Match Report v Carrick RFC | Saturday 25 August 2018

Match Report v Carrick RFC | Saturday 25 August 2018

NATIONAL LEAGUE CUP
CARRICK v STEWART’S MELVILLE RFC
SATURDAY 25TH AUGUST 2018

It doesn’t seem that long since I signed off the final match report against Kelso – but here we are again, ready for another long and arduous season in National Division 2. After two friendlies against Dundee and Hamilton, the boys certainly looked fit and ready for this encounter against a team which has had significant success in recent times. With Carrick being in the league below, and the fact that Cup games frequently throw up surprises, there was no question of going into this game with any assumptions of victory – but that, obviously, was the ultimate aim.

For those who don’t know where Maybole is, it’s a South Ayrshire town, a short distance from the birthplace of Robert Burns, whose mother Agnes Brown was a resident. All I know about Maybole is passing through it en route to Ireland and the name being referenced in a Waterboys song! Their rugby is played at Carrick Academy, referred to as the School of Rugby, and you will be, I am sure, delighted to know that that is what I will now focus on.

A pleasant day welcomed us, with thankfully no gale force winds or rain, conditions which are generally conducive to the running rugby that Stew Mel are well capable of. There were a significant number of ‘well kent’ faces in our squad, in addition to some new ones, but it was clear during the warm-up that we had the appearance of a well drilled side with a degree of familiarity.

So: a perfect day, sunshine, no showers and no breeze – but a relatively small pitch. Carrick got proceedings underway, kicking deep into Stew Mel territory. The ball was collected well by Alex Rappestad, who, thereafter, made significant progress with support, driving up the middle of the park. Although Thor was eventually stopped, Stew Mel were awarded a penalty and kicked deep into Carrick territory. Although our line out was good, we then lost possession, allowing Carrick to clear their lines.

Carrick then retained possession for a reasonable spell, although good midfield defensive work by Stew Mel limited their options. This resulted in an attempted chip through which was well retrieved by Cameron Leask who cut through the opposition and made further progress upfield. A Carrick knock on then gave Stew Mel a solid scrum and a fit looking Duncan Wood initiated what became a drive over the line, although we were adjudged to have been held up. Another good scrum and quick service from Cameron Leask allowed Jack Calder to cut inside for the first score of the afternoon. Cameron was successful with the conversion. 14 minutes played: Carrick 0 Stew Mel 7.

Stew Mel looked relatively comfortable in the early exchanges, and, after Carrick applied some pressure and gained territory, the tables were turned and Stew Mel once more drove forward. Duncan Wood shifted the ball wide to the imposing figure of Will Corbett who shook off the defence and offloaded to prop Chris Baikie who was successful with the touchdown – as was Cameron with the conversion. 16 minutes played: Carrick 0 Stew Mel 14.

After the restart Stew Mel again retained possession but lost the ball in the tackle which gave Carrick another opportunity to attack. They were beginning to show that they could attack effectively as they moved the ball wide to the left and then went right to good effect, testing the Stew Mel defence (which was strong particularly, in the midfield.) After winning possession back, James Ferguson powered up the right, and, with a nicely weighted pass, released Sean Murchie, who scored in the corner. 21 minutes played: Carrick 0 Stew Mel 19.

When things appear to be relatively comfortable, with Stew Mel in the driving seat, there can be a lapse of concentration and focus, and that’s what allowed Carrick to get back into the game, their twinkle toed left winger cutting inside and scoring under the posts. 30 minutes played: Carrick 7 Stew Mel 19. Stew Mel responded immediately, however, and, at the 30 minute mark, Connor McKay powered over after some good work by Jamie McGurk. Again the conversion was successful: Carrick 7 Stew Mel 26.

It was, however, Carrick’s turn again as they launched attack after attack and, as a result of good forward play, racked up two tries before the half time whistle. Carrick 19 Stew Mel 26.

This was certainly a wake up call for Stew Mel as the second half got underway and it wasn’t long before they added to the score after good scrummaging and pressure resulted in a penalty at the 52 minute mark. Carrick 19 Stew Mel 29. These were important points, coming at a crucial stage of the game.

Mistakes were plentiful in the next 15 minutes from both sides, which is to be expected from their first competitive match, although Stew Mel’s dominance was beginning to show. Line outs were generally functioning well and the scrum was solid, giving the backs a platform from which to launch attacks. Less possession was coming Carrick’s way, though, with ball in hand, they continued to look dangerous in attack and enjoyed a short spell within Stew Mel’s 22, albeit possession was quickly won back. After some erratic play and signs of some frustration amongst the visitors, the focus returned and Stew Mel were back on track, driving forward and finding good field position, although the penalty count on both sides was mounting.

Despite being camped 10 meters out for a significant period of time, the opposition’s defence was resolute until a sniping run by Cameron Leask ended with him offloading to Oli Williamson; further quick hands led to Sean crossing the line, with the conversion being successful once again. 70 minutes played: Carrick 19 Stew Mel 36.

Fitness was beginning to tell in the dying stages, although all credit to Carrick, who threw the ball far and wide in desperation – too far and too wide, as it turned out, as this led to an interception by Sean, who had to run the length of the ‘short’ pitch for the final score of the afternoon. Carrick 19 Stew Mel 41.

A well deserved victory – but the win, although good for morale, was not the most important aspect of the game. The game plan worked well and only came off the rails for a short period towards the end of the second half.

The forwards were strong and combined well as a unit, both in the set piece and in the loose. It was great to see Alex Rappestad carrying a ball rather than a water bottle. Duncan Wood is always an inspiration, as is Momo, and our second row performed well, particularly at the line out. Nick Winton was all over the park like a youngster and the burly Connor McKay looked solid in the set piece and in loose play. A former team mate of mine would have been extremely impressed with Connor’s performance. Cameron Leask’s service from the base of the scrum was sharp and varied, giving Jack Calder the opportunity to feed his back line. Cameron can also kick, which is a bonus!

The big number 12, Will Corbett, created an effective platform in midfield and James Ferguson settled in nicely at full back. Strong running from winger Dave Allan put Stew Mel into good field position and Jamie McGurk looked lively at 13. Sean will be happy with his first ever hat-trick for Stew Mel although that would not have been possible (apart from perhaps the interception) without the performance of the aforementioned players creating effective space.

Carrick were by no means easy opposition and it is clear that they know how to win games – they were impressive in spells, and I wish them luck for their season. Their number 3 was outstanding, and, if he is ever relocated to Edinburgh, hopefully he will know where to find us.

This game, I think, sets things up nicely for the start of the league campaign on Saturday against Whitecraigs at Inverleith. Apparently William Wallace gathered support for his campaign when he (allegedly) passed through Maybole. There was certainly plenty evidence of Bravehearts and Scrappers on display on Saturday.

Kevin Murchie

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