1st XV vs Peebles: Match Report
All’s well that ends well – but what a struggle this was. With two minutes of normal time remaining, Stewart’s Melville were trailing Peebles 9-8, having pretty much dominated our hosts throughout the game without making the most of our opportunities to score points.
Peebles then, in the final minute, infringed by preventing quick release on their ten yard line, right at the edge of Nick McCashin’s range. Mercifully, rather than test Nick’s radar, there was back chat, and, instead of a three wood to the green, all that was required was a trusty nine iron. Up stepped our own Sachin Tendulkar – ‘The Little Master’ – to do the needful, and we were left to defend our two point lead in injury time.
Unlike earlier (see below), we secured the restart, and, with relief in our step, managed to involve Matt Morrell (see below) after contriving to ignore him for the previous seventy minutes. Matt’s break was carried on by Mike Hanning and allowed Sam Rowlands space to squeeze in at the corner; Nick’s conversion attempt used up the remaining seconds, and, glory be, victory had duly been duly snatched from the jaws of defeat.
Peebles in November would usually mean a bit of a forwards arm wrestle, but such has been the weather this year that the pitch was in good condition. The strong gusts of wind caused problems for both kickers and Raeburn misjudged his first attempt with the wind at his back. On our first serious foray into enemy territory, we managed to produce a slick backs move that released Matt Morrell with only his opposite number to beat. Such is the confidence that Matt is playing with that it was no surprise that he scored – albeit too wide out for Nick to convert.
The rest of the half was fairly even, with Raeburn missing another penalty before converting two. Nick Hart was required to spend ten minutes cooling his heels, but, with Adam able to step up from the back row, his absence was not too sorely missed. On the stroke of half time we had the opportunity to take the lead, but Nick pushed his kick – which was, by his standards, fairly straightforward – wide. At the same time, Peebles lost a man to the bin.
The second half started promisingly, with Cash drilling the restart to the corner. Logic dictated that it would be a matter of time before we battered our way through the Peebles defence with the wind at our backs – but, try as we might, we didn’t cross the whitewash again until injury time.
Peebles lost another player to the bin for a deliberate knock on preventing an overlap, and we were awarded a penalty. The referee, James Sullivan – an exchange official from the RFU – then awarded a penalty for illegal binding against Rhys Morgan. No doubt he saw something, but why would a prop infringe when the scrums had been going well and the opposition were down to six forwards?
Scrums are becoming such a lottery at every level, so surely now, if you have the choice of a lineout or scrum from a penalty, the time has come to take the lineout.
It has to be said, however, that Mr Sullivan had an excellent game in all other respects. Sometimes it seems as if we are working against the referee, whereas many of the top internationalists (e.g. Greig Laidlaw) look to be constantly in dialogue for clarification. You have got to try and get the man in the middle on your side.
Although we often made ground through the centres – Dave Hampton and Neil Bowie – the player or the support was isolated, and, on occasions, we were rucked off the ball. Somehow we could not utilise the attacking prowess of our back three – which must be the best back three in our division.
Eventually we did squeeze in front through a McCashin penalty, but, from the restart, we were messy and Peebles nosed in front from the resultant penalty.
Lessons to be learnt? There are no easy games – especially away – and it was therefore no surprise that our most experienced player, Scott Brewster, was our best on the day. Scott knows exactly what to expect in games like these, and, while his ability to time a tackle may be hereditary, it is a skill he has finely honed.
To be fair, Peebles put thirty odd points past us at Inverleith, so to come to their home patch and reverse the result is an achievement. And make no mistake – our defence was top drawer, and, as Peebles admitted later, they never looked like scoring. To get where we are from where we were is remarkable, and we have done it really by collectively ‘manning up’.
For Peebles, Raeburn confirmed the promise we saw at Inverleith, and there was much to admire in their committed defence.
Back to Cup duty next week with Heriot’s, then Selkirk at home on the 30th – tasty!