1st XV vs Selkirk: Match Report
’It’s quiet. Too quiet.” Among others, thus spake big John Wayne in The Lucky Texan (1934) and Burt Kwouk in Inn of The Sixth Happiness (1958). Burt’s crossing mountains with Ingrid Bergmann and 100 orphans, all fleeing the Japanese – and then bang, he’s deid, as they say in Glasgae of high mortality, amid the dancing tea-cakes … where they like to say Yes.
Silence is a word associated with Peter Wright, the Selkirk coach, only when his charges are ahead by a considerable margin. ‘Animated apoplexy’ would describe his demeanour as Stewart’s Melville gradually ate into the Selkirk lead, eventually overtaking the league leaders with four minutes remaining – only ultimately to surrender that advantage.
Disappointment and pride describe the Stewart’s Melville reaction to the game. Our side quickly found themselves 11 points in arrears, but, in spite of ‘yellow fever’ meaning we were down to thirteen men for a period in the first half, we turned round only one point adrift. Without playing particularly well – to put it mildly – we refused to lie down, and, through a mixture of aggression and sheer bloody-mindedness, put ourselves in a position to win the game.
The game kicked off 30 minutes late due to a door technology issue with the Selkirk bus which meant it could only travel at 5 mph. This delay allowed spectators to watch an impressive 2nd XV give the afternoon a feel-good factor on Pitch 2 with a display of running rugby which was full of youthful exuberance (not you, Scott Brewster!)
The opening skirmishes on Pitch 1 resembled professional rugby, where two sides repeatedly re-scrum and the referee awards a penalty to one side then the other. The four props – Aitken and Morgan for Stewart’s Melville and Graur and Cooney for Selkirk – are all kenspeckle faces in club rugby and all determined to use their experience. This does not generally result in fast flowing rugby!
It was from one such scrum that Marshall, a key player in this match for Selkirk, strolled over – he found a gap that you could have driven the Selkirk bus through, even at 5 mph. As Selkirk increased their lead to eleven, there was a sense of foreboding in the collective guts of the home faithful, which was not helped as first Hanning (for obstruction) and then Morgan (for collapsing scrums) saw yellow.
But McCashin first accepted a penalty opportunity then Whittingham erupted in midfield to send Morrell scurrying over in the corner beside Willie’s house. Cash nailed the conversion which meant the score was 10-11 when the oranges appeared.
Mitchell had replaced the miscreant Morgan and remained on the pitch after the interval. Most of our problems in the penalty department could be attributed to the breakdown, but Ben Wilson (now an established player) competed tirelessly to keep Stewart’s Melville in the hunt. Nick McCashin, well policed by our opponents now, put in a series of raking kicks from hand that turned defence into attack and Lindsay popped up all over the place to good effect. Nick also has the ability to run alongside opponents and whip the ball from their grasp.
The lineouts should have been better, as, on the first four occasions, we cleanly won the ball – only for a knock on in delivery to spoil the possession.
Aitken took a team yellow and Welsh kicked a penalty for Selkirk – but Cooney also received a yellow for Selkirk as McCashin replied with a penalty. Like a pack of hounds with the ball as their quarry, the subs were released from the bench and the intensity increased. Manson, Christie and Howie all looked to contribute, and Manson, in particular, put pace on the ball.
Selkirk lost Marshall to the bin for a high tackle, and, suddenly, it was all Stewart’s Melville. Marshall had been the go-to man in the lineout for Selkirk and the scrums also started to go the way of the homesters. As the clock ticked down, several chances were wasted as Stewart’s Melville tried to make their tight dominance count, but, with four minutes to go, McCashin banged over a penalty to give us the narrow advantage.
Nick had been correct to eschew the previous kicking opportunities, as, had we managed a scrum or lineout try, the extra points would have ensured victory.
In the event, our lead was short lived, as, from the restart, McColm cleverly kicked to Ben Wilson, who found himself isolated with the entire Selkirk pack on top of him. In a contest that was strewn with penalties, it was inevitable that another would be awarded in the resultant ruck.
On to next week and a trip to the Borders – never easy – but add a bit of composure to our enthusiasm and ability and we could be a very good side. There is a long way to go in this league campaign and pretty well anyone can beat anyone on their day.