Down Inverleith Way
Monday 31st October
In many ways, It has been a traumatic first 10 weeks to the 2016-2017 season for the senior section of Stewart’s Melville Rugby! For one reason or another, 23 players and a coach departed the club in the close season and the new rugby playing management team of Bryan, “Sesh”, “Jingles”, “Cash” and Gavin have had to undertake a major rebuilding task. The outcome at 1st XV level, seriously hampered by injuries to key experienced players, is a young squad who have initially struggled to find their feet in the rigours of the National One League, but who have never given anything other than their best. The first two wins of the season, 22-13 against Howe of Fife on Saturday 22nd October and this week’s cardiac stopping 34-35 success against Hamilton Bulls at Laigh Bent is a just reward for the coaching staff and players and a small recompense for some of the earlier disappointments. We still have a major task ahead of us but hopefully we are on the right track. 3 XV’s have been fielded and numbers at training on a Tuesday and a Thursday have been good. Equally, the “esprit de corps” has been excellent amongst the players and it is great to see them, once again, mixing with supporters in the clubhouse after the game and enjoying what is, after all, a major component of amateur rugby, namely the company of fellow players and club members of all teams.
The game against Hamilton was a roller-coaster of a ride where we found ourselves under pressure for long periods of the game. With some justification, the men from Lanarkshire might consider themselves somewhat unfortunate but, in the end, the only result that matters (as we have often found out to our cost) is the one on the score-board. For the most part our defence held firm and on limited possession we scored some excellent tries. Going into half time 21-10 ahead, the RBG faithful, while showing some trepidation, were cautiously optimistic. Unfortunately, this very quickly proved to be misplaced and in the blink of an eye the Bulls scored two tries (one converted) and a penalty to take what looked like a commanding lead at 34 – 21. To be fair, one of their tries was a “14 point” turn around. After excellent build up play, Stew Mel looked certain to score only for Hamilton to intercept the final pass on their own line and proceed to hack and chase the length of the pitch in a passage of play which included several almost comical ricochets to score at the other end. Earlier, this might have signalled resignation and defeat but the boys showed real character, reorganised their defence and used limited ball to threaten the opposition line. Excellent phase play produced a good try for Seb Trotter (converted by Mike Hanning) and then we produced our own breakaway. Seb intercepted a Hamilton pass deep in his own half and, quickly realising that he is not as quick as he used to be, transferred the ball to the flying Sean Murchie who outpaced the defence to score under the posts with Mike duly converting to give the RBG a one point victory.
As ever, Hamilton were most hospitable hosts and it was good to cross swords once again with old warhorse Richie Maxton (an ex stalwart of Stew Mel) even if his inspired performance almost scuppered our efforts! After our disappointing start to the season, a good performance against Dundee next week (5th November) is vital and our young team would really appreciate your vocal support. Please try to get down to Inverleith for a 2pm kick off.
The 2nd XV also recorded a welcome victory against Boroughmuir (39-3) to move off the bottom of Reserve National League Division 2. I watched them throw the game away against Selkirk at Philiphaugh so this was a welcome return to form and hopefully signals a steady move up the table. The talent in this team belies their position in the league and optimistically confidence is on the up. They also have a vital league game next week (5th November) against Dundee at Inverleith.
The Mighty 3’s under the tutelage of Fin Calder (and his able assistants, twin Jim and Simon Scott), after a sticky few weeks, seem to be finding some consistency in selection and playing rugby in the fine tradition of this team! Last Saturday, they recorded a stirring 55 -33 win at Forrester with the next opponents due to be Penicuik on 5th November also at Inverleith. It is social rugby at its best but also a route to playing at a higher level if desired and, without doubt, is a vital component of the club. If you have just left school and want to start playing again or, indeed, if you retired prematurely and the family are getting fed up with your company on a Saturday afternoon then make yourself available. Even better, introduce your family to Inverleith and enjoy some time together in the clubhouse afterwards. Fin produces a comprehensive review of the games each week so there is little need for me to say more!
The Stewart’s Melville College 1st XV have had an excellent start to the season and and finished off their regular fixtures before half term with a very satisfactory victory (27-10) on Saturday 8th October against Merchiston. By all accounts, this was an outstanding game of schoolboy rugby from two very evenly matched sides — but needless to say the Stew Mel coaches had broad smiles at the final whistle! The following Wednesday, they then had to make the trip to Glenalmond to take on a very fired up host team in the Scottish Schools Cup. This proved to be a very tough encounter but the boys showed both character and spirit to finally pull through by 18-10. This Saturday (5th November) they face Dollar Academy at Inverleith with a 10.30 kick off and then travel to Dundee on Wednesday (9th November) to play Dundee in the quarter final of the cup.
Hopefully, we will try to cover news from all sections of Stewart’s Melville Rugby – the School, the Lions, the Academy and the Seniors – in the coming weeks.