1st XV vs Watsonians: Match Report
Professional sides, particularly in France, jockey for position to engineer a lineout in the opposition 22, and then, from the possession, form a rolling maul. The defending side is often forced to concede a penalty as the maul collapses, or from the next play – as defenders are sucked in – an overlap score results.
Watsonians were good at this – their back row was winning good ball at the tail and then feeding the big guys peeling round. Matt Brierley scored following one of these mauls, and, with Ben Di Rollo converting, the gap between the sides was down to one point with twenty minutes – or a quarter of the game – to go.
In truth, even the most one eyed Stew Mel supporter was now pretty apprehensive, as it was hard to see that the rest of the game would be played out without any addition to the score. Especially as, well though Nick was striking the ball, his next two penalty attempts shaved the target.
Two incidents then won the game for Stewart’s Melville.
The first came after Rory Steele had moved effortlessly into fifth gear with support outside him – then, from nowhere, he was halved by Mike Hanning. The collision was such a jolt that it looked illegal – it was just a perfectly executed tackle – and the ball spilled as a result.
The second incident came as we plundered ball from a throw in our ‘22’. According to the scoreboard time was up, but Nick felt space on the stand side. As he tried to exploit the gap, the ball went forwards. Watsonians were awarded a scrum in our ‘22’, in front of the sticks, with Di Rollo standing back in the pocket. Stewart’s Melville executed an eight man shove – which, in fairness, we had kept up our sleeve until now – and secured the possession.
Ker, in desperation, then strayed offside and was penalised. Unfortunately, back chat meant first yellow then a red for Ker. No doubt the SRU will look at this, but, in Mike’s defence, he sportingly congratulated our bench, on the way off, knowing the game was over.
The game had started promisingly for Stewart’s Melville, with Morrell touching down after being half stopped. Matt seemed hard to stop at this stage, and, on at least three other occasions in the first half, looked as if he might add to his tally. Nick nudged us eleven points clear with two penalties, but Di Rollo converted two from three to make it 11-6 when the oranges came on.
Nick converted a penalty early in the second half before Mike Brierley’s try and conversion completed the scoring. During the second half we lost Ruaridh to the bin for an offence that had the Stew Mel support bewildered. At our level the collisions are messy, with players entering from the side, and so the referee has a hard task to sort it out. At a higher level the players with the ball are better at securing it and the opposition are happy to concede – not risk a penalty – knowing they have fifteen players behind the ball and can defend all day.
Nick McCashin looked to continue where he left off the previous week, but Watsonians had done their homework on him and they bottled him up effectively. Our lineout went fairly well on our throw, with Jonathan Hamblin countering the presence of ex-professional player Mark Rennie. As usual, Sangster was the pick of the back rows on both sides and Scott Brewster put in a trademark hit when he was introduced. Mike Hanning has been a revelation at full-back and is fast developing into a class act.
Watsonians, somewhat understrength, will feel this was a game they should have won, and there is no doubt it could have gone either way. Stewart’s Melville could argue, in return, that they had the better of the first sixty minutes.
The return of Head Coach, Bruce, from holiday should ensure that no laurels are rested for the visit of a resurgent GHA on Saturday – but Kevin and Cakes have contributed hugely in his absence.
Finally, Inverleith was a picture on Saturday, the playing surface immaculate – if you can’t play rugby there, then …