Match Report v Peebles RFC Saturday 20 February 2016
After last week’s admirable win in Glasgow it was important that no feet were taken off any pedals during the visit of Peebles to Inverleith. Real progress rather than its perennial cousin- regress – was demanded by supporters and coaches of Stewart’s Melville alike. The net result – a bonus point win – meant a collective sigh of relief as we aim to achieve mid-table respectability and escape any other less palatable alternative.
The weather has been particularly miserable this season with conditions dictating that we play to our strength in the set-scrum and Saturday was no different. A miserable early morning gave way to a stiff wind from the south west, which was all the more pronounced the further from the lee of the stand. Peebles played with the elements in the first half. Our backs, now, have a settled look, probably for the first time this season, and within that backline is the potential for flair if the occupants can express themselves both individually and (more of this later) collectively.
As last week the game started, unsurprisingly, with a kick-off and a nod for a good job done to last week’s correspondent, the soon to be betrothed in a far off land, Sir Nicholas de McCashin. Thor Rappestad collected early and set off (with his hair up in a neat bun, rather than the familiar ‘Meatloaf’ look) on a trademark ‘breenge’ and bodies lay scattered in his wake. He sought support as a couple unwilling defenders stood between him and the distant try line and the move petered out as he took refuge on the turf rather than trust his pace on the outside. Thor was to be our top man throughout the game – not only for his ability with the ball in hand, but also, he has taken on the mantle of flying out of the line in defence to try and tackle man and ball. If he connects the opposing player feels it and logs it in the memory bank as an experience that he might want to think twice about repeating.
Greg Ruthven is the heartbeat of the Peebles team. For a long time he has been their playmaker and Greg nudged Peebles ahead after seven minutes. Greg dislocated a finger later in the game and his absence was sorely missed by his teammates. The line-out was difficult for both teams throughout and Peebles elected to ‘go for the corner’ from an early penalty award. The ball shot untidily back on the Peebles side and we cleared the danger through Ciaran, who joined the line-out from the blind-side wing. Another penalty award presented itself to Peebles but Ruthven was unsuccessful. Line kicking was difficult particularly at the ‘Holy Cross’ side with the wind holding up anything that was too lofted. From one such unsatisfactory set –piece Hugh Lindsay broke clear and was forced into touch just short of the enemy line. Towards the end of the half Peebles had a great chance to stretch their lead but a knock on with a clear overlap on the Arboretum road side meant a certain score was averted.
Half- time then, Peebles 3 Stew/Mel 0. Peebles decided to take shelter for the half time break- not what you would expect from sons of shepherds in the Manor/Ettrick valley and indeed they seemed reluctant to emerge to face the elements in the second half.
‘Momo’ aka Fraser Morrison- there is a name for old Mellie’s to conjure with- ploughed over from a penalty line-out. Peebles seemed to set themselves up for the drive only for Fraser to pirouette like Darcey Bussell and plunge over. Minutes later Ciaran appeared off his wing and did his trademark hopping to touch down under the sticks. Iron ’Mike’ Hanning added the extras on both occasions. The match was over as a contest when Adam Howie controlled the push-over try. Adam is pretty good at this and controlling the ball at your feet whilst remaining bound to the scrum is a skill that not everyone masters.
Peebles had tackled well all afternoon and conceded in the scrum – they weren’t going to score three times against the wind but full credit they kept battling, knowing that a bonus point might yet be crucial at the end of the season.
Stewart’s Melville had now twenty minutes to score a bonus point try and like busses Ali Greig scored two at the death. The first looked to have been closed down by his opposite number but Ali’s strength carried him free and the second in the last play of the match as a result of a well worked overlap.
Cassandra – heard of her? – The curse of Cassandra, daughter of Priam: she was doomed by Apollo always to speak the truth, but to have no-one ever believe her.
The key to breaking down defences is not to attempt too much when the opposition is lined up in front of you. The key is to get them turning – running alongside you – then use off-loads and threat of overlaps to confuse.
There is no point in trying to run through five onrushing defenders rather move the ball to an area that is more thinly populated.
We now have huge potential in the threequarters : Gus straightening the line, two wingers that can beat a man one on one, Ross at full back and Ali fulfilling his schoolboy promise. Maybe the time to release this potential is Friday at Jedburgh against Herkess and the Young’s.
Stewart’s Melville 31 Peebles 6
Match photos by John Preece