Match Report v Peebles RFC | Saturday 5th October
There were a few changes to last week’s travelling band, with (due to injuries and/or availability) Chris Baikie (head), Scott Murchie (knee), Scott Alldritt (Japan) and Geoff Angco (Marathon) all out. The previously hamstrung duo of Matthew Watson and Ruaridh Mitchell, now recovered, were back at numbers 15 and 3, respectively, while Happy slotted in at 12, James Ferguson reverted to his familiar position on the left wing and Dave Allan completed the forward line up at Number 8.
There were a few changes on the bench, too, with Neil Bowie making a welcome return – apparently it’s not 8 years since he has played but he has played for Stewart’s Melville for 8 years (that is serious dedication -well done!) – and Tom Petiau and Ben Dollery making up the forward replacements.
Peebles kicked off towards the Ferry Road end on a damp afternoon; the ball, was, however well taken by Stewart’s Melville and James Ferguson was immediately off, offloading to Dave Allan who found Happy. His kick through pushed Peebles back although they did manage to hold on to possession.
Unfortunately in the early stages play was stopped due to a head injury to Connor Mackay, bringing his afternoon to a premature end, and Tom Petiau’s to an early start (we wish Connor well and a speedy recovery). Great work by the pack at the first scrum of the afternoon saw Stewart’s Melville regaining possession and the opportunity to attack, Happy again involved with good hands from Michael Miller and Joe Bailey keeping up the momentum. Peebles defended well, however, winning a scrum and managing to clear their lines. The tables were then turned once more as Stewart’s Melville won the line out, Momo leading the charge from 10m out. A penalty in Stewart’s Melville’s favour, a line out and a drive from 5m out saw Doug Randall in for the first try of the afternoon, to the delight of not only the Stewart’s Melville faithful but also that of his travelling support from Portsmouth – the journey was worthwhile, after all! Happy added the extras, and, with ten minutes played, it was Stewart’s Melville 7 Peebles 0.
At the restart Matt Sanderson gathered well, allowing Jamie Sword to progress, and, with good hands from Sean, Momo and Happy, some width was exploited. A kick through by Fraser Strachan then forced Peebles on to the back foot once more, and, in an attempt to move the ball, their pass was adjudged to be forward. Another good scrum, good hands and more pressure resulted in a penalty and a line out 5m out, but, unfortunately, this time, despite being so close, we could not capitalise and a penalty in Peebles’ favour gave them a ‘get out of jail’ card.
Peebles then enjoyed some possession and attempted to kick downfield for territory but the ball was well retrieved by Matthew, and, thereafter, Jamie McGurk breaking through, but the slippery ball was lost. Stewart’s Melville were soon back in the ascendancy and it was one way traffic with around 20 minutes played, with the pressure resulting in a kickable penalty. With only one converted try at this stage, the opportunity to get three points was a no brainer for Happy. Stewart’s Melville 10 – Peebles 0.
The movement of the ball between both forwards and backs was impressive at this stage, but, maybe, a little too ambitious, as, against the run of play, the opportunity for an interception came, giving Peebles their first points. 25 minutes played, Stewart’s Melville 10 – Peebles 7. Though Stewart’s Melville continued their dominance and were definitely playing all the rugby, Peebles had their tails up after scoring and were starting to gain more possession and territory, a well executed kick bobbling into touch 5m from the Stewart’s Melville try line. It was then Peebles’ turn to apply the pressure, and, although Stewart’s Melville did receive some respite, with a penalty coming their way, this was short lived as Peebles attacked once more, utilising the width of the pitch. Some uncharacteristically poor defending then allowed them in for a well deserved try which was duly converted.
With around 35 minutes on the clock the scoreline was Stewart’s Melville 10 – Peebles 14, and thanks to a solid defensive effort in the last 5 minutes, the half time score remained the same.
Stewart’s Melville got the second half underway and further pressure from Peebles led to a penalty and an easy 3 points around the 50 minute mark. Stewart’s Melville 10 – Peebles 17. There was more of a balance in play at this stage, in terms of possession, and there appeared to be a degree of panic on both sides, particularly from Stewart’s Melville who found themselves chasing the game despite their early dominance. Patience is a virtue, though, and its reward seemed to be coming as Stewart’s Melville attacked from 10m out – only to be met by a solid Peebles response that saw the visitors clear the danger back to the half way line.
At this point Neil Bowie entered the fray and added what was needed in the midfield, helping us to gain some important territorial advantage and the opportunity to attack once more, with Joe Bailey enjoying a trenchant run up the stand side. This resulted in more pressure on the Peebles line, and, although possession was lost, it was eventually regained for a sustained period, giving Fraser Strachan the chance to nip over for the try, which, although long in coming, was most welcome. Unfortunately the additional 2 points were not added. 65 minutes played, Stewart’s Melville 15 – Peebles 17.
There was now a visible but controlled urgency in the way that Stewart’s Melville were playing as they applied more pressure, and, eventually Ruaridh Mitchell powered his way over. The electronic score board, batteries now recharged, indicated 70 minutes and the score line Stewart’s Melville 22 – Peebles 17. With a tense 10 minutes left, tempers were somewhat frayed and an altercation saw the first yellow cards being produced, the recipients on both sides. Losing Joe at any time is a major loss but at least it was 14 vs 14. The moral of the story is, however, ‘don’t mess with Joe Bailey!’
As Stewart’s Melville continued to apply pressure, we were awarded a penalty that was clearly kickable. The more conservative among us would have taken the 3 points, however, with the dominance being displayed at this point, the right decision was to go for the fourth try and the bonus point and it came courtesy of James Ferguson, coming off his left wing and bursting through. Final score: Stewart’s Melville 27 – Peebles 17.
It was a real competitive game of rugby, and, above all, it tested the character of the home team, which was more evident that I have witnessed for some time. Apart from the ‘lull’ towards the end of the first half and a period in the second, it was all hands to the pump and the team effort was exemplary. A special mention to the forwards in the set piece and the loose, the icing on the cake being Jamie Sword in the line out. A great performance from 1 – 8!
Given the conditions, the handling was surprisingly good from both sides, which made for an exciting contest. It was probably the best start I have seen from Stewart’s Melville this season and the confidence from this win should bode well going forward. It is an interesting league, as shown by recent score lines. We must, however, just focus on what we can do, and, most importantly, what we are capable of doing. We are a bit like the Irish team at the World Cup – not quite fully gelling but giving a preview of what might possibly be, given that they were dubbed the ‘World’s Number One’ prior to the competition!
Peebles must have reflected on the game on their short trip home. It must be disheartening, after a match like that, to leave with nothing, particularly when it’s felt that they deserved something – but we know exactly how that feels! Onwards and upwards, Preston Lodge away next Saturday. Another hard shift!