Hamilton v Stewart’s Melville

Hamilton v Stewart’s Melville

BT Cup 1st Round
Hamilton 24 v 31 Stewart’s Melville

When the draw was made back in June for the Cup, we were delighted to be drawn against our old friends from South Lanarkshire. The games between the two teams have always been high scoring affairs, with defence optional for both teams, and, inevitably, both teams enter the final phases of the game within a score of each other. Would this season be any different?

Hamilton’s form going into this Cup game saw them sitting undefeated, 4 wins from 4, in the league below us, whilst we sit mid table with 2 wins from 4.

It certainly meant that an interesting afternoon at Laigh Bent was on the agenda – in addition to numerous changes to our team (continuing right up to kick off) as illness, injuries, suspension and various other excuses were offered up to the rugby gods , AKA Bruce and Neil.

Despite this, a young (with a couple of exceptions) Stewart’s Melville team arrived and watched Richie ‘Shergar’ Maxton trot round the paddock. In days of old, of course, when at Inverleith it was a gallop, however, over the years, we have seen the speed and energy reduce, to be replaced with wisdom and experience.

In addition the first person that I bumped into was Brian Walls from Watsonians, who were playing a 2nd XV league game at Laigh Bent; readers will be delighted to know that he has started a specialist kicking clinic at Myreside to ensure further torment for RBG teams there in the future.

With the scene set and Rigby bringing his experience to the technical area – always take a pocket full of Sports Mixtures otherwise there will be none left – the teams entered the playing arena – except, instead of Stew Mel, it was Watsonians 2nd XV, much to the amusement of the home support and the bemusement of the Watsonians players and coaching staff at being introduced as Stewart’s Melville!

And so to the game. With Stew Mel kicking off, Hamilton returned a long kick into our midfield, where Neil ‘I like yellow’ Bowie collected the ball and made some excellent yards. We then recycled the ball through various sets of hands before Jamie Berrisford went in at the corner. One minute in and 5 points up, with the afters missed, was the ideal start for the team.

During the next 20 minutes Hamilton did not enter our half once, whilst we controlled the lineout and set piece; but for some brave defending, additional scores would surely have come. It was pleasing to see our lineout functioning well, proving that, if you have the ball, you control the game, before Ross McCann lit the afterburners and scorched in at the corner, with Whyte adding the conversion to take the score to 0 v 12.

McCann then had a rush of blood to the head, “leaving the shoulder in” when his opposite number chipped ahead on the half way line. Despite the opposition fans wanting beheading or stoning to death, the officials thought a yellow card would suffice. Games can change on tiny errors and the yellow galvanised the home support and players. On one of their few forays into our half, they scored a well worked try, taking the score to 5 v 12 , before quickly adding a second to make the score 10 v 12 just before half time.

On the stroke of half time, having soaked up more pressure, Jordan Kynoch, playing Second Row, pounced on a loose ball on our 10m line and galloped between the posts before Hamilton responded with a long range penalty. Half Time: Hamilton 13 v 19 Stew Mel.

Rugby can, at times, be a cruel game, and, certainly, the boys’ endeavours in the first half deserved a more commanding lead. Then, early in the second half, Hamilton pulled back two penalties to make the score 19 v 19 with 20 minutes to go.

At this point the busiest person at Laigh Bent was our physio Richard as players started to fall like flies. By the end of the game we would have used the 12 substitutions that you are allowed and suffered a couple of bad bangs to collar bones / shoulders which could leave a couple of boys out for a while. I am sure Bruce Ruthven has many sympathies with Warren Gatland.

Thankfully for those of us with a nervous disposition, firstly Whyte and then McCann dotted down over the whitewash, taking the score to Hamilton 19 v 31 Stewart’s Melville. Shergar then entered the paddock with 10 minutes left on the clock and promptly set about disrupting the ball at the rucks and destroying our 100% lineout like the true legend of the game that he is.

Both sets of supporters then held their breath as Shergar set off with ball in hand from our 10m line before feeding the ball out wide for Hamilton to score in the corner, making the score Hamilton 24 v 31 Stewart’s Melville as we entered the final five minutes.

The fact that we were able to close the match out shows the maturity and lessons that the boys have been learning over the last few weeks, both for the 1s and also the 2s.

McCann again looked promising, this time from 15, while Kynoch (starting in the Second Row for the first time) had the game of his life and leaves the coaches with a hard decision for next week. This, coupled with appearances from the likes of Porteous, Strachan, Lyall, Croy, Betham and Berrisford, shows that the club is in good heart as we head east to Musselburgh next week in the league.

A final thought; it is a testament to the club, coaches and players that those who were injured saw fit to come through to Hamilton to support their fellow team members on Saturday. I and, I am sure, those on the park were grateful for such support.

Colin Rigby

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