Match Report v Highland RFC | Saturday 27th April
Saturday eventually witnessed the end of the season, and, due to Inverleith being transformed for ‘Summer sports’, Raeburn Place was the venue for the finale, which, although not what it could have been, was played out in the great spirit of rugby football.
The usual suspects took to the field together with a few notable changes – but, thankfully, all players were in their familiar positions, despite, I understand, Jamie Sword putting in a good shift at number 10 in Belfast, along with Momo at 9, number 14 at number 8 and Fraser Strachan ‘position-less’ and administering refreshments — ‘water boy’ would, perhaps, be a euphemism!
Stew Mel started proceedings and, I would say, probably played some of their best rugby this season for at least 30 minutes. With 5 minutes on the clock, Chris Baikie was over for the first try of the afternoon and Freddie soon afterwards danced his way through the Highland defence to make it Stew Mel 12 Highland 0 with about 20 minutes played, Euan being successful with one of the conversions.
Complete dominance in the early stages by Stew Mel was pleasing to see, as Highland struggled to get hold of the ball, but, once they did, they engineered an unconverted try. The Stew Mel response was immediate, this time courtesy of Momo, making the score Stew Mel 17 Highland 5 with around 25 minutes played. After a period of end to end play, Highland managed to get a second try, this time converted, bringing their tally to 12. Although Stew Mel had only conceded one penalty so far in the game, a yellow card was produced at this stage to give Highland a man advantage. They exploited this well, the half time score being Stew Mel 17 Highland 19.
The second half was soon underway, and, although Highland were gaining more possession, a kick and chase and a favourable bounce of the ball saw Sean Murchie touch down between the posts; Euan added the extras. Stew Mel were in the lead once more with 45 minutes played – Stew Mel 24 Highland 19. That was, unfortunately, the last time we enjoyed being in front, with Highland scoring a couple of tries in quick succession despite losing a man to the bin. This made the score Stew Mel 24 Highland 31 with approximately 60 minutes played.
Stew Mel hit back again, Ruaridh Mitchell scoring this time to make the score Stew Mel 29 Highland 31. Highland weren’t done, though, notching a couple of tries in the last quarter to make the final score Stew Mel 29 Highland 45.
This certainly was an entertaining afternoon of rugby, with the play, for the most part, fast paced and competitive from both sides. Whilst we put in a great team effort, there were, as always, a number of stand outs. The back three defended and attacked well, with Chris Beattie impressing on the left wing. Happy’s moniker should probably have been ‘Hungry’ for the afternoon as he was clearly up for it, breaking the gain line and winning back possession like a back rower. The half backs were slick and varied the tactics well, while the forwards as a unit were effective in both the set piece and in open play. Matt Sanderson, in particular, once again illustrated why he received the Most Improved Player award at the recent Club Dinner, while it was good to see Ruaridh Stewart back in the frame once again. Joe Bailey clearly enjoyed the intensity at number 2!
Well done to Highland on their promotion – l am sure we will meet again soon! On reflection, Stewart’s Melville have also had a successful season, and, although missing out, will now have time to consolidate and work towards season 2019/20. Their performance on Saturday showed a lot of positivity, and, if we can keep (and add to) the squad we have, avoid injuries and maintain a high degree of consistency and commitment, 2019/20 should be even better.
Time to hang up my pen/paper/Dictaphone and short-term memory for the season. Have a good Summer recess.