1st XV vs Watsonians: Match Report
To quote Gary Callander, an ex-Scottish Captain and former coach of (amongst others) Watsonians: ‘Scottish players play best when they have just had a drubbing … or think they might get a drubbing.’
Certainly, the Stewart’s Melville pack had, the previous week, received a drubbing from Hillhead, while, conversely, Watsonians had triumphed in fine style over Jed to the tune of 78 points.
The fact that Watsonians ultimately only manged to scrape home at Inverleith courtesy of a late try certainly bore credence to Gary’s theory, as our performance was night and day compared with the previous week. The match was a great occasion, with Inverleith busy, the pitch in good order and two teams prepared to play expansive rugby.
With five minutes left on the clock, Watsonians ran back an attempted clearance from about the half-way. Their backs had looked dangerous all afternoon, and tired legs maybe contributed to holes opening up, but McKean needed no second invitation to round off the move and nudge Watsonians into a 16-12 lead. Walls, on the field as replacement for Ben Di Rollo (about whom more later), missed the conversion.
Our young team were, however, determined to have the last word, and, in the dying seconds, Mike Hanning gave Matt Hannay the tightest of gaps and he squirrelled his way over. Watsonians appealed in vain for foot in touch – but, as the stand erupted, the referee spoiled the party by blowing for a forward pass. Was it forward? Of course it was, as the referee was on the spot and his decision is final – but there was still a goodly number of Stew Mellies in the stand prepared to go to their graves convinced he got it wrong.
Watsonians had started strongly but Ben Di Rollo missed two opportunities to settle nerves and establish a lead. Our visitors welcomed their captain and former professional rugby player Mark Rennie to their line-up, and it was rather against the run of play that Seb Trotter gave us the lead. Di Rollo squared things up before half time.
Watsonians, to be fair, had looked the likelier in the first half, but, as the second half unfolded, belief started to rise in the home ranks. The Watsonians backs constantly seemed to engineer new ways of running into Messrs Turner and Lean, and that’s not to be recommended.
Our scrum grew in stature throughout the game, with Phil Cringle making a decent debut – could we be looking at the future Edinburgh front row with George and Phil? Although only 18, Phil looks to have all the attributes to become a quality tight head – solid, athletic and comfortable with the ball in his hands. Ben Manning also added a bit of grit in the back row.
Our line out still needs work, but the disruptive influence of the experienced Mark Rennie was a factor in limiting possession. Fraser was a good source of ball at the front.
Our backs just couldn’t unlock the ‘Sonians defence, but it was not from want of effort from Mike Crawley and Liam. Seb controlled things nicely, and Mike Hanning contributed well when he came on.
Back to the action, and frustration was creeping into Watsonians’ play. Seb edged us into the lead after the break, but Ben Di Rollo scored beside Willie’s house to give Watsonians an 8-6 lead. Seb added two further penalties that were countered by one from Walls to give us a 12 -11 lead entering the last five minutes.
Walls, incidentally, replaced Ben Di Rollo, who, it appears, was sent off from the technical area. Certainly, three Di Rollo’s in the technical area seems overkill; it was a measure of the frustration felt by them that Ben was dismissed for naughty words.
Onto Biggar on Saturday, when, hopefully, Donald Sangster will return from injury – and a performance and defensive commitment similar to the above will be required to secure all four points.
We know from experience that things are never easy at Hartree Mill. Anything less than a win there this time around and things start to look difficult.
Match photos care of John Preece