted from a charged down kick to score against his former club, and suddenly we were all square.
Wanderers moved ahead once more when Ciaran Whyte, a sizeable citizen in the centre, converted a penalty. Allan Whittingham then gave us a 15-13 lead on the stroke of half-time with a typically pugnacious run (below).
McCashin stretched our lead with a straightforward penalty as we bossed the second half. Unfortunately, Ruaridh, a player who is improving from week to week, suffered an ankle injury, and it is to be hoped that his injury is not too serious.
The penalty count started to even out as Wanderers tired, and it was no surprise when Whittingham scored his second. Rowlands added the extras – by this time, the replacements bench had been emptied and McCashin’s work for the day was done. Wanderers had the last word, however – to leave an unsatisfactory taste in the mouth for us – with a converted try after a length of the field play following a penalty decision against us.
The match was influenced by protégées of our coach, Bruce ‘Special One’ MacNaughton – the Wanderers coach, Duncan Wilson, played under Bruce’s tutelage at Currie, as did referee John Shaw. We wish John the best of luck in his refereeing career, as the progression of top players into the refereeing community is to be encouraged – certainly, fitness will not be a problem.
Much was made, afterwards, about the penalty count against us, but the challenge for our players is to adapt to the referee, as there is no way he is going to adapt to suit us.
What of our players – who played well? The usual suspects of Morrell, McCashin and Whittingham won the game for us, but Nicholas Hart, who has an old fashioned prop’s physique and an appetite for the more unglamorous chores, has been a regular squad member. His fitness and contribution improves week on week.
Euan Bowen enjoyed his first start and could become an exciting, attacking full back who relishes the wide open spaces that Inverleith offers – once he adapts to his surroundings. Stuart Wilson came off the bench in the second half, full of intent, and looks a combative link man. The front five were full of endeavour – which was just as well, as Wanderers were definitely up for the game. Everybody contributed, nobody let themselves down – we just didn’t quite click as we would like.
There will be no complacency for Saturday as we head for Peebles, as we recall what happened last time we played them. Remarkably, now, there are only seven league games left – the team deserves your support. While nobody is advocating that recent scenes in Amsterdam be repeated, Peebles have a large and vociferous home crowd, and a good few supporting us could help the team home.