Although the victory at Myreside was welcome, it was the manner of the achievement that thrilled all those present that were connected to Stewart’s Melville. In fact, the performance was up there alongside our draw last year at Hawick, in terms of aggression and collective purpose.
Myreside was in pristine condition, and the sight of Brian Walls pinging over penalties from anywhere during the warm-up was a salutary reminder that any indiscretion in our opponents’ half was more than likely to be costly.
The first half started well with pressure on the Watsonians line, both backs and forwards having tilts at their opposite numbers. During the half, Craig Marshall, Mike Hanning and Liam Steele all made half breaks but could not off-load to the support. Adam Greig, thrillingly, burst through several tackles at full pace, only to lose possession as he hit the last defender.
After ten minutes, however, in Watsonians’ first foray into our 22, Ferguson drilled through a neat ball and Aitken did well to win the race to touch down. Walls converted to give Watsonians a seven point lead.
Our forwards were relentless, and, in a subsequent play, Sangster emerged from a pile of bodies to claim the touch down. The try was wide on the stand side, playing towards Morningside, and Mike missed the conversion.
Donald, on reflection, does not get the credit he deserves, and that is because, week in and week out, he delivers such a high level performance that it has become the expected norm for him to perform at that level.
Brian Walls added a penalty but the stroke of half time saw us camped on the Watsonians try line, with Watsonians managing to keep us out through some admirable defence – although a bit more composure would surely have yielded a score.
There was a sinking feeling, at half time, that, for all our control, it might just be one of those days when the pressure did not convert into points. These fears were, however, allayed five minutes into the second half when Roddy rounded off a 5 metre penalty lineout to score at the stand side. Once again, from wide out, Mike’s kick was unsuccessful.
Uncharacteristically, Brian Walls then missed with two – for him – kickable penalties and so the scores remained level for most of the second half. A word about Brian: his restarts are a thing of beauty – they resemble Seve with a lob wedge. The kick achieves such elevation that the receiving team gets the ball on the ten yard line – along with the Watsonians pack. That level of skill is absent in the ‘pro’ game – there is nobody in the Six Nations delivering restarts with such accuracy.
One of these penalties was awarded against Mike Hanning, who was binned for holding back a Watsonian without the ball. Mike’s hangdog guilty look lifted somewhat when Walls missed the resulting penalty attempt.
The rucks were fiercely contested, and, unlike the ‘pro’ game, where the ball is sealed and the scrum half protected, both sides sought to counter ruck. This meant a lot of physicality and mayhem at the breakdown, which provided something of a refereeing challenge for Graeme Wells.
Watsonians were operating on reduced rations due to piracy at the lineout and turnovers. They tried to force the game, realising they needed to make the most of what ball they had, and, in these circumstances, mistakes occur.
Chalmers, unfortunately, left the field with a serious shoulder injury, being replaced by Mike Kerr.
Our pack then managed to engineer a rolling maul outside the Watsonians 22 and the pace of the maul quickly increased, making it impossible to defend against. How do you defend a maul when you have to sprint to get behind the ball? Answer: you can’t.
Roddy accepted the credit for the touchdown, and, with Mike still on the sidelines, Seb knocked over the conversion.
With the clock ticking down, Liam collected a wayward kick and glided through from full back past several defenders (who by now were sick of the sight of him). He was then left with one defender to beat. Liam could have rounded him, too, but, sensing the row if he didn’t make it, he fed the supporting Borth, who had materialised on his right to run in unopposed.
There is an honesty about our play which stems from the coaches – hard work and loyalty is rewarded. Small individual improvements result in better overall performance. The team is bigger than the individual and players are given the tools and encouragement to improve.
On a night with so many good performances, Liam was outstanding and an example of someone who has improved year on year. Finally, a word about the bench; Rory, Adam, Seb, Isaac and Nick all contributed to this victory – it’s a team game.