Howe of Fife Match Report
Howe of Fife 7 Stewart’s Melville 12
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Calvin Coolidge, US president 1923-29
Coolidge would approve of Stewart’s Melville’s persistence this season. After seven games we had lost seven matches – and not just lost, we had conceded a 110 point aggregate, between GHA and Aberdeen combined, at home. Since then, we have won 8, but lost 4, of the next twelve games – two of those defeats have been against Marr and Accies, the remaining defeats a two point away loss at GHA and a narrow home loss to Dundee.
Make no mistake, Saturday was a game we could easily have lost. Howe had long targeted the visit of the ‘city slickers’ and threw the utility room, laundry room and the kitchen sink at us. Rumoured reinforcements to the Howe personnel did not, however, materialise.
Our back division had runners everywhere, and, with Andrew Warnock starting at 10, an adventurous feel to it. The conditions were to dictate the game, however, and the narrow confines of Duffus Park combined with treacherous underfoot conditions meant easy acceleration was impossible – we could have had ‘Hoggy’ in the backs and it wouldn’t have made any difference! The rain abated about mid-day, but, nevertheless, the slippery ball was unconducive to Finn Russell style spin passing. It was a day for the ‘forrats’, as Borderers call them.
We kicked off against the slope, and, fairly quickly, it was obvious that Stewart’s Melville had the upper hand in the scrum. The dominance further escalated the longer the game progressed; Hobbis and Wallace are now two pretty good scrummagers. Several tilts at the Howe line were repelled before Sami Paulsson touched down under the posts, allowing Mike to convert. Sami, like his injured countryman Alex, has that happy knack of finding a way through the traffic from five yards.
Back came Howe, and, really from their first concerted period of pressure in our twenty two, our hosts emerged with a similar touch down. Their scorer, rejoicing in the soubriquet of ‘Slim’ (presumably an ironic reference to his physical appearance – by this time, the numbers on the shirts were mud encrusted, making accurate identification difficult), touched down under our posts, thus allowing the scores to be tied.
Stewart’s Melville eased further ahead when, after a dominant scrum, play was switched to the blind side where Sean Murchie jinked his way over. The conversion drifted wide. The remaining ten minutes of the half were played out in the Howe 22, with Howe conceding a number of penalties which led, inevitably, to a yellow, Lawrie being the miscreant. We sensed our chance to go two tries ahead and opted for attacking scrums but the execution was not there.
Half Time Howe 7 Stewart’s Melville 12.
Warnock and Henderson did not reappear for the second half, with Porteous introduced at full back and Goldring at 8, meaning Hanning moved to 10 and Spowart into the row.
Howe had eight minutes to survive with 14 men – so the idea was to get points ahead whilst the Howe scrum was not quorate. We did, indeed, get two opportunities on the Howe line, but, unbelievably, the scrum advanced too quickly for the back row to control the ball and Howe’s line remained uncrossed.
There is always the danger, if you don’t take your chances, that the lost opportunities will come back to haunt you, and we must have spent the last 25 minutes of the game defending. Howe got a couple of penalty awards, but, with the gap at 5 points, they opted for attacking lineouts. It all got very scrappy, and, it has to be said, Howe have a very good recycling game. Dominic Martin managed to convert the scraps from the scrum into attacking options involving dummy runners.
When Stewart’s Melville did get possession, nerves seemed to set in; knock-ons, kicks out on the full, delayed lineout throws and the bounce of that odd shaped ball all added to the anxiety on the pitch and felt on the touchline.
We seemed to be happier without the ball, in fact, and our defence was terrific, led by the physicality of Wood, happy to be back in the Kingdom. Our forwards were up for the scrap, with Hobbis, Spowart, Goldring , Paulsson and Hodgson strangely relishing the niggle that had crept into the game.
In one amusing incident, Goldring joined in the Howe ‘huddle’ before a Howe lineout to hear where the throw was to be targeted. The irrepressible Trotter’s introduction (for Sinclair) kept the noise and intensity levels up and Michael Hanning’s experience guided us home.
Three more games, then, and what a message it would send out for next season if we managed another three wins. Let’s make Coolidge and Sesh proud!
Full Time Howe of Fife 7 Stewart’s Melville 12.