End Of Season Review

During these challenging times, it’s perhaps not a bad idea to divert our minds temporarily and reflect on the 2019/20 season that has just come to a decidedly premature end.

In a nutshell, it has been brilliant! We only lost three games. Against GHK we weren’t quite ready; PL was a bad day at the office; and Peebles – well, the better team lost. On and off the field, the boys have been, by and large, exemplary. The team has remained more or less unchanged throughout, and, where changes were made due to unavailability, injury, or, indeed, on merit, players from the Development squad have risen well above the parapet and each one, to a man, has deputised admirably. That’s what strength in depth means.

Rather than go through the individual games (already done), it would probably be easier and a little less time consuming to go through the ‘team’ from 1 to 15 that produced performances that they must all be extremely proud of.

The three Dumfries games stand out for me. The front row. I have waxed lyrical about the mobility of Darren, Chris, Connor and Doug. What an asset. And, when Big Ru joins in, he does what the Bear did for Scotland.

The second row. Jamie Sword leaping high like a Borders salmon (sorry, Bill). You would think he was 7’2” and not just 6’ something. And his partner, Captain Fantastic Momo – say no more.

The back row. Joe: every team needs an enforcer, someone who plays on the edge and basically causes major disruption to the opposition. Matt and Willie: athleticism and experience, respectively. And our revered Number 8 – what a season Scott has had! One of my Players of the Year, without a shadow of a doubt. The only time he was ‘missing in action’ was when he was away watching his wee brother.

Now for the so-called ‘pretty boys’. Fraser ‘box kick’ Strachan. Another great season. There is a lot more to Fraser than the aforementioned kick, and his vision, quick thinking and – dare I say it – electric pace has created so much, in terms of opportunities on the park. A key role. He has synched well with Euan at number 10, who has pulled the strings all season. Apart from one poor kick, he has been superb!

The midfield. Happy’s boot has been a revelation, and, although he succumbed to a nasty injury in Dumfries, his presence has been so important throughout the season. Not just his boot but his defence and attack. I always said James should play 13 and I will take some credit for his success there this season. He is my other candidate for Player of the Year. It was the match down at PL during the 2018/19 season where James, I think, found his aggressive streak (controlled of course) and he has never looked back. He has been uncompromising in attack, takes no prisoners and pulls no punches (metaphorically), giving the penetration required in midfield to release the back three: the hard and straight running Adam, the elusive Sean and the spark at full back, Charlie.

Lastly, and by no means least, all credit has to go to the coaches, who have endured the ups and downs and stuck to the task, come rain, sleet or even Dumfries. A great example of both dedication and commitment. Thanks must, of course, also go to Chairman Fin, whose support should never be underestimated. I mean, how many clubs in Scotland have someone of Fin’s (and brother Jim’s) rugby calibre prowling the touch line like Lions every Saturday? That must be so inspirational for the players.

Of course, mention must also be made of our sometimes inappropriately attired but always immaculately turned out President Simon and deputy Bill lending their support, the latter’s dulcet tones of ‘Come on Stew Mel’ echoing around the park – and, indeed, much of the EH5 post code!

So where do we go from here? I think all we can do is wait and see – but the important thing is to stay safe and well, and, as we have done throughout this season, consolidate. We will all soon bounce back. Hopefully see you all soon.

Kevin Murchie

Squad photo by Keith Ferguson

Down Inverleith Way 22

Back to heightened blood pressure and raised heart rate! The relatively relaxed demeanour of last week’s encounter against Whitecraigs was quickly banished from the memory as the Senior 1st XV produced a rather disjointed and lacklustre first half performance against a youthful Newton Stewart XV.

The reason was difficult to fathom. Perhaps the urgency and desire for 5 league points caused a certain amount of nervousness, but, to be fair, the men from Bladnoch Park played with both imagination and no little skill. Their backs showed creativity and the ability to open up a defence while the forwards managed to contain Stewart’s Melville’s set piece dominance. This was particularly evident in the scrum, where, on their own head, an inventive use of the put in, Channel 1 ball (if there is still such a thing) and a fast pick up from No. 8 allowed them to breach the gain line even from retreating possession.

The half finished with multiple 5 metre scrum penalties to the RBG but no more points. A Willie Malcolm try (converted by Euan Bowen) for the home side and a penalty for the visitors were the only things to trouble the scoreboard. A deserved lead (7-3) but one riddled with frustration.

Obviously things were said during the interval and this, along with a more ‘settled’ scrummage and an increasingly strong line out platform, brought a completely different complexion to the remaining 40 minutes. Two powerful scrums both rendered scores which seemed to soothe nerves (both on and off the pitch), and, from there, the RBG performance increasingly mirrored the continuity rugby of the previous Saturday.

Against a valiant but tiring defence, line breaks were made, and, crucially, supported, offloads stuck and slick movement of the ball, by both backs and forwards, created numerous scoring chances. Three were taken by the forwards through Scott Alldritt (2) and Chris Baikie, and the equivalent number by the backs courtesy of Fraser Strachan, Jamie Thompson and James Ferguson.

A final score of 45-8 suggests a comfortable afternoon but this would be inequitable to Newton Stewart, who have proved to be very worthy opponents to everybody in the league. They troubled the Stew Mel defence on several occasions and it was only in the final quarter that the home side really managed to cut loose in attack.

It was great to see Alex Rappestad returning to the 1st XV fold and Connor McKay coming back from injury. We also wish Colin, our trusty touch judge (and the latter’s father), a speedy recovery.

With the league suspended for the foreseeable future and great uncertainty as to how things might be resolved, it was immensely pleasing to see the game concluding in some style to showcase RBG rugby. Whatever materialises, congratulations to the coaching staff and the players for their efforts so far. To be sitting on top of such a competitive league (even with 4 games to go —- and anything could happen!) is no mean achievement.

Finally, a plea for everybody to take care in these worrying times.

Phil Waine

Match photograph by Jax MacKenzie Photography

All Matches Postponed until 29 March 2020

Match Report v Whitecraigs RFC | Saturday 7th March

Some changes in the back line from the previous Saturday saw Geoff Angco and Jamie Thompson come in at 12 and 11, respectively, due to injuries sustained by Happy and Adam. I was, however, still surprised not to see Happy out there on the pitch, as, despite crutches and a brace on his left peg, his right appeared to be totally fine. Seriously, though, I wish them both well and a speedy recovery.

To say Stewart’s Melville had a good start playing towards Ferry Road would be an understatement. As in a significant number of games this season, it wasn’t long before we were treated to the sight of Scott Alldritt making an impressive break. The ball was moved with urgency thereafter, but, unfortunately, a knock on meant the first scrum of the afternoon around the Whitecraigs 22. A great drive saw Stewart’s Melville winning back possession and Captain Momo was soon over for the first try with just over a minute played. It wasn’t long before Darren Miller, Willie Malcolm and, ultimately, Joe Bailey combined to score the second, with Joe having the final say. Two tries in three minutes with Euan Bowen converting both. Stewart’s Melville 14 – Whitecraigs 0.

At the restart Whitecraigs managed to make some ground within our 22 but they couldn’t hold on to possession. A good scrum and a Fraser Strachan boot put Stewart’s Melville back within the Whitecraigs half where the ball was wrestled out of a visiting player’s arms by Doug Randall. The resulting ‘chip’ was, however, too far. That led to a scrum at the halfway line, Whitecraigs ball, and it was not long before Scott’s turnover resulted in a line out 10 meters out; a combination of James Ferguson, Fraser Strachan and Jamie Sword then made progress towards the line but were held up. It wasn’t long, however, before further pressure led to another try, Doug scoring with Euan adding the extras. 15 minutes played, Stewart’s Melville 21 – Whitecraigs 0.

As play resumed a midfield combination of Geoff and James led to Scott popping up and exploiting the width. Doug was involved once more, quick recycled ball allowing Sean Murchie, coming off the right wing, to burst through the centre and score. 17 minutes played, Stewart’s Melville 28 – Whitecraigs 0.

Four tries and the bonus point in the bag.

A kick through by Stewart’s Melville was well picked up by Whitecraigs and then their winger Edmund Abekhe took off, almost running the length of the pitch and breaking numerous tackles en route before James Ferguson put in an all important try saving tackle. The aforementioned Whitecraigs speedster was certainly a danger, and, had he not had to leave the pitch towards the end of the first half, I am convinced he would have been on the score sheet.

Another big boot downfield by Fraser resulted in a penalty against Stewart’s Melville for a high tackle, allowing Whitecraigs to enjoy a bit more possession that ended with a drive towards our line. The visitors found themselves in touch a short distance out, though, and momentum was lost, allowing Stewart’s Melville to clear their lines .

Whitecraigs were still making breaks in midfield but were being well marshalled, albeit they were soon the beneficiaries of another penalty. Some good counter rucking by Stewart’s Melville soon, however, allowed us to regain possession. Further pressure then lead to Darren Miller driving over for another converted try to make it Stewart’s Melville 35 – Whitecraigs 0.

As half time approached, Stewart’s Melville were again in the ascendancy and this time space was created for Jamie Thompson to sprint in from the corner, making it Stewart’s Melville 40 – Whitecraigs 0. With minutes remaining Whitecraigs put some good phases together and were soon over for a well deserved try. Half time: Stewart’s Melville 40 – Whitecraigs 5.

A couple of changes at the beginning of the second half saw Michael Miller in at 10 and Joe Bailey replaced by Ben Dollery. Ben made an immediate impact and was soon on the scoreboard, which now read Stewart’s Melville 45 – Whitecraigs 5. At the restart Stewart’s Melville were driving forward once more, and, after a strong scrum at the halfway line, James managed to get involved in the battle of possession; he duly won that battle and only had to make a short sprint to the try line. 42 minutes played, Stewart’s Melville 50 – Whitecraigs 5.

Momo was the next one to retire, replaced by number 16 Stephen Spowart. A scrappy period then ensued, with both teams looking for a bit of structure, though our good hands and support lines soon returned. Much to their credit, Whitecraigs were quick to get things going whenever opportunities arose, despite being under the cosh. Our pressure continued, though, and it wasn’t long before Doug was over for another try with Michael converting. 60 minutes played, Stewart’s Melville 57 – Whitecraigs 5.

Doug was then given a well earned rest as Joe came back on, this time propping things up. Another try soon came, and, with around 20 minutes left, the score was Stewart’s Melville 62 – Whitecraigs 5. There was still more to come, though, and Ally Scott had the final say of the afternoon to make the final score Stewart’s Melville 69 – Whitecraigs 5. Eleven tries, only four of them unconverted – not a bad afternoon’s work.

It’s difficult to say much after what was a fairly one sided affair, but, to their credit, the opposition had a go whenever they could, and, as said, perhaps could have managed at least another try as both wingers were constantly threatening. It’s been a tough season for Whitecraigs and I assume they will now have to consider where they go to next. As for Stewart’s Melville, it has to be only one way – and that’s onwards and (hopefully) upwards.

Stewart’s Melville played with pace on Saturday and looked fit. The interplay between forwards and backs, with quick hands and good understanding, was impressive. The players didn’t allow complacency to enter the field of play despite their winning margin. At times, though, simple rugby might have been the better option and we could have made more use of our renowned width (which was, of course, still well exploited at times). As I’ve said, though, the cohesion between forwards and backs was excellent, with the ball constantly being kept alive – which will always give scoring opportunities.

The countdown is now on, with a brief National Cup semi-final interlude coming up shortly – but first, another home game with an early kick off on Saturday against Newton Stewart.

If I have missed any of the scorers from Saturday, or, indeed, credited anyone with a score erroneously, then the latter can just enjoy the moment and ensure they score at the weekend! Keep the support coming.

Kevin Murchie

Match photograph by Jax MacKenzie Photography

Down Inverleith Way 21

Inverleith was graced with rugby royalty last Saturday. At the pre-match lunch, it was a pleasure to meet both the Alldritt and Sword families, with their sons (Scott and Jamie, respectively) having played such a significant part in the club’s progress this season. It is to be hoped that they enjoyed their afternoon and that we will be able to welcome them to many more Stew Mel matches in the future.

Joining the Alldritts was youngest son, Gregory, who came to see how rugby should be played before turning out for France against Scotland at the BT stadium. He also took time out to speak to the hard-working ball boys and girls and can be seen here photographed with Murray MacColl.

It was a special day for Murray. Not only did he meet a French Internationalist and see the RBG winning their league game, he was also part of the Primary 5 team that achieved a narrow victory over fierce rivals, Heriot’s, in the morning!

Scott (Alldritt) also managed to appear at Murrayfield when he was interviewed with oldest brother Tom on BBC television before the match. It is rumoured that Chairman Fin is in touch with Stade Rochelais about Gregory, and that President Simon is checking out Tom’s credentials as more than one person commented that, with that stature, he might also be able to do a job at Inverleith!

The lunch also provided the opportunity to, once again, acknowledge the support and backing provided by so many people and organisations. It takes a great deal of time, effort and money to keep an amateur club’s head above water and it is good to see so many families involved. The present feeling of optimism and enthusiasm is in no small part due to their involvement.

‘The Bear’ from Goldenacre provided the entertainment for the diners and £700 was raised for bar manager Denise Mitchell’s chosen charity, St Columba’s Hospice, over the course of the day.

And so to the match against Whitecraigs (won 69-5). After the storm of the previous week, it was pleasant to watch a contest where survival from hypothermia was not the main order of the day! Although windy, the rain held off and the RBG produced a dominant performance to score no less than eleven tries.

With the bonus point in the bag after 20 minutes, the home support was able to observe proceedings with a slightly lower heart rate than has become customary. Some scintillating rugby was played, with great interplay between backs and forwards, complemented with an attacking intensity for the full eighty minutes.

Slight criticism may be that the defence lacked a certain urgency in the initial contact situations and that the handling was a little careless at times, but … ! Kevin Murchie will be working overtime to report the details of this game.

It was great to watch Jamie Thompson getting his first score for the Senior XV, and very encouraging to see Stephen Spowart, Ben Dollery, Ally Scott, Mike Miller and Geoff Ango stepping up seamlessly from the Development team.

Much credit also goes to the men from Newton Mearns. Points were never scored easily and they strove to play positive rugby at all times. Their intent was to get the ball wide at every opportunity, and, especially in the first half, their two dangerous wingers threatened the Stew Mel line on several occasions.

National 2 continues to be a very tight affair and it looks like promotion will go right to the wire. Peebles are coming up hard on the rails, Dumfries have put themselves right back in the mix after an exciting last gasp win over GHK and the Old Anniesland men, with games in hand, are still in a strong position.

Next Saturday sees Newton Stewart visiting Inverleith (kick off 1.30 pm) and they have proved to be a very competitive outfit, recording some significant results throughout the season. As ever, Momo and the boys would appreciate your support.

The Development XV completed their league season on Saturday with a 50-14 win over Boroughmuir at Meggetland.

A quick start saw the RBG take an early 7-0 lead but Boroughmuir came straight back to tie the scores. Further tries for Stew Mel, however, saw half time arrive with us enjoying a 19-7 lead. The second 40 minutes saw the team putting in a superb performance featuring some wonderful interplay between all 15 players. Try scorers on the day were Alex Rappestad (2), Matt Sanderson, Neil Armstrong, Matt Pleass (2), Mark Leckie and Cian Smith. Jack Pennell kicked three conversions with Stewart Hagart claiming a further two.

A record of played 18, won 10 and lost 8 means the team currently occupies third position in the league but final placings will only be known at the end of March once other clubs have completed their fixtures.

Great credit for a successful campaign must go to the Team Manager (David Calder) and the Coach (Dave Hampton). Running the reserve team can be a thankless task but it is one that is absolutely necessary for the health of any club. Mention has already been made of some of the players contributing to the 1st XV and there are others who should be, or already are, perfectly capable of gracing Pitch 1. There has to be somewhere to step up from!

Finally, Charlie Simmonds, the Senior 1st XV full-back, is laid up at the moment. Everyone at the club wishes him a speedy recovery.

See you on Saturday!

Phil Waine

Match photograph c/o Jax MacKenzie Photgraphy

Match Report v Dumfries Saints RFC | Saturday 29th February

A two hour plus bus journey to the south west corner of Scotland, an area with probably amongst the highest recorded rainfall in the country, in winter, and in the knowledge that Storm Jorge was on its way, all in order to play a game of rugby, is not for the fainthearted. Well done to all 19 of the RBG squad. A Herculean effort – and that was before a ball was kicked at 3 pm!

That effort then went above and beyond as we held on for a win despite two yellow cards, an injury to Happy that led to him being stretchered off at half time and Adam Greig also being forced to retire as he tried his best to hobble around the pitch with a hamstring injury and with hypothermia and cramp setting in! That bus journey home with four points must, however, have made everything seem worthwhile.

The wind was blowing straight at Stew Mel’s backs as we kicked off but Dumfries collected well and kept possession for a significant period, playing the right game in the conditions, with the visitors hardly managing to see the ball let alone touch it before Dumfries’s possession led to the first try of the afternoon. With 15 minutes played it was Dumfries 5 – Stew Mel 0. I had noted the score before the attempted conversion, which I knew wasn’t going to make it unless the ball had been launched by a bazooka!

The wind was so strong – and getting stronger – that even an attempt by a resident crow to fly the length of the pitch was quickly abandoned as it realised that walking would possibly be more productive. Unlike the crow, however, Dumfries were in full flight as they kept their attacks coming with ball in hand for remarkably long periods, and, with that possession, put Stew Mel under intense pressure. As a result, the penalty count against us began to mount.

We did, however, manage to gain some territory at last, pushing Dumfries back into their own half before sniffing an opportunity from 5 metres out; we were then, unfortunately, penalised and the chance of a score was lost. Dumfries were, however, still battling to get out of their own half and Stew Mel were retaining them well. With the resultant possession, Chris Baikie eventually touched down, Happy then slotting the ball between the sticks with a bit of assistance from Jorge. 25 minutes played, Dumfries 5 – Stew Mel 7.

At the restart, whilst the wind was playing havoc, it was actually of some benefit to the hosts as the ball was conveniently blown back to the Dumfries players, so, with more possession to play with, they continued their onslaught. After more sustained pressure, Stew Mel were penalised and, this time, the first yellow card was shown. Even with Dumfries’s one man advantage, Stew Mel still managed to put the hosts under pressure in their own half and a crucial interception by James Ferguson and Happy’s boot allowed Stew Mel to extend their lead with 30 minutes played: Dumfries 5 – Stew Mel 14.

Almost instantaneously, however, Dumfries came back once more, this time putting the one man advantage to good use and scoring an unconverted try to make it Dumfries 10 – Stew Mel 14. With the first half coming to an end, we ground out another crucial score, Darren Miller bundling over this time – but the half was not over until it was over, and another wave of pressure from Dumfries left them inches away from scoring. Thankfully, a combination of robust Stew Mel defence and an uncharacteristic Dumfries fumble meant the halftime score remained at Dumfries 10 – Stew Mel 19.

There was certainly a degree of urgency to get the second half underway as players and spectators alike were not enjoying the weather as the wind had increased and brought horizontal rain with it. The tactics that we adopted in the second period were as good as it gets and Stew Mel possession was definitely in the ascendancy, with our penalty count abating slightly and a few awards even being made in our favour. Scrums were well contested, although, at times, Dumfries appeared to have the upper hand care of some impressive drives – but Stew Mel stood firm and our play in the ‘loose’ was coming into its own.

With 60 minutes played, Dumfries were still pushing into Stew Mel’s half but, perhaps, without the same intensity they had displayed in the first half. There must have been some tired legs out there, and, again, the tactical kicks, although infrequent, were difficult to judge. It was a day to keep possession, not to squander it, and Stew Mel did exactly what was needed, gradually making their way out of their own half and pushing Dumfries back with a view to increasing our lead. That didn’t quite happen, as the Dumfries defence was strong, but, at least, the play was within their half.

As the weather deteriorated and another yellow card came our way, the game became a mental battle as much as a physical one. Thankfully it was Stew Mel who won both of those conflicts, with the scoreline remaining as it had been at the end of the first half. Final score Dumfries 10 – Stew Mel 19.

A hard fought game, in what were without doubt the worst conditions we’ve seen this season. Both teams did their best to play rugby with ball in hand and what stood out for both, in my opinion, was the defensive effort, which I would say was the best I have seen in any league encounter this season.

Although we have had the upper hand against Dumfries three times this season, all three games have been tough encounters. They are a well organised outfit with some outstanding players, particularly the chips off the old block that are Ewan Miller and captain Jack Steele!

It wasn’t a day for our backs but they did their job, while the forwards were, once again, superb to a man, Willie Malcolm putting in a tremendous shift and relocating to the wing when needed – Adam Greig returned the favour with some big hits in the middle of the park! Momo led his troops by example and took one for the team with that yellow card at the end. There were, however, a few casualties, and here’s hoping Happy and Adam will be back soon before the season finishes. There is still a job to do with 6 league games to go!

Whitecraigs are up next at home with, hopefully, some decent weather in store. Looking forward to it already!

Kevin Murchie

Match photograph c/o Libby Blakeman @OGBlakemanphotography

Down Inverleith Way 20

Arriving at Park Farm, the man at the gate opined, “It’s a little windy but it is not raining — yet!” His description of a mere zephyr turned out to be an understatement of biblical proportions and ‘Storm Jorge’ ensured that the rain (sleet and snow) arrived with a vengeance. Undoubtedly, the home of Dumfries rugby on a benign day is a wonderful place, but on Saturday the elements made it an environment sent to test even the most hardy. Absolutely no criticism of the Galloway welcome – the weather attacked both sides with equal venom!

Still no rain as the RBG kicked off with the gale at their backs. This was a strange game. The team facing the elements, paradoxically, ruled proceedings and thus the Saints dominated large sections of the opening 40 minutes. They scored first and, showing admirable ball retention skills, spent an uncomfortable proportion of the time in their visitors’ 22. However, almost unnoticed, Stew Mel kept in the game, scoring three tries (‘Happy’ converting two) and making sure that the hosts were only allowed to cross the try line once more.

19-10 at half time was an uneasy lead, however, and, as the whistle blew for part two, ‘Jorge’ intervened with spectacular malevolence and added driving rain to the inclemency. The home supporters were licking the rain off their lips at the prospect of a second half backed by a meteorological weather phenomenon.

For ten minutes the RBG had their backs to the wall but superb defence eventually turned the tide, and, for the remainder of the match, Dumfries were contained largely in their own half – with much of the time spent in their 22 and facing the threat of a fourth try bonus point.

No scores in the second half (final result 10-19) is an absolute credit to both defences, who basically repelled whatever their opponents contrived to conjure up in the appalling conditions. Getting points on the board when the weather was at its ‘best’ proved to be a trump card for Stew Mel.

Apologies for the sketchy details, particularly of the second half, when much of the time was spent peering from behind the clubhouse wall – without glasses, which had inextricably steamed up due to both the weather and the tension. Thanks must go to Richard Hughes, who, despite his nervous chain smoking, did his best to keep up a running commentary!

In many ways, the conditions were a real shame, as both teams try to play open, expansive rugby. This was virtually impossible but always there was the intent from both sets of players.

Hopefully, Kevin Murchie’s dictation machine did not succumb to the conditions and he will be able to give a blow by blow account of proceedings. Whatever, this was an effort of real guts by the RBG, and there was a great feeling of pride in the performance and attitude of the players.

Finally, a big thank you to those who made the effort to travel and support on one of the foulest days of the year. The cries of “Stew Mel” certainly made a difference. The President and Vice-President were a drookit but happy duo in the changing room after the match and are now fervently encouraging everybody to come out of the woodwork and back the promotion push.

National One is potentially on the cards, but, by absolutely no means, can it – or should it be – be taken for granted. Dumfries are still very much in the hunt; Peebles ominously improved their position with an emphatic win over Newton Stewart; and GHK have a game in hand. Added to this, Gordonians (fighting for survival) had an impressive win over Hamilton and Glasgow Accies (finally freeing themselves from injury problems) overpowered Kirkcaldy. Likewise, Whitecraigs and Falkirk are battling for their lives, and, in a league where there are no easy matches, they become even more dangerous opponents!

The final RBG fixtures are:

7th March Whitecraigs @ Inverleith
14th March Newton Stewart @ Inverleith
21st March Gordonians @ Countesswells
28th March Lasswade @ Hawthornden (National League Cup semi-final)
4th April Hamilton @ Laigh Bent
11th April Glasgow Accies @ ‘Home’ (but Inverleith not available)
25th April Falkirk @ ‘Home’ (but Inverleith not available)

Sadly, Biggar had to concede the match against the Stew Mel Development XV on Saturday because of a shortage of front row cover. Playing numbers, particularly in key positions where safety is of paramount importance, is a continuing problem for Scottish Rugby.

Next Saturday sees the Senior 1st XV playing Whitecraigs at Inverleith while the Development XV are pitted against Boroughmuir at Meggetland. Both games kick off at 3 pm and the players would be delighted to have your support.

College Rugby took a hammering from the weather but games did survive in the Borders and Glasgow. The A teams at U16 and U14 recorded victories against Earlston High School (31-40 and 0-30 respectively).

Meanwhile six Junior College teams travelled to Glasgow and came home with five wins. The results were as follows:

P7A v Glasgow HS Won 8-0
P7B v Hutchesons’ Won 6-3
P7C v Glasgow HS Won 7-3
P7D v Hutchesons’ Won 6-3
P6A v Hutchesons’ Lost 2-6
P6B v Hutchesons’ Won 10-1

The Schools’ Sevens season was meant to have started but, so far, has been wiped out by the weather!

See you on Saturday.

Phil Waine

Match photograph c/o Libby Blakeman @OGBlakemanphotography

Down Inverleith Way 19

Sadly, the weather once again frustrated any hopes of Stew Mel rugby on Saturday, with the match against Falkirk falling victim to a waterlogged Inverleith. This postponement, coupled with the changing date of the Glasgow Accies match (due to our progress in the National League Cup), means that at least two of our remaining ‘home’ fixtures will almost certainly not be able to take place on Pitch 1 (or anywhere else on the Ferry Road site) as school term dates require the transformation of facilities from Rugby to Cricket and Athletics. Something, obviously, that the club must not allow to derail the push for promotion.

The SRU has rescheduled the Glasgow Accies match for 11th April while the Falkirk encounter has just been moved out to 25th April. Any club member with a large garden please get in touch with President, Simon Breeze, who might try to arrange a short term lease!

Summer rugby is an attractive proposition for some, but, for the RBG (and the other clubs in our position), it would be somewhat of a problem.

Those who visited Whitecraigs earlier in the season will not be surprised to hear that the Aurs Road pitch was unplayable on Saturday for their clash against Dumfries Saints – our next opponents. In the event, the game went ahead on the Lochinch 3G pitch (albeit in horrendous conditions) and the Galloway men recorded a 19-31 win that allowed them to move to the top of the table by 3 clear points.

The encounter at Park Farm on Saturday is, therefore, of significant importance to both clubs. The RBG players really do appreciate your support and would cherish a large Stew Mel presence on the touch line.

It is a very scenic drive to Dumfries and one that does not take too long! Why not treat yourself and take in lunch at Moffat on the way down? Put it in your diary – 29th February, 3 pm kick off. Park Farm, New Abbey Road, Dumfries DG2 7LU. Be there or be square!

The team bus will also leave Inverleith at 11 am on Saturday if you’d like a lift with the players – as captain Momo has recently stressed, they really would love to see some supporters joining the tour party!

If you definitely cannot make the trip then the Development XV entertain Biggar at Inverleith – as long as the weather relents – also with a 3 pm start.

Inverleith has become the home of the EROS (Edinburgh Rugby Oldies Society) organisation and they held an excellent lunch last Wednesday when Chris Rea (not the singer but the journalist, commentator and rugby player) gave an amusing, and, at the same time, thought provoking address. Among other things, he contemplated the increasing physicality of the game and expressed concern that the reported comments made by some players and coaches during the present Six Nations campaign might exacerbate the inherent dangers in a contact sport. He surmised, as the lunch clearly demonstrated, that Rugby, as much as anything, is about friendships formed, no matter what club or nation a player represents. It is a sport and has to escape the label, as the great Chris Chataway postulated, of ‘War Without Weapons’.

Here’s hoping for a good result on Saturday.

Phil Waine

Photo of players and coaches with the Gavin Calder Cup on 20th February by Libby Blakeman

Match Report v Preston Lodge RFC | Saturday 15th February

Despite the blustery conditions, courtesy of Storm Dennis, it was great to get back on track with our league campaign and good to see healthy support for both sides. Unlike our previous encounter, SM started strongly, playing into the wind towards the Castle, and the pressure within the first 5 minutes ultimately led to a kickable penalty for Euan Morrison. That made it SM 3 – PL 0. The scoreboard, however, remained at this footballesque level for the entire first half!

At the restart Scott Alldritt took the ball cleanly and the green laced scrum cap was off once again – what I would like to know is, is it his or is it his brother’s? PL conceded a penalty around the halfway line and SM applied more pressure, although PL managed to win the ball back, and, this time, it was their turn to apply the same within their own half. A knock on soon switched the advantage in SM’s favour, but, unfortunately, despite an impressive drive, this fizzled out due to yet another knock on. Scrummaging followed, then there was a penalty in PL’s favour, which they took quickly to advance into SM’s 22. Our well organised defence, epitomised by Joe Bailey – well within the rules of engagement – disrupted their momentum, however, forcing PL to change tactics and kick. They did just that but failed to take the wind into consideration and the impetus was lost.

SM were back in the driving seat, and, for once, the penalty count appeared to be in our favour, giving the opportunity for, in particular, the midfield of James Ferguson and Euan Morrison to get over the gain line. It wasn’t long before another penalty came our way, followed by a line out and a scrum directly in front of the PL posts as the pressure continued. PL turned the tables, however, clearing the ball out of the danger area – only for the kick to be well fielded by Adam Greig as the play then resumed in the contact areas. The continued pressure in PL’s 22 didn’t result in points, though, and, with 25 minutes played, the 3 nil scoreboard told its own story.

PL were enjoying more possession now and were back in SM’s half with a line out on our 22, but a great steal by Jamie Sword and the forwards collectively securing the ball allowed Fraser Strachan to clear the lines – not very far, but far enough. A tireless effort from the forwards followed, going through the phases and enabling the backs to enjoy some of the ball as our attacks were launched once more. Again the pressure on PL’s 10m line led to nothing, due, primarily, to the visitors’ strong defence. A similar pattern of play to what we had seen earlier in the half began to unfold, with opportunities being lost when a try seemed to be a certainty. As half time approached it was just not to be, and, with us enjoying a ‘comfortable’ 3 point margin, it was all to play for in the second half.

A familiar pattern of play unfolded in the early stages of the second half before a kickable penalty at last brought about a change on the scoreboard with 45 minutes played: SM 6 – PL 0.

PL were struggling to get out of their own half at this stage, and, as the unrelenting pressure continued, the try finally came, with Scott Alldritt touching down, his fellow forwards omnipresent during the lead up. Euan Morrison’s attempted conversion almost made it but was denied by a combination of the crossbar and the unpredictability of Dennis once more. 58 minutes played, SM 11 – PL 0.

The unpleasant weather conditions were not abating, and, indeed, could clearly be seen worsening on Pitch 2 where our Development XV were grinding out a spirited victory over their rivals Edinburgh Accies. Back on Pitch 1, SM were definitely in the ascendancy and the majority of play was being confined to PL’s half. Again their impressive defence prevented more tries until the deadlock was finally broken after a series of attacks. This time it was Euan Morrison who breached the line and ‘happily’ converted his own try. At 18 nil and with time running out, this was a genuinely comfortable margin and was, as predicted, the final score. SM 18 – PL 0.

A good afternoon from SM’s perspective. PL were strong opponents and may have felt that they could, at least, have put some points on the board, but credit must go to both teams for playing some decent rugby in unfavourable conditions. Although top of the league once more, the number of games played have pretty much evened out across the teams at the top of the table and that table is still very tight. This can change very rapidly, as we all know – just like the inclement weather on Saturday.

The journey continues!

Kevin Murchie

Match photograph by Jax MacKenzie Photography

Down Inverleith Way 18

Part three of the ‘Preston Lodge Trilogy’ – ‘even stevens’ and everything to play for! Part one and Part two (league and then Cup) had raised the stakes and created a mouth-watering finale of vital importance for both clubs as they seek elevation in the National Leagues. With the previous encounters having sorely tested the endurance and fortitude of supporters of each persuasion, there was visible tension as the sides took to the field.

Considering the weather, Pitch 1 was in excellent condition (thanks to Groundsman Willie) even if the overhead conditions were foul. The RBG took the field shorn of Captain Momo in the second row and props Big Rhu and Connor McKay and there was, therefore, a little apprehension as to how the revamped pack would cope under such demanding circumstances.

Fear not! The reconstituted front row scrummaged like dervishes and the forwards to a man produced a commanding performance in the set piece and the loose. Benefiting from this lead, the backs (still minus Sean Murchie) played with a sense of adventure, but, importantly, mixed that with a large degree of tactical maturity which saw the game mainly played in the right part of the pitch. The suspicion that Stew Mel are only a fair weather side was firmly put to bed.

It is also pleasing to note the positive discipline brought to this fixture. Too often our efforts have been offset by conceding penalties at key moments in both defence and attack. If anything, the boot was on the other proverbial foot on Saturday (and this is no reference to Eric Cartwright!)

So a pleasing performance from the RBG, but, from all quarters, there was much admiration for the defensive efforts of the men from East Lothian. Their organisation and tackle count was absolutely immense. Time and again Stew Mel attacks were repelled, and, although the final score was 18-0, the result could never have been taken for granted! Watch out for Kevin Murchie’s match report.

So, in conclusion, an important win. Thanks to PL for the excitement! The three games will have been an exhilarating spectacle for the neutral but visible relief was apparent amongst the Inverleith faithful on Saturday. Such is the nature of this league, however, that the win merely leads to another difficult challenge against Falkirk next Saturday. The Central Region men might currently be operating in the lower echelons, but those who attended the opening match of this season at Sunnyside will be only too aware that victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat!

A jubilant David Calder, team manager of (and emergency replacement prop for) the Development XV, reported that the Gav Calder Cup finally found its way home to Inverleith – after 3 years of trying – by virtue of a victory over Edinburgh Academicals (for anybody who might be unaware, the trophy is contested by the two clubs in honour of a much respected and loved figure of Stewart’s Melville rugby).

The RBG started playing towards the road end as ‘Storm Dennis’ unleashed itself. Mid way through the first half Charles Campbell scored a try after a series of forward drives and it was successfully converted to give the home side a 7-0 lead at half time.

The next score came courtesy of Craig Lamb after he was put into space by some superb handling from Matt Watson. 12-0 to Stew Mel, but, unbowed, the Raeburn Place men quickly responded with an unconverted try. The rest of proceedings were typified by resolute defence with neither side quite able to break the other down, and, despite some close chances, the score remained 12-5 at the final whistle.

Again thanks to Willie for getting the pitch playable and also to the referee, who survived the elements, thus allowing both teams to beat the weather when a high percentage of club rugby was cancelled throughout Scotland.

Also of note on Saturday was the large and vocal home crowd. Their presence obviously inspires the players, and, hopefully, the ‘16th Man Effect’ can be maintained for the rest of the season. Equally, it was great to see and hear the buzz in the clubhouse after the game and to listen to some analysis of the game and to some embellished accounts of past glories – not always ones that took place on the pitch!

Next Saturday, Scotland may be playing Italy in Rome (2.15 k/o) but the big match is at Inverleith when Stew Mel play Falkirk at Inverleith with a 3 pm start. Please make appropriate arrangements to record the International and come down to Inverleith to support the RBG.

See you on Saturday!

Phil Waine

Match photograph by Jax MacKenzie Photography

Page 1 of 8112345»102030...Last »