Match Report v Kirkcaldy RFC | Saturday 14th September

Whenever Kirkcaldy RFC arrive in town it means one thing – a hard, abrasive and physical encounter is anticipated. They are a team that seem to maintain a degree of consistency regardless of the league they find themselves in and are always uncompromisingly competitive. I am sure Stew Mel would have been fully aware of what the opposition would bring to the table on a breezy but sunny afternoon at Inverleith. The only change in the starting Stew Mel line up was James Ferguson, which ensured that his father’s allegiance would not stray!

Kirkcaldy kicked off towards the Castle and were immediately put under pressure by Stew Mel, who were playing towards – and getting closer to – the Ferry Road end. In the early exchanges James was nearly in but was held up over the line; the 5m scrum, unfortunately, lead to a knock-on and another scrum, this time with Kirkcaldy getting the put in. The lines were cleared, but, again, Stew Mel were in the ascendancy, being the beneficiaries of a penalty which was clearly kickable. In the early stages of games, decisions have to be made as to whether to take the three points or go for more, and, this time, it was the latter. Sometimes these decisions can come back to bite you, but, thankfully, this was not the case on Saturday.

A penalty awarded to Kirkcaldy allowed them some possession but this was short lived as James waded in once more with a great steal. Kirkcaldy regained possession, though, and made inroads into Stew Mel’s 22. The visitors earned other penalty but the line out was not straight, resulting in a scrum to Stew Mel. A good drive by Scott Alldritt and an impressive clearance kick by Michael Miller eased the pressure momentarily but Kirkcaldy attacked again and were awarded a penalty. From the line out approximately 10m out the Kirkcaldy pack drove over for the first try of the afternoon with about 20 minutes played. The conversion was unsuccessful, bringing the score to Stew Mel 0 – Kirkcaldy 5.

At the restart Kirkcaldy were penalised for holding on and a quick tap was taken by Fraser Strachan, who moved the ball via Michael to the right; this allowed Sean Murchie, with a bit of running to do, to get round the opposition number 15, with relative ease, and score under the posts. Happy added the extras. Stew Mel 7 – Kirkcaldy 5.

Despite the initial dominance enjoyed by Stew Mel there was now more of a balance in the amount of possession for both teams, and, regrettably the penalty count against Stew Mel was rising. A good break by ‘new signing’ Darren Miller put Stew Mel in a good attacking position but the aforementioned penalty count prevented any further progression. Both teams were battling for territory with some big forward drives and tactical kicking, and, despite having the opportunity to get more points on the board, the first half ended Stew Mel 7 – Kirkcaldy 5.

With the second half underway and the penalty count not abating, we then endured what was probably around a 20 minute period (although it felt like 40) with scrum after scrum after scrum, and, whilst it was difficult to comprehend what was happening, it did appear that the Stew Mel Tank was losing traction, which was uncharacteristic and certainly not reflective of their performance. It appeared that there was a component missing and it soon became apparent who this ‘component’ was: Connor McKay, who was off injured at this point. Once he returned to the fray the ‘Tank’ was back up and running, driving forward and winning a penalty that allowed Michael to clear the danger. The breathing space was welcome.

Once the spectator sport resumed, Stew Mel managed to get through a few phases and the ever eager Matt Sanderson took off. He was caught 10m out but a penalty, a line out and a drive saw Joe Bailey burrow his way through for a try, Happy again adding the extras. 65 minutes played, Stew Mel 14 – Kirkcaldy 5. A crucial score at a crucial time but still a lot of rugby to be played to ensure victory.

Joe Bailey, having come on as a sub and scored a try, was now tackling everything in his sights, preventing Kirkcaldy from making any significant progress. They did, however, manage to keep possession within Stew Mel’s 22, and, this time, took advantage of the 3 points on offer. 70 minutes played, Stew Mel 14 – Kirkcaldy 8.

At the restart, despite being penalised, Matt turned the tables, allowing Jamie Sword to drive on, aided by Joe Bailey. With the ball finding Matt’s hands once more, he sprinted a good 60m up the right to score the try that more or less sealed the win. As predicted, it is not over until it’s over, Kirkcaldy attacking relentlessly to get their deserved try and losing bonus point. As they headed back over the bridge with a point, they may well have felt that they could have been going home with four. That thought would have been totally justified. Final score Stew Mel 19 – Kirkcaldy 13.

An extremely competitive match, with both teams enjoying spells of domination within the red zone but both failing to capitalise. The Kirkcaldy forwards caused a lot of problems, particularly the number 8, the 6 and their number 2 (I am sure I played against him!) and it was befitting that their impressive number 13, Thomas Glendinning, had the final say. As their Plan A seemed to work, they ultimately ran out of time to implement Plan B.

Stew Mel stuck to their task and a great effort was put in by all, particularly defensively. Matt Sanderson was outstanding and deserving of the MOTM accolade, epitomised by his two scintillating runs. Michael Miller was calm and controlling at number 10 and the pack, once optimised, did their job effectively. The only real negative was, again, the number of penalties conceded, but, hopefully, we can learn from the last two games where the count has been unacceptably high. As Bill commented in his report on the Falkirk match, winning ugly is still a win, but, hopefully, we can witness a more expansive game on Saturday at Inverleith, where Stew Mel normally make the most of the wide pitch.

Next up: GHK RFC from OA at Invers – see you then.

Kevin Murchie

Down Inverleith Way 2

What a great weekend for Stewart’s Melville Rugby!

Friday saw 550 supporters, all resplendent in a variety of rugby shirts (many of which must have been searched for in boxes long lost in the attic), come together to back the club and the Edinburgh Headway Group charity at an amazing lunch held at the Prestonfield House Hotel. The assembled masses were royally entertained and enlightened by Dean Richards, Martin Johnson and Michael Lynagh, who reminisced with great clarity on various Rugby World Cups, Lions tours and Six Nation clashes. Not surprisingly, the latter’s view did not always concur with that of his fellow panelists, and there are obviously still some mysteries surrounding the Calcutta Cup’s adventures in Edinburgh!

Malcolm MacColl was an eloquent Master of Ceremonies and Willie Allan, as usual, excelled as Auctioneer. As an amateur club, Stew Mel relies on such ventures – along with the generosity of its sponsors – to keep itself solvent. Thank you to the ‘twins’ and their ‘back room staff’ for all their hard work in creating such an enjoyable event. It would also be remiss not to thank all those who contributed prizes to the auction and the purchasers for their generous bids.

How great it would be if, now, we could encourage more of the attendees to become regular supporters at Inverleith and of the team’s travels throughout Scotland. On that note, there might have been a few sore heads down Ferry Road on Saturday as we welcomed Kirkcaldy and Musselburgh to play the Senior 1st and 2nd XVs respectively – a certain gentleman must have had some very dark glasses on when selecting his couture of flame red trousers for the afternoon!. The better part of valour suggests that he should remain nameless!

Kirkcaldy, coming off the back of a serious Cup win against Newton Stewart and a narrow defeat at the hands of Dumfries (who threaten to be serious contenders in the league), were sure to be more than stern opponents, and so it proved. A powerful and very physical pack put the RBG under considerable pressure throughout the game. They controlled possession for significant portions of the 80 minutes, but, by and large, the home defence repelled everything that was thrown at it, and our attack managed to contrive some moments of real ingenuity to produce three tries. Indeed, the first 10 minutes of the match showcased attacking Stew Mel rugby at its best and two scores were thrown away only by failing to overcome white line fever. Sadly, the next 10 minutes highlighted the current propensity for giving away a plethora of needless penalties, which, inevitably, allowed the opposition to gain good field position and score the game’s opening try.

The Fifers will undoubtedly be disappointed to lose 19-13 and will probably question their tactics of eschewing penalty kicks in favour of trusting their pack to produce tries from the set piece. No doubt ‘take the points on offer’ will be part of their game debrief, and wisdom suggests that they will be well in the mix come the end of the season. Nevertheless, the steel and determination of the RBG performance cannot be denied and the home support retired to the clubhouse in great spirit. Look out for Kevin Murchie’s match report.

The Senior 2nd XV added to the feel-good factor with a 22-5 win against Musselburgh, the icing on the cake being the bonus point try which was scored with the last move of the game. A look at the team sheet gives an idea of the strength in depth that was available on Saturday and the competition for places can only be a good thing. They face a stern challenge next week when they encounter Heriot’s Blues at Goldenacre, while the Senior 1st XV have another home match against GHK (both kick off at 3pm). The Glaswegians scored a convincing result against Falkirk (a team that took Stew Mel to the wire in the opening game of the season) on Saturday and have recruited, among other people, coach Peter Wright and ex-professionals Jack Cuthbert and Kevin Bryce to their ranks. Another very stern contest is anticipated!

The Ferry Road Wanderers completed a clean sweep for the club when they defeated the Caledonian Thebans 3-97. They are now due to play Edinburgh Northern 2nd XV this coming Saturday at Inverleith.

The Colleges teams played Strathallan School in the Conference on Saturday. The 1st XV drew 22-22 and the 2nd XV lost 16-29 while the other six games resulted in Stew Mel wins. Open day for ESMS next Saturday means that only the 1st XV play when they travel to Newcastle to play the Royal Grammar School. This will be a real test for the boys.

Finally, on a more sober note, the club would like to thank both Musselburgh and Kirkcaldy for helping to observe a minute’s silence in honour of Brian Mitchell at Inverleith on Saturday.

Phil Waine

NEXT GAME: v GHK RFC @ Inverleith | Saturday 21 September | Kick off 3pm

Down Inverleith Way 1

Down Inverleith Way

The sun was shining, the vibes were good and the Senior 1st XV was raring to go. All seemed well with the world when a parking space next to the cemetery was located and a short walk produced a view of the excellent playing surface at Horne Park for the first fixture of the season against Falkirk. Events turned even rosier as Sean Murchie scored a fine first try of the 2019-2020 season to put the RBG five points up after a few minutes.

Were the frazzled nerves of watching last season to be a thing of the past? Might an 80 minute Stew Mel performance become a more relaxing experience? Perhaps almost predictably, and all too quickly, the possible omens of leaving the car beside a graveyard entered the psyche as a feeling of deja vu began to descend on the travelling support. Seven penalties conceded in a row in the early part of the game – without one being awarded – derailed attacking intent and every time good field position was won, Falkirk were given an easy way out. A solution to this perennial problem must be found and, no doubt, it is exercising the minds of both the players and the coaches. It is not obvious from the touchline what delinquency is being perpetrated (especially when, admittedly in the view of a biased observer, the opposition seem equally guilty) but there must be something!

The Central Region men played well and with no little enterprise but, despite a litany of mistakes, enough class, determination and defensive nous was summoned up to achieve a narrow victory (24-21). Ironically, the difference in the score ended up being a penalty kick! For more detail and expert analysis watch out for the Vice-President’s match report.

The 2nd XV travelled to Jedburgh and came away from the Borders with a much more comfortable win (14-46). Early days after one game, but this puts them in 2nd place in the Reserve league. Long may it continue!

It is pleasing to note that, despite some unavailability and injury, the 1st XV and 2nd XV still had 47 players available for selection. Indeed a massive amount of work has gone on behind the scenes to ensure that all players are well looked after and can enjoy their rugby. Under Director of Rugby, Nick McCashin, a strong coaching team has been put together:

1st XV Head Coach – Jonny Else
1st XV Forwards Coach – Gavin McLeod
1st XV Backs Coach – Alex Hagart
2nd XV Head Coach – David Hampton
1st XV Team Manager – Rhys Morgan
2nd XV Team Manager – David Calder
Ferry Road Wanderers Manager – Martin Kemp.

Neither has effort been limited to on field matters. Next Friday (13th September) sees over 550 people sitting down to the Stewart’s Melville Rugby World Cup Lunch where guests will be Michael Lynagh, Martin Johnson and Dean Richards. It promises to be an outstanding event and all involved in the organisation deserve much credit.

A look at the results of the first week suggests a very competitive National League 2. With no obvious weak teams and some of our competitors recruiting “big name” players and coaches, success is going to take hard work and dedication. However, the club is buzzing. Why not come to Inverleith this Saturday (14th September), join in and watch the 1st XV against Kirkcaldy or the 2nd XV play Musselburgh. Both are 3 pm kick offs. The club is working very hard to increase its reputation as a family enterprise and everybody would be made most welcome. The players really do appreciate your vocal support from the touch line.

The College teams had their first encounter in the Conference on Saturday, winning 11 out of the 13 matches played against Edinburgh Academy. The 1st XV, after a very encouraging win against Dollar the previous week, made heavy weather of beating a very combative Newfield side (26-36). Despite numerous mistakes they still showed the ability and ambition to score from anywhere on the pitch and defend with great tenacity when necessary. The 2nd XV also showed admirable attacking intent to score 50 points in an entertaining game. Next week (14th September) sees Strathallan as the opposition with the 1st XV playing away again at Forgandenny.

Hope to see you on Saturday at Inverleith.

Phil Waine

Match Report v Falkirk RFC | Saturday 7th September

Sunnyside really lived up to its name on Saturday, the sun splitting the sky and the pitch in great nick. There was a decent crowd in attendance, too, with Finn Russell once again on hand to see how his brother Harry got on at 9 for the home team.

There was a rather familiar look to the Stew Mel team that took to the field, with Matthew Watson at full back, Sean and Jack on the wings and Happy and Jamie McGurk starting in the centre. Darren Miller, a close season signing from Myreside, started at hooker, with big Roo and Chris Baikie either side of him, while Scott ‘brother of Gregory’ Alldritt made his competitive debut at 8.

We started the game on the front foot, an excellent scrum allowing Jamie to burst up the park before offloading to stand off Mike Miller. Mike swung the ball right before a chip ahead allowed Sean to burst through the backpedalling defence to claim the touchdown. Happy missed the difficult conversion, but we were still 5-0 up with only 7 minutes played.

We then effectively surrendered possession for the next 10 minutes as we were repeatedly penalised by the referee. Two Falkirk penalties went to touch then the third one went over the posts from close range to make the score 5-3 in our favour.

We came close to scoring again on the 17 minute mark, a scrum on the right hand side leading to a barnstorming run from Matt Sanderson. He was, however, stopped just short of the line by some dogged Falkirk defence.

Falkirk really took the game by the scruff of the neck after that, attacking with intent through the midfield. We recovered the ball and launched our own attack up the middle of the pitch – only for some wayward handling to gift an interception to one of the Falkirk backs, who hared off towards our posts. Jamie managed to get back to prevent the try but an excellent offload to winger Calum Rennie gave Falkirk their first five pointer of the afternoon. What looked like a fairly simple conversion was missed, but we were still 8-5 down with 20 minutes played.

We spurned another scoring chance three minutes after that, strong running by Dave Allan and captain Momo ending with Matt being held, once again, within inches of the line. Our ‘red zone fever’ flared up once again with 30 minutes played, another promising attack ending when we were penalised for offside with the Falkirk line seemingly at our mercy.

We were forced to revamp our team two minutes after that, a nasty head cut sustained by Fraser Strachan bringing his match to a premature end. With no back subs on the bench, Dave Allan went to the wing, Jack moved to the centre, Happy moved to 9 and Willie Malcolm came into the back row (there will be a quiz later, hope you are paying attention!)

We also earned our first penalty of the half around this time, Falkirk having been awarded eight in their favour by now. We were lucky not to have at least one player in the bin as a result – definitely something to work on before the next game!

Falkirk claimed their second try on the 35 minute mark, some more slack handling in our midfield allowing the home backs to launch another attack. Their handling was, unfortunately, exemplary, with the ball being shipped along the backline before winger Alan Connolly dotted down in the right hand corner. The conversion was missed once again, but we were now 13-5 down.

We managed to rally in the remaining minutes of the half, earning a penalty in front of the posts that Happy easily knocked over. He then added a second kick to make it 13-11 to Falkirk at the break.

We have tended to play much better in the second half in our recent games against Falkirk, and that’s pretty much what happened on Saturday, better tactical kicking allowing us to pin our all-action opponents deep in their own 22. We claimed two tries from this tactic in the first 13 minutes of the second half, Happy darting over from close range on the 45 minute mark then Darren Miller rumbling through a big hole in the home defence after 53 minutes. Those tries and another penalty from Happy made the score 24-13 in our favour with 20 minutes left to play – bonus point time?

Falkirk were, to their credit, determined that that wasn’t going to happen, and very much bossed the final 20 minutes of the match. Errors started to creep into our play once again, earning Falkirk a kickable penalty, while our already rather makeshift backline got even more makeshift when Jamie was yellow carded for an alleged no-arms tackle after 75 minutes (‘It was chin on chin!”, he protested rather cryptically as he trudged off).

Falkirk had been held up over our line just before then, but made no mistake shortly after Jamie had headed off to claim a prime spot in the showers, the home pack rumbling over for a fully deserved pushover try that left the score at 24-21 to Stewart’s Melville at the final whistle.

This was one of those games where it felt like we had lost even though we had won. We had left so many points out on the field, as the saying goes, while most of Falkirk’s points came as a result of errors on our part. Saturday was something of a reality check, and that’s maybe no bad thing.

Given how close the other games in National 2 were on Saturday (two games drawn and a combined winning margin of only 18 points across the other four games), it already feels like the teams in the league are going to be very closely matched this season, with no whipping boys and no runaway leaders. In that environment, winning ugly (as we did on Saturday) may be more important than ever.

Bill McNie

International Tickets on sale NOW

As a member of Stewart’s Melville RFC, you have access to Scotland tickets and our club gets REWARDED!

INTERNATIONAL TICKETS 2019/20


The SRU introduced a new ticketing system for Murrayfield matches as of last season.

Tickets will be distributed as e-tickets to applicants. Anyone wishing to apply for tickets MUST be registered with the SRU prior to submitting the application form to Don Rolls.

Registration can be carried out on the SRU website.  ‘My Account’ will allocate a 6 digit ref number against your name –  this MUST be quoted on your application form to Don.

For anyone without an e-ticket facility, please make sure you include telephone details on your application form – the SRU will then be in touch to register you and arrange for Postal delivery.

The application process is summarised in the following guide produced by the SRU:

Scottish Rugby Club Tickets – Club Members Information


 

6 Nations TICKETS 2020

Home tickets will be distributed by the SRU as e-tickets to applicants. Anyone wishing to apply for tickets MUST be registered with the SRU prior to submitting the application form to myself.

If you have not registered already then registration can be carried out by visiting scottishrugbytickets.com . ‘My Account’ will allocate a 6 digit ref number against your name – this MUST be quoted on your application form to myself.

For anyone without an e-ticket facility please make sure you include telephone details on form – SRU will then be in touch to register you and arrange for Postal delivery.

The Application form for the home 6 nation matches (England and France) can be found by clicking buton below.  Away application forms (Ireland, Wales and Italy) will be sent out later with appropriate timetables.. Home tickets will be distributed as e-tickets from the SRU while Away tickets will be paper tickets distributed by myself as before.

All forms should be signed by applicant noting acceptance of Terms and Conditions. If you wish to return completed form by e-mail and bank transfer your ticket money but cannot append digitalised signature I will assume you have agreed to the terms and conditions.

Please note last date for receipt of forms by myself is Monday 16th Sept. ( NOTE this application date gets earlier every year). I suggest in the first instance you limit your request to no more than 4 tickets for England and 6 tickets for France – obviously I can’t guarantee success – in the ticket sales to the public limits will be 2 and 4 respectively.

This is your best opportunity to obtain tickets since any requirement for tickets after that date will have to be made direct to the SRU when sales are available to Public. (in this case members can apply via the Club URL, noted above, held within the SRU website which will ensure any commission if applicable will come to Club).

Forms should be sent along with appropriate cheque (made out to SMFPRFC) to:

Don Rolls
14b/18 Riversdale Crescent
Edinburgh EH12 5QT

If you wish you can Bank Transfer your funds (with surname as Reference) to the Club Ticket account at:

RBS Sort Code 835100
Account N0. 00762260

Don Rolls Tel: 0131 337 7005 e-mail: donrolls@sky.com

LAST DATE FOR SUBMISSION Monday 16th September

Match Report v Highland RFC | Saturday 27th April

Saturday eventually witnessed the end of the season, and, due to Inverleith being transformed for ‘Summer sports’, Raeburn Place was the venue for the finale, which, although not what it could have been, was played out in the great spirit of rugby football.

The usual suspects took to the field together with a few notable changes – but, thankfully, all players were in their familiar positions, despite, I understand, Jamie Sword putting in a good shift at number 10 in Belfast, along with Momo at 9, number 14 at number 8 and Fraser Strachan ‘position-less’ and administering refreshments — ‘water boy’ would, perhaps, be a euphemism!

Stew Mel started proceedings and, I would say, probably played some of their best rugby this season for at least 30 minutes. With 5 minutes on the clock, Chris Baikie was over for the first try of the afternoon and Freddie soon afterwards danced his way through the Highland defence to make it Stew Mel 12 Highland 0 with about 20 minutes played, Euan being successful with one of the conversions.

Complete dominance in the early stages by Stew Mel was pleasing to see, as Highland struggled to get hold of the ball, but, once they did, they engineered an unconverted try. The Stew Mel response was immediate, this time courtesy of Momo, making the score Stew Mel 17 Highland 5 with around 25 minutes played. After a period of end to end play, Highland managed to get a second try, this time converted, bringing their tally to 12. Although Stew Mel had only conceded one penalty so far in the game, a yellow card was produced at this stage to give Highland a man advantage. They exploited this well, the half time score being Stew Mel 17 Highland 19.

The second half was soon underway, and, although Highland were gaining more possession, a kick and chase and a favourable bounce of the ball saw Sean Murchie touch down between the posts; Euan added the extras. Stew Mel were in the lead once more with 45 minutes played – Stew Mel 24 Highland 19. That was, unfortunately, the last time we enjoyed being in front, with Highland scoring a couple of tries in quick succession despite losing a man to the bin. This made the score Stew Mel 24 Highland 31 with approximately 60 minutes played.

Stew Mel hit back again, Ruaridh Mitchell scoring this time to make the score Stew Mel 29 Highland 31. Highland weren’t done, though, notching a couple of tries in the last quarter to make the final score Stew Mel 29 Highland 45.

This certainly was an entertaining afternoon of rugby, with the play, for the most part, fast paced and competitive from both sides. Whilst we put in a great team effort, there were, as always, a number of stand outs. The back three defended and attacked well, with Chris Beattie impressing on the left wing. Happy’s moniker should probably have been ‘Hungry’ for the afternoon as he was clearly up for it, breaking the gain line and winning back possession like a back rower. The half backs were slick and varied the tactics well, while the forwards as a unit were effective in both the set piece and in open play. Matt Sanderson, in particular, once again illustrated why he received the Most Improved Player award at the recent Club Dinner, while it was good to see Ruaridh Stewart back in the frame once again. Joe Bailey clearly enjoyed the intensity at number 2!

Well done to Highland on their promotion – l am sure we will meet again soon! On reflection, Stewart’s Melville have also had a successful season, and, although missing out, will now have time to consolidate and work towards season 2019/20. Their performance on Saturday showed a lot of positivity, and, if we can keep (and add to) the squad we have, avoid injuries and maintain a high degree of consistency and commitment, 2019/20 should be even better.

Time to hang up my pen/paper/Dictaphone and short-term memory for the season. Have a good Summer recess.

Kevin Murchie

1st XV v Highland RFC | Saturday 27 April @ Raeburn Place | Kick off 3pm

Saturday 27th April 2019: Kick off 3 pm
Stewart’s Melville RFC Player Sponsored By
15 Freddie Roddick
Glencairn Properties
14 Sean Murchie
Graham + Sibbald
13 Seb Trotter
Calder Family
12 Euan Morrison
The Wee Restaurant
11 Chris Beattie
John MacColl
10 Euan Bowen
Calder Family
9 Fraser Strachan
Jamie Frost
1 Chris Baikie
Dreadnought Leith
2 Joe Bailey
Scott Dickson
3 Ruaridh Mitchell
Craneware
4 Jamie Sword
Gav Maclean
5 Fraser Morrison (C)
Hamilton Waste
6 Willie Malcolm
Parker Pest Control
7 Matt Sanderson
Cello Signal
8 Ruaridh Stewart
Prostate Scotland
Replacements
16 David Calder
Calder Family
17 Ally Scott
IntelliDigest Ltd
18 Craig Lamb
Calder Family

Awards Dinner 2019 | Winners

The stage was set at Inverleith on Friday for our 2019 Annual Awards dinner when players, club members and supporters came together to celebrate a successful season and to honour those who had performed well and shone throughout the year.

Our award winners are as follows:

  • 3rd XV Player of The Year: Alex Beveridge
  • 2nd XV Player of The Year: Stephen Spowart
  • Top Points Scorer: Sean Murchie
  • Top Try Scorer: Sean Murchie
  • Players’ Player of The Year: Freddie Roddick
  • Most Improved Player: Matt Sanderson
  • Clubman of the Year: Graham Inglis

Bill McNie

Match Report v Falkirk RFC | Saturday 30th March

At the risk of getting carried away with meteorological conditions, I have to say that it was a beautiful day at Invers – how good it would be if that was the norm!

There were a few changes in the squad, particularly in the back line, due to injuries and unavailability. Kyle Dixon moved into the number 13 position to accommodate Adam Greig’s return to the left wing, Freddie Roddick took up the number 12 berth to complete the midfield and Matthew Watson started in his familiar position at 15.

In the forwards the only significant change was Cormac McCracken coming in at number 7. The bench was also strong and it wasn’t long before Willie Malcolm was called up after Ruaridh Stewart unfortunately appeared to succumb to an injury during the warm up.

Falkirk kicked off in the Ferry Road direction, the first scrum of the afternoon coming with barely a minute played. There was a good drive from the Stew Mel forwards but, unfortunately, this was deemed rather over eager play for this stage of the game; this resulted in a further scrum that led to Falkirk possession around the half way line. They kicked for touch and gained a lineout 10 metres out. Ruaridh Mitchell was receiving treatment at this stage and was soon replaced by Chris Baikie. Our lineout was good initially, but, having lost possession, Falkirk then took the initiative and benefited from a penalty; they opted for another lineout, which, in hindsight, wasn’t the best decision, as Stew Mel won possession back. Euan Bowen made the break, supported by Willie and Momo, and, after we put further width on the ball, Freddie jinked his way through the Falkirk defence to open the scoring with about 10 minutes played. Stewart’s Melville 5 Falkirk 0.

Stew Mel immediately took advantage of a Falkirk mistake, but the visitors returned the favour moments later. It took some strong defence to keep them at bay as they were admirably determined to use their back division and the width of the pitch. They were the beneficiaries of another penalty, claiming a further lineout 10 metres out from Stew Mel’s try line. It was scrappy but Falkirk still managed to hold on to possession before a knock-on resulted in a scrum 5 metres out. It appeared that Falkirk were then penalised for collapsing the scrum which gave Stew Mel the chance to clear their lines.

Despite Falkirk then regaining possession once again, good defence from Stew Mel (particularly in the midfield, where Freddie was making some big hits) kept them at bay. A penalty soon came Falkirk’s way, however, and, with 15 minutes played, they opted for the 3 points on offer. Stew Mel 5 Falkirk 3.

At the restart Falkirk knocked on, resulting in a scrum around the half way line. A quick clean ball from Fraser Strachan on the blindside found Adam Greig with Willie in support; Willie duly crossed for our second try with Euan Bowen being successful with the conversion this time. 20 minutes played, Stew Mel 12 Falkirk 3.

Another restart saw Matt Sanderson take the ball well, and, with Momo driving forward and Willie again in support, a penalty was awarded. A clean lineout, some good hands and a scintillating break by Adam made another score look likely but a handling error led to another scrum.

Both teams were starting to play with more width, and, with advantages being played, it wasn’t long before another penalty was awarded to Falkirk. Although they were trying to play expansively utilising their backs, the Stew Mel scrum, with 30 minutes played, was beginning to dominate.
Fraser cleared his lines, and, although Falkirk had a successful lineout this time, a forward pass led to another solid scrum from Stew Mel, allowing Adam to break through once more and gain some territory. With both teams making mistakes, scrums were coming for both teams, but, with a significant drive, a Stew Mel penalty was awarded around the half way line. A clean lineout saw the forwards rumble on. A combination of good hands from Connor McKay, Kyle Dixon and Freddie gave Matt the opportunity to get the third try of the afternoon. 35 minutes played, Stew Mel 17 Falkirk 3.

Connor’s afternoon was then unfortunately cut short due to an injury and he was replaced by number 17 Doug Randall. With Falkirk winning a penalty and using a quick ‘tap and go’ to get close to the Stew Mel line, more good defence was the order of the day. Further penalties were, however, being awarded for what I think were infringements; these normally result in someone taking the hit for the team, and, in this case, that someone was Doug, who temporarily had to leave the field that he had only recently joined. The resolute defence, with 14 against 15, still did its job to make the half time score Stew Mel 19 Falkirk 3.

The scoreline at this stage was, I think, a fair reflection of Stew Mel’s performance, and they appeared to be getting the upper hand, particularly in the forwards This prevented what looked to be a fairly spritely Falkirk back line from getting clean or quick ball.

The second half wasn’t long started before Adam broke out of his own 22, further good hands from Matt then playing Freddie in for his second try of the afternoon. This gained us the bonus point with 48 minutes played. Unlike the previous Saturday, we didn’t take our foot off the gas at this stage, probably aware that Falkirk were still hungry to get some points on the board. They then managed to do just that – ironically, the scorer was one of their forwards, who were otherwise having a tough day at the office. 55 minutes played, Stew Mel 24 Falkirk 10.

The chat on the pitch must have been along the lines of ‘that is all they are getting’ as Stew Mel continued to build some good phases, mainly as a result of strong scrummaging. This allowed the backs to find space and Adam was soon over with 60 minutes played, the try again converted by Euan to make it Stew Mel 31 Falkirk 10. Replacements were then made, allowing Jack Somerville (who had been pacing up and down the sideline like a caged animal) into the action at number 13. Jack’s defensive efforts were immediately rewarded and further good hands almost had Freddie in for his hat trick. Falkirk kept him out, but he’d make amends later!

Further stoppages for injury and some reshuffling of the pack didn’t seem to dampen the forwards’ spirit as massive drives led to penalties being awarded, not once but twice. As I’ve said, they certainly had the ascendancy, and it must have been very rewarding if a number between 1 and 8 was on your back. It’s not a great spectator sport, though, and the backs had to perform a series of callisthenics to keep warm! Once ‘normal’ play had resumed, supersub Willie had something to say as he touched down for his second of the afternoon, converted by Euan. This made it Stew Mel 38 Falkirk 10 with about 15 minutes left on the clock.

At this stage we were witnessing what we all like to witness at Inverleith, good clean ball allowing our backs to showing what they can do when we put pace on the game. A good break by Sean Murchie on the right wing led to Momo attacking once more and Freddie claiming his hat trick to make it Stew Mel 45 Falkirk 10 with 70 minutes played. As the number of scrums continued to mount, the referee exchanged words with both captains; I’m not sure what was said but it was pretty clear from where I was sitting that the scrums were only going one way, regardless of who had the put in.

Mistakes were, inevitably, starting to creep in now, and, with Matt always alert to any opportunity, he was in for another try. 75 minutes played, Stew Mel 50 Falkirk 10. Matt was off again at the restart, his solo attack indicative of what the team were now doing, and some good interplay between Doug Randall and Sean gave the latter (number 14) an opportunity to find his way over for the final try of the afternoon (his 23rd of the season). Falkirk still had the fight but, once again, good defending from Stew Mel prevented any change in the full time score line: Stew Mel 57 Falkirk 10.

It was, by and large, a good afternoon. I have to confess that, when assessing the team prior to kick off, I wondered how Freddie might adapt to the tightly filled space that is number 12, as opposed to the open space he enjoys from full back. Although I did have my concerns, my son Scott had a completely different take, suggesting that Freddie – given his eye for gaps, his agility and his defensive capability – would flourish. How right he was! Despite this change and others in the back line, they soon settled and illustrated what they can do.

This could be the last report of the season for two reasons. Firstly, whilst there may be a game Belfast on 20th April, what goes on tour, stays on tour. Secondly, the game against Highland could be one of three things: the biggest game of the season, a game that we are only playing to fulfil our league fixture obligations or a game that may not happen at all. If it’s the latter then this could be the last report (this season) – ‘Phew’, I hear you all say!

Kevin Murchie

Match photo c/o Libby @ OG Blakeman Photos

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