1st XV vs Watsonians: Match Report
Stewart’s Melville’s winning run came to an end on Saturday with a narrow loss at Myreside. There was very little between the teams, but Watsonians managed to control the match in the third quarter, establishing a 19 point advantage that, in the end, proved decisive.
Much of the pre-match speculation surrounded whether or not we would be ‘up for it’, as Watsonians needed to win the match to keep alive their hopes of a place in the ‘play-offs’ – whereas Stewart’s Melville had already secured their place. The sight of the maroon and white stripes ensured, however, that there would be no lack of effort from the boys in red, black and gold.
Watsonians certainly came out of the blocks pumped up, with a gale at their backs and a physical approach to the early exchanges. Recent recruit Kaide Whiting, starting at stand-off on his debut, was treated to a couple of ‘welcome to Scottish Rugby’ type tackles. Early exchanges were even and our scrum seemed to be going well at this point. Our backs looked collectively aggressive and dangerous, so it was no surprise when Matt Hannay glided home to give us the lead. The conversion into the teeth of the gale was missed.
Matt’s try was beautifully taken, leaving the Stew Mel faithful roaring their appreciation. Incidentally, the support we have gathered is very encouraging, and the whole occasion was, in a tired cliché, a great advert for club rugby. The quality of the match was unquestionably higher than Premier 2 as both teams played at high tempo. Half-time saw us turn round 9-8 in arrears, with the wind at our backs but with the not unfamiliar sight of a rueful Reece O’Leary in the bin.
In Edinburgh, the west wind often dies down about 4 pm as daylight starts to fade and that is what happened – the gale abated somewhat. When you are playing against the wind, the line–out ball naturally falls on your side and the converse is true when you are playing with the wind.
Kaide nudged us briefly into the lead, then Watsonians cut loose with three tries, one from a great break by Ben Di Rollo and all converted with aplomb by Walls. Generally speaking our defence has been good this season, but Watsonians managed to find a few holes – this is no doubt something the coaches will look at. Walls has proved such a find for Watsonians: he is a natural place kicker and strikes the ball so cleanly that the wind does not have the same effect on the parabola as it does for kickers who have a more manufactured action.
Our scrum then started to creak, and, with the home side sensing victory, Joni Hare coped admirably with some horrible pick-ups. But, in truth, our pack was playing second fiddle to the Watsonians eight in this period, and, with Tuala’ s influence increasing, we were facing an uncomfortable afternoon of rugby.
Mike Hanning, our Brian Walls, moved to stand-off and reduced the arrears with a penalty – and, suddenly, the momentum changed. Scott Riddell seemed clean through but the chance was missed. The Watsonians eight seemed to tire, and, when Angus Lean romped home, we started to believe. Hayden and Scott looked dangerous and Richard knows he can beat anyone ‘one on one’ with a bit of room to play with.
Several crucial refereeing decisions eased the pressure on the home side as we were now ‘chasing the game’. Watsonians, however, mustered an attack and were held up on the line by great defence. In the last play, Borth engineered a converted try, but, with Stewart’s Melville completely on top, we had run out of time.
Frustration was the keyword afterwards as we felt we had missed an opportunity to put one over on our old rivals. We have a chance, however, to avenge this result in a fortnight in the Cup. Hats off to Watsonians, though, as they were staring down the barrel at the start of the season with heavy defeats to Kelso and Jed-Forest and their second team suffering. But they have drawn a line in the sand – this and no further – and for this Marcus Di Rollo and Stuart Reid, the Watsonians coaches, deserve much credit.
Stewart’s Melville can take pride in our performance – we fought to the end. Where, in the past, a 19 point defecit would have been unsurmountable, we now have players that believe anything is possible. We complete our Premier 2 campaign next week with a home fixture against Selkirk, who must win to achieve top four status. Similar commitment as was shown at Myreside will be required from us if we are to prevail.
Gav’s keen to take a break from writing the match reports as he needs to study for an upcoming exam. We’re therefore looking for someone (or several people) to pen the 1st XV match reports – if you’d like to help, please let Bill or one of the committee know.