Match Report v Lasswade RFC | Saturday 15 December
As we huddled together like penguins on an Antarctic landscape, enduring the coldest day I’ve experienced at Inverleith in decades, we were treated to an exemplary performance on the pitch. Despite the weather, the ‘warmth’ emanated upwards into the stand (or so it seemed), to the delight of the hardy home support.
As the teams emerged, and once we were able to focus on who was who, Stew Mel kicked off, playing towards Ferry Road with the wind at their backs. The first lineout was adjudged to be squint but a good drive from the pack earned a penalty and an accurate touch finder from Michael Miller. This time a clean lineout and Momo broke through to score with just under 5 minutes played. Happy added the extras. Stew Mel 7 Lasswade 0. An encouraging start.
As play resumed, a penalty for not releasing allowed Lasswade some territory, but possession was soon lost. Chris Baikie then took off on one of his trademark runs but, unfortunately, found himself isolated, conceding a penalty. Another lineout followed and Stew Mel managed to steal the ball; Freddie Roddick then took the initiative and moved the ball wide, but further progress was halted by another penalty. Eventually one did come our way due to a high tackle, with the resulting touch finder being more than a little wind assisted. The resulting scrum saw an impressive drive by the Stew Mel forwards, with a penalty and more possession coming their way. It was Doug Randall this time with a powerful, evasive run in from the 22, making it Stew Mel 12 Lasswade 0 with 17 minutes played.
Lasswade were seeing less of the ball but they still were trying to launch attacks into Stew Mel’s half, and, with a number of penalties coming their way, they did make some progress, though their hands did fail them at times. With the penalty count mounting against Stew Mel, a yellow card was not long in coming, the recipient being talisman Michael Miller. With the one man advantage and after an uncharacteristic Stew Mel mistake in midfield – and despite Willie Malcolm almost singlehandedly holding up the Lasswade forwards – the opportunity was seized by the visitors’ number 13, David Hall, who scored under the posts. The easy conversion made the score Stew Mel 12 Lasswade 7 with 25 minutes on the clock.
At the restart there was another good break by Lasswade but this was eventually halted. Possession was then won back due to a knock on and Doug was off again, with the ball eventually finding Freddie who cruised over for a great team try. 30 minutes gone, Stew Mel 19 Lasswade 7. The kick at the restart didn’t quite have the legs against the wind and James Ferguson was the next to step up and show his ability and his strength, making further progress into Lasswade’s 22. It didn’t seem long before Michael returned, and, around the same time, James continued where he had left off for another try. 35 minutes gone, Stew Mel 24 Lasswade 7.
As half time approached there was still time for more, and, after a period of forward domination, Ruaridh Mitchell powered over. Half time Stew Mel 31 Lasswade 7.
With a healthy lead established, the challenge in the second half was going to be that we would be playing into the wind and, therefore, dealing with the increase in pressure from the opposition that that would likely bring. It was, however, entirely up to Lasswade to exert that pressure – and, right from the restart, it was evident that Stew Mel were determined to win, to retain possession and to stamp out any resurgence that might occur.
Connor McKay had entered the fray by this stage and the ‘Galloway Bull’ (NB moniker has required parental clearance) made his presence known, contributing to the next try which saw number 8 Denis Pech driving over. 45 minutes in, Stew Mel 36 Lasswade 7.
The screw was beginning to turn as Stew Mel again applied more pressure, and, after some last ditch defending by Lasswade, quick ball wide to Sean Murchie, our number 14, ensured the next try. 50 minutes gone, Stew Mel 41 Lasswade 7. Stew Mel once again collected well at the restart, and, with Lasswade under further pressure, mistakes were inevitably being made and the scrums were only going one way as Stew Mel continued to bulldoze their way into Lasswade’s half.
After we were awarded a scrum 5 metres out, the next score wasn’t long in coming, Freddie in for his second. That made it Stew Mel 46 Lasswade 7 with around 65 minutes played. It was one way traffic at this stage, with Thor charging up the middle of the park, and quick ball through the backs and some exceptionally good handling led to another try by number 14. The successful conversion brought the score, with 70 minutes played, to Stew Mel 53 Lasswade 7.
Another restart, another lineout and scrum with Stew Mel again retaining the ball … and another score, this time by ‘Man of the Match’ Fraser Strachan. Stew Mel 58 Lasswade 7. Lasswade managed to gain some territory thereafter but a loose ball was soon picked up by sub Matt Sanderson, who broke downfield at pace but couldn’t quite find the support. In the dying moments another yellow card was shown but the game was all but over at this stage. Final score Stew Mel 58 Lasswade 7.
The failing light, the clash of strips and my failing eyesight made identification in the last 20 minutes a challenge. There was only one team in control by that stage, though, which made it slightly easier. Whilst my sequence of events and player references may not be totally accurate, the facts remain: 10 tries and 4 conversions. Not a bad way to finish 2018! Whilst Stew Mel were worthy winners, this was a fine display of running rugby in poor conditions, both teams focussed on playing a fast paced game.
As I thawed out in the clubhouse, reflecting on the game, I thought it was one of our best performances of the season – and, if the penalty count and yellow cards were taken out of the equation, probably the best, epitomised by Fraser Strachan’s inspired ‘pass through the legs’. A great team effort – well done.
Wrap this one up, shove it under the tree and don’t unwrap it until 3 pm on Saturday 12 January 2019 under the floodlights at Pennypit Park.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all.
Match photo c/o Jackie MacKenzie