Match Report Stew Mel 1xv v Cartha Queens Park 6 January 2018
Following on from the unscheduled winter shutdown in December and further contemplation of launching my new business venture – www.itwillbeon.com, taking on Mother Nature and possibly the Dragons’ Den – we were back at Inverleith once again, much to the supporters’ (and, I am sure, players’) delight, for, in the context of our league position, a huge game against Cartha, our last encounter against them having ended in a narrow loss.
The weather had been kind to us for a change, with dry but cold conditions. With our last game having been on the 2nd December against Kelso and with all the festivities, the question was, had we benefited from the ‘break’ and rejuvenated for 2018, or, on the other hand, were we likely to be ‘ring rusty’? Sadly, it was the latter!
Cartha kicked-off towards the Castle with Stew Mel playing into a biting north wind. The opening stages were scrappy, as expected, with mistakes on both sides. Cartha, however, managed to find themselves in possession within Stew Mel’s 22 and a fine break from the scrum half after 10 minutes put them ahead with the try converted. Stew Mel 0 – Cartha 7.
Cartha gathered again from the restart and continued to apply pressure from a similar position, this time with their stand-off breaking through and scoring with 15 minutes on the clock (Stew Mel 0 Cartha 12).
Further pressure from Cartha resulted in a penalty and an easy 3 points. 20 minutes in and it was Stew Mel 0 – Cartha 15. At this stage, things were not looking good for the hosts.
As the first half was approaching the 30 minute mark it appeared that Stew Mel were eventually coming alive, gaining and retaining more possession. After some good attacking phases from the backs, James powered his way over the line. There were further indications of the start of a comeback, with the forwards providing quick ball and some slick passing resulting in James diving into the corner for a second. Stew Mel 10 – Cartha 15.
Cartha’s lead was extended to 18 shortly afterwards with yet another penalty. The half time score was Stew Mel 10 – Cartha 18.
The second half started well, with the wind behind us and some good forward play and strong running from the backs leading to a penalty and subsequent line out. A solid forward drive resulted in Ruaridh Mitchell crossing the line. He must now be the highest scoring hooker in national 1!
With the score at Stew Mel 15 – Cartha 18, confidence amongst the home support must have been growing,; this was, however, short lived, as a period unfolded of malfunctioning line outs and a dominant Cartha scrum providing plenty of ball for their backs to exploit gaps in our defence.
It wasn’t, therefore, long before they recorded two further tries – undoubtedly aided by two almost consecutive yellow cards to Stew Mel (one, I think, a bit harsh) – to bring the score at around the 55 minute mark to Stew Mel 15 – Cartha 32.
At this stage things seemed to go from bad to worse, Cartha becoming dominant in all phases with their influential number 10 Wayne Burrows pulling the strings with good tactical play to match his exemplary kicking game from both hand and tee. It was yet another one of those games when the final whistle came as a relief. Full time score was Stew Mel 15 – Cartha 46. A comprehensive defeat by a well organised unit.
It is always difficult after a game like this to look for positives and much easier to look for excuses. Whilst I would not wish to dwell on excuses, the performances of both individuals and the team as a whole were below par. There have been very few games this season when we have been able to field, more or less, the same starting line-up, due to both injuries and unavailability. Consistency of selection enables players, through familiarity, to play for each other, which generally leads to a successful outcome.
The forwards, in particular, had a difficult afternoon. They ultimately struggled in the set piece against a big Cartha pack and misfired at the lineout, and, inevitably, any ball that they did secure was generally slow, enabling the Cartha back line to close us down and so give us very little space to operate in.
On the positive side, Duncan Wood, at times, took on the Cartha pack singlehandedly to great effect, with some great carries, as did David Stoddart and Nick Winton. Ruaridh, as always, lead by example.
It must have been a tough day for Gregor behind the scrum, but he kicked well to gain field position and also tried his best to get the back line moving. The back three attacked at every opportunity and James used his power and strength to score two fine tries. It was good to see Mark Sinclair back in the frame after a lengthy layoff, adding a bit of spark.
There is still so much to play for, so let us put this one down to a ‘post festive season hangover’. I think there are 10 league games left, with a significant number of those at home, in addition to a Cup game against Peebles. Onwards and upwards, hopefully! It’s not all doom and gloom, and I’m already looking forward to Jed next Saturday. The Last Time we were at the Riverside, we won … !
As a postscript, I would also like to make a correction to one of my previous reports regarding the last Stewart’s Melville FP to gain a Scotland Cap prior to George Turner. I believe this was actually Steve Lawrie, not Doddie Weir – Scotland vs Samoa, Durban 2013. Sorry, Steve!