Match Report v Peebles RFC | Saturday 26 January
It was never going to be easy at the Gytes, and, despite the previous result at home, a tough encounter in damp conditions was anticipated. Tough it was, and, regrettably, we left without even a losing bonus point, which was probably deserved – if not more. But that’s rugby.
It’s an interesting game when one team has 90% possession (slight exaggeration, of course, but you catch my drift – we certainly had the majority of it), a dominant scrum and a significant amount of territory – and don’t come away with a win! On the flip side, however, Peebles put up a mighty defence, and, despite all of SM’s attacking opportunities, maybe, in hindsight (once referred to as the philosophy of fools), we should have varied the ‘pick and go’ and attempted to use width – but it was not to be.
With a pretty settled back line, the only change being Kyle Dixon on the left wing, there were a couple of changes in the back row, with Matt Sanderson and Alex Wainwright coming in at numbers 6 and 7, respectively, to keep Dave Allan company.
SM kicked off and it wasn’t long before the first lineout of the afternoon at the half way line (the shortened version). Momo and Ruaridh Mitchell combined well to drive into Peebles’ half, aided by Dave Allan, but, with a slippery ball, the knock-ons were inevitable. The first scrum of the afternoon saw SM produce an emphatic drive and take one ‘against the head’, which is certainly uncommon in modern day rugby. A kick through by Fraser Strachan gave some good field position with the lineout 10 metres out, but the offside line was breached, giving Peebles, after a long kick downfield and a cleanly taken lineout, the opportunity to drive over the line for the first try of the afternoon. 10 minutes in, Peebles 5 SM 0.
At the restart SM found themselves back in a familiar position, 10 metres out from the Peebles line, but, after some good forward play (by Chris Baikie in particular), a penalty was unfortunately conceded. Another opportunity missed and more good field position for our hosts; the lineout was squint, though, enabling SM to gain vital territory of their own courtesy of Happy, Momo and Doug Randall. We were then awarded a penalty in a kickable position – 15 minutes played, Peebles 5 – SM 3.
It wasn’t, however, long before Peebles found themselves in a similar position to take the 3 points on offer; 20 minutes in, Peebles 8 SM 3.
After some good progress down the right wing by Sean Murchie, well supported by Doug, SM were unlucky not to see points materialise, and, unfortunately, Dave Allan succumbed to what looked like a shoulder injury, ending his illustrious afternoon. Peebles were finding it hard to get out of their own 22 as the pressure from the SM forwards, in particular, mounted, and a combination of this and clever kicking from Fraser kept our hosts penned in until the inevitable penalty gave them some respite.
The Peebles lineout was again adjudged to have been squint, and, with the impetus then coming SM’s way once more, Kyle Dixon managed a nice break on the left wing before eventually being ushered into touch. Again Peebles tried to escape from their own 22, which they eventually did – and, after an apparent high tackle, they won another penalty. Another squint lineout led to a scrum in SM’s favour but the man with the whistle prevented any further progress. This time Peebles were given the chance 10 metres out and rumbled over after several phases. 30 minutes played, Peebles 15 SM 3.
SM were soon back into that familiar position within the Peebles 22 once more, but we were struggling to make any progress and the long anticipated try didn’t come before half time.
A second half comeback? There was certainly optimism, given the possession and territorial advantage we had enjoyed in the opening period, and after a similar pattern of play, a yellow card shown to one of the Peebles forwards was quickly exploited, with Ruaridh driving over for the try. This was awarded even though the man on the Tannoy was perhaps exploiting his position somewhat by suggesting that there had been a knock on. Thankfully there was another man closer to the action on the pitch referred to as the referee!
The clean kit of the substitutes was now clear to see on the business side of the whitewash. Thor, Connor, Dave Hampton and the not so clean Kyle Marshall (as the bench was now fully emptied) all started to have a significant impact, and, with Peebles a man down, the pressure eventually lead to a well deserved penalty try. With about 15 minutes to go, it was Peebles 15 SM 17. At the restart Peebles managed to find a way back into SM’s 22 and retain that all important possession. Following a lineout 5 metres out courtesy of another penalty, a try came their way at around the 70 minute mark. As time was running out, SM were, once again, trying to break down that brick wall, but, as further progress was prevented, Peebles were the lucky recipients of a kickable penalty, against the run of play. This gave them a crucial 3 points and extinguished any hopes we had of at least a losing bonus point.
Final score Peebles 25 SM 17.
A frustrating afternoon for SM, but plenty of positives to be taken. The boys demonstrated the rugby that they are capable of playing, regardless of the conditions, and were unlucky not to have capitalised on the amount of pressure we exerted, particularly when camped 5 metres out for significant periods. As said in my preamble, varying the tactics might have worked but what was on display was certainly not for the faint hearted as the Peebles line was attacked relentlessly. James Ferguson made significant inroads and Matt Sanderson, in particular, never seemed to run out of steam. Credit must, however, go to Peebles for their defensive effort, which effectively gave them the upper hand – and, of course, when they found themselves in the red zone, they made sure of the points.
Some interesting results in this league and still lots to play for with four games left, starting with Dumfries on 2 March. Three of those four games are on our hallowed turf at Invers. It’s not over until it’s over!
Match photo c/o Libby @ OG Blakeman Photos