1st XV vs Whitecraigs: Riggers’ Review
Game day arrived at Inverleith with similar weather to three of the last four weekends, meaning a feast of running rugby was unlikely to feature on the menu.
The Stew/Mel team have shown a growing maturity this season, and, once again, the performance could be classed as workmanlike. We didn’t quite hit the heights that we have in previous games, but we did more than enough to be always in control of the game.
If there was a criticism of the team, it would be a lack of patience in attack, with handling errors being forced upon ourselves either by unsympathetic passing or by players looking for the Million Dollar offload. The latter may work on a sunny day with a dry ball, but, when you’re playing with a bar of soap, sometimes taking contact and recycling possession again would be the better option.
There were more positives than negatives in the performance, however, and these allowed the team to continue their unbeaten start to the season. I struggle to recall the last time a Stew/Mel team have won their first seven games of the season, so to do so is a fantastic achievement. We move into the last four games of the first half of the season in a great position, but knowing that, in Jed-Forest, Selkirk, Hillhead/Jordanhill and Watsonians, we have tough games coming up.
Whitecraigs, on their first visit to Inverleith, contributed greatly to the game, and, whilst denied possession and territory for long periods of the game, they defended manfully. It would be fair to say that Stew/Mel didn’t just defend their line vigorously – they defended their 22 in a manner which bodes well for these games to come. By my reckoning, it took fully 30 minutes for Whitecraigs to visit our 22, and they were quickly repelled.
Our first score came after a dominant opening period. On the 18 minute mark, we finally managed to break through the Whitecraigs defensive line. George Turner, who carried ball well all day, made the initial breach before passing on to Jamie Allan, who, in turn, released Seb Trotter to finish out wide. This score was quickly followed by a penalty, duly slotted by Seb, and, with 30 minutes gone, things were starting to look rosy.
Reece was then, however, yellow carded for a no arms tackle just after the Whitecraigs stand off had knocked on, and we were forced to play the last 10 minutes of the half with 14 men. We did create a few opportunities in this 10 minute period, but a lack of composure saw the scoreboard remain unchanged.
The Whitecraigs 12 had received a yellow card in the dying seconds of the first half for a ruck offence, and we put our man advantage to good use after 5 minutes of the second half. From a lineout just outside the Whitecraigs 22, we won off the top ball which was fed out to the backs. Seb brought Andrew Hughes in off the blindside wing and he breenged through the gap into the 22. His pass out wide went to ground, meaning Borth had to retreat and secure possession. With Whitecraigs challenging for the ball in the ruck, it squirted out the side. Seb was first to react to the loose ball, kicking ahead into the dead ball area and winning the race to the touch down, which he then converted to make it 15-0.
For the next 15 minutes, we again had plenty of possession, but couldn’t build enough pressure close to the Whitecraigs line to make the break through. The coaches made a couple of changes, with Ethan replacing Reece, Fraser coming on for Joni and Seb being replaced by Neil. A kickable penalty was sent to the corner by Jamie, and, from the resulting line out, Ethan was driven over by the rest of the forwards for a debut try and to stretch our lead to 20-0. Three tries and 20 minutes left to hunt the bonus point. The fact it never came was a source of great frustration, having created a number of opportunities to do so.
With 80 minutes gone, Scotty R threw out a pass to the left with an overlap outside him, but the Whitecraigs 2nd row gambled, intercepted and set off down the pitch. Play was halted in our 22, with a scrum to Stew/Mel the end result. I must confess to not really knowing what happened next, as we went from having a put in, to the referee running under the posts for a penalty try to Whitecraigs. This was, apparently, because a Stew/Mel player had pulled back a Whitecraigs player. I think it would be fair to say that the decision bemused just about everyone who saw the incident, but, nevertheless, Whitecraigs were on the scoreboard.
What followed after that was some truly bizarre rugby in the remaining minutes of injury time. It was perhaps best summed up by a comment from Joni Hare on the Stew/Mel Twitter feed: ‘Why do we think we can score a try from 5 metres out from our own line when we can’t do it 5 metres out from theirs?’ A good point, indeed, and, with a penalty secured in our 22, a kick to touch would have brought the match to an end.
It was, however, decided that we would run it – though it would appear that not many players were aware of that decision – and we quickly got turned over and conceded a penalty. After we had being penalised for not being back 10, Whitecraigs moved the ball to the right and duly crossed for their second injury time try to bring the final score to 20-12.
Next Saturday sees us head down the A68 to Jed-Forest for a top of the table clash. Games between the two clubs tend to be close fought affairs, but, if the team are serious about challenging for a place in Premier B after the split and competing at the top end of that league during the remainder of the season, then to go to the Borders and win would be a serious affirmation of their credentials.
Many thanks to Gordo for stepping into the breach and agreeing to write this week’s Match Report in Gav’s absence – Bill