A good New Year and all the best for 2019 to all our readers. Given the location of the first encounter of 2019, I think it would be remiss of me not to continue my previous Jacobite theme, obviously in the hope that the results initially at Highland but, more importantly, at Falkirk were re-enacted at the Pans, where, in 1745, there was unquestionably a significant victory for Charlie’s troops! With that in mind, and following the unwrapping of that ‘present’ that was surreptitiously shoved under the Christmas tree (reference my previous report), expectations were always going to be high on Saturday. Thankfully, history delivered accordingly.
With Michael Miller away on his Antipodean travels, Euan Bowen was the man selected to step in and pull the strings at 10, and, bar some minor adjustments, the starting line-up had a familiar settled look. A last minute change saw Dave Allan straight in at number 8 for the injured Denis Pech. With a well kempt pitch, fine weather, a comfortable stand and, to trump it all, a sea view, PL kicked off inland. Although the ball was well retrieved and sent back with interest, PL held on to possession and made significant progress, resulting in a penalty directly in front of the posts. The three points were a formality. Five minutes played, PL 3 – SM 0 – early days!
At the restart, the ball drifted out on PL’s 22, and, with the first lineout of the game adjudged to be squint, SM showed their strength in the scrum, quick ball out to the right allowing Freddie Roddick to cut through for the first try of the afternoon. Happy, with his kicking boots on, added the extras. 10 minutes played, PL 3 – SM 7.
As play progressed it appeared we were back in exactly the same position, with another lineout, but, this time, despite a formidable drive by Momo, the opportunity was lost, a penalty awarded to PL allowing them to gain good field position within SM’s 22. From the lineout, however, the SM forwards wrapped them up, drove forward, and, ultimately, won a scrum at the halfway line. Secure ball and a good kick and we were back to that all too familiar 22 mark for the lineout. Again, despite a period of dominance and the application of pressure, the points unfortunately didn’t come.
The SM forwards were certainly showing their authority, although the backs were taking time to adjust, and, as a result of some uncharacteristic poor passing, PL got back into the driving seat with a scrum, penalty and territorial advantage. They ultimately drove over the line for a simple score and a successful conversion. 25 minutes played, PL 10 – SM 7.
Play resumed and PL were on the move again. Once more a penalty came their way in a kickable position and they didn’t hesitate to grab the three points on offer: 35 minutes in, PL 13 – SM 7. Fortunes were soon reversed, however, as the first yellow card of the afternoon was shown to a PL forward, and, with the one man advantage, it wasn’t long before James Ferguson was through for SM’s second try, Happy again converting. PL 13 – SM 14.
As the end of the first half approached there was still plenty of time for more action from both sides, a penalty to PL increasing their tally to 16 and a yellow card coming SM’s way. Our forwards and backs then combined well, with Dave Allan breaking through and finding Fraser Strachan with his orange boots in full flow for the try. Happy’s conversion made it PL 16 – SM 24 at the break.
We had just about recovered from what had been quite a frantic and exciting first half as SM got the second half underway, floodlights now on full beam. A scrum within PL’s 22 and quick ball ended with PL deciding to kick long; this was, however, well fielded and Freddie returned the compliment downfield. A penalty then came SM’s way, Happy adding the three points after 55 minutes of play: PL 16 – SM 27.
A period of intense and constant pressure from PL ensued but the resolute SM defence kept them at bay as scrum after penalty after scrum came PL’s way for at least 15 minutes, possibly more. It wasn’t pretty but what a defensive effort from SM. Having survived the onslaught and allowed the SM supporters to breathe once more, the game then became a more balanced affair, gritty and competitive at times, with SM’s game management, I think, showing signs of maturity (penalties aside!)
Both teams were restored to 15, for a period anyway, and, against the run of play, a kick was charged down, giving PL an edge as they attacked once more with a penalty, scrum and lineout. This time their pressure resulted in a try, although the conversion was unsuccessful. Around 70 minutes played, PL 21 – SM 27.
As the game reached its final stages the majority of play was in PL’s 22, and, although the bonus point try eluded SM, they made sure they secured the win despite proceedings heating up a little amongst the players during the latter stages (with some added audience participation!) The final whistle thankfully came soon after. PL 21 – SM 27 (and not as stated on the SRU website).
A good start to 2019, and a hard, competitive game at that. I am not sure if Momo knew the ref but he certainly spent a good bit of time ‘catching up’ with him on Saturday afternoon. Good teams play on the edge, interpreting the laws accordingly. To be fair, the ref was consistent with his interpretation as both sides succumbed to officialdom. The first half was not untypical of a number of our games this season, with the lead changing hands several times, but the second half was quite superlative in terms of the defensive effort. This must have given our players a great deal of confidence and everyone played their part accordingly, showing immense character to a man.
The pack put in an extraordinary shift and I could namecheck all 8 for their contribution, both in attack and (particularly) in defence, which gave the backs the platform to deliver three good tries (and it could be argued that it should have been more). That said, PL also had their opportunities. Whilst a great team effort, I think James deserves a special mention for his attack, his defence and, dare I say it, his kicking. I am sure you will agree that he is a really nice guy, but it was good to see his competitive nature emerging on the ‘battlefield’ at the Pans!
A few things to work on before showcasing any flair next week against what I think will be a much improved GHK, who ran Dumfries very close on Saturday. See you then.
Match photo c/o Libby @ OG Blakeman Photos