1st XV vs Watsonians: Match Report
Consider, briefly, if you will, jerrycans. Their indented panels add strength – and allow for both expansion and contraction. Their spouts, like their air-pipes, handles and air pockets, are perfect paradigms of ergonomic design and they are still widely used.
Jerrycans, then – an ingenious invention of Vinzenz Grünvogel in 1937. Had we not copied captured jerrycans, and abandoned our ‘flimsies’, the Germans might have won the war*.
Although rugby isn’t as satisfyingly predictable as jerrycans, there had been a symmetry about our previous matches with Watsonians that suggested a narrow win for Watsonians was due – which, in the end, was enough to propel Stewart’s Melville to the play-off spot.
The match had the feel of a second leg European football night, because the play was dictated, to a large extent, by what had gone before in the league campaign. Watsonians knew that victory over Stewart’s Melville by four clear points was necessary to keep their season alive.
They started in fine style, with Mark Rennie poaching clean lineout ball on the halfway line, and the rolling maul advanced into Stewart’s Melville territory. Was this early touchline dominance a harbinger of later events? Strangely not, as the visitors by and large coped with Watsonians’ touchline possession.
Similarly the scrums, where the absence of Rhys Morgan meant the whole front row changed position, with Willie Aitken at tight head, Connor MacKay at hooker and Nick Hart at loose head. Despite this, the scrums – with the occasional exception – were secure and offered clean possession. There was very little between the packs, to be honest, with Adam Howie’s efforts in the back row more than countered by John Leiataua’s ability with the ball in his hands. Scott Brewster’s belligerence was always a threatening presence for the visitors.
Myreside was bathed in bright sunshine that saw most of the impressive crowd (albeit some 81,000 less than those that watched Saracens and Quins) gather on the terracing in order to feel the benefit of a fine Spring day. The match was preceded by a lunch in the clubhouse attended by 155 diners and addressed by our own Finlay Calder**. All in all, a great occasion, and, if the lunch was a tasty Indian hors d’oeuvres, the main course was the ‘full bhuna’ with all the machinations that we have come to expect when these two rivals lock horns.
Ross Aitken spurned an easy penalty kick to open Watsonians’ account by diving over and catching Stewart’s Melville unaware. Ledingham converted, but then, shortly after, missed with a penalty attempt. Stewart’s Melville started to play a bit into the wind and McCashin released the eager Whittingham for a try which McCashin was unable to convert.
Towards the end of the half, Steele cleverly chased a neat grubber to touch down for a try that was confirmed after consultation with the linesman on the opposite side from the stand. He actually signalled consultation with a mythical fourth official ‘upstairs’ – it could only be God – all of which only added to the sense of theatre.
Ledingham missed with the conversion and a further penalty – the conditions were far from ideal for successful goal kicking.
Half-time, then, and 12-5 for Watsonians. In the context of the game, with the wind advantage favouring Stewart’s Melville in the second half, this was an acceptable scoreline.
McCashin had cruel luck when two kicks at goal, from similar positions, both bounced off a post and back into play. Nick continued to pull the strings in midfield, however, and cleverly delayed a pass for Whittingham to break through decisively from the ten yard line – still the conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
The game looked like petering out as Watsonians, in their anxiety, committed a number of handling errors on the stand side and Stewart’s Melville relied on McCashin for field position. But, suddenly, Bowie broke through, taking a pass on the inside after a break by Morrell and Hanning, and it looked as if Stewart’s Melville might settle nerves by taking the lead. From the tackle on Bowie, however, throwing caution to the wind, Watsonians pirated ball, countered and put together a thrilling play up the stand side that culminated in replacement Scott, an athlete, galloping home. Mindful of the need to deny Stewart’s Melville a losing bonus, he executed a forward roll and regained his balance to leave DiRollo with the formality.
In the blink of an eye, a game that Stewart’s Melville had successfully managed for 75 plus minutes looked to have been lost as Watsonians celebrated their try.
Do you remember the Law of Conservation of Energy, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed but can change form? Energy that had been stored in the form of fitness (muscular energy) was duly applied by the Stewart’s Melville pack as they lifted the pace for the final minutes – and then won a penalty. What to do? A successful goal kick would garner the losing bonus point, and Nick McCashin had not missed by much with any of his previous four kicks. The decision was taken – a kick to the corner – catch by Scott Brewster. The forwards piled in with kinetic energy. It looked as if the try was inevitable on the narrow side but the charge was repelled. Around the corner came the attack and the backs, as alert and unforgiving as Russian soldiers in Crimea, piled into the equation for Whittingham to touch down.
Watsonians, undeniably a decent young team, deserved their 19-15 win, but Stewart’s Melville had earned their losing bonus point.
Accies, then, in the playoffs. We have momentum, we have a good team – one more result! Thanks are due to our away support, who, although they could never be confused with the ‘Barmy Army’, still managed to turn out in goodly numbers – it makes a difference, and the team is grateful. Your attendance is required at Lasswade on 5th April.
*President Roosevelt noted “Without these cans it would have been impossible for our armies to cut their way across France at a lightning pace which exceeded the German Blitzkrieg of 1940.”
**Finlay/Jim Calder’s Merchant Company Composite Team from their playing days:
15 AG Hastings (W) 1 A Brewster (S/M)
14 J McKenzie (S/M) 2. M Watters (W)
13 E Kennedy (W) 3 G Calder (S/M)
12 D Johnson (W) 4 K Tyler (S/M)
11 S Hastings (W) 5 J Calder (S/M)
10 SH Scott (S/M) 6 JH Calder (S/M)
9 DW Morgan (S/M) 8 I Lambie (W)
(capt) 7 F Calder (S/M)