Match Report v Watsonians FC Saturday 19 December 2015
Stewart’s Melville 17 vs 29 Watsonians
Saturday’s game against Watsonians was, in many ways, reminiscent of the one against Musselburgh at Stoneyhill back at the start of October – a punishing opening period, during which we shipped some soft tries, then a gradual realisation that we were, in fact, capable of matching our opponents and scoring some tries of our own.
Both games ended in defeat, but both also provided some grounds for optimism.
On Saturday, we had the temerity to open the scoring, with returning stand off Mike Hanning landing a penalty from the Vatican side after 3 minutes. That only served to rile the visitors, who responded with three tries that came from a telling combination of hard running and soft tackling.
Watsonians full back Scott McKean scored the first of the visitors’ tries after 10 minutes, sliding over to the left of the posts at the Ferryfield end after some neat handling and despite a last ditch cover tackle from winger Sean Murchie.
The second try was scored by hefty Number 8 Matt Coles, who lunged for the line after a determined rumble by the visitors’ pack; Messrs Morrison, Strachan, Morgan and Hanning were all between Coles and the whitewash, but he still managed to dot down. Andrew Chalmers’ conversion made it 12-3 after 15 minutes.
Watsonians had the scoreboard ticking over (albeit in a purely virtual sense – it was knackered) barely three minutes thereafter, winger Mark Bertram trotting in virtually unopposed after picking the ball up from a ruck on our 22. The simple conversion by Chalmers made it 19-3 with less than a quarter of the game played – game over?
Apparently not, as our players (like they have done repeatedly throughout this testing season) rolled up their sleeves and hauled themselves back into the game. It was big Thor Rapstadt (sic) who claimed our opening score at the Castle end, diving over after Adam Howie popped to the ball to him from a ruck near the line. Mike’s conversion made it 19-10 at the break.
It was, unfortunately, the visitors who made the better start to the second half, the fact that Willie Aitken took a yellow card for the team in the opening exchanges not making life any easier for us. Ciaran Whyte was duly replaced by Mike McDonald to ensure we remained quorate in the front row, while Jamie Berrisford took over from the God Of Thunder in the Engine Room.
Chalmers landed a penalty from the far side on 53 minutes to make it 22-10, then winger Rory Steele rounded off a flowing backs move on the same flank to claim the bonus point for the visitors. Chalmers landed the difficult conversion to make the score 29-10.
There were still 15 minutes on the clock at this point, and, once again, the men in red, black and gold decided that it was their time to show what they can do. They were helped by the fact that Watsonians had just lost lock Callum Harvey to the bin, while we had refreshed our roster by replacing Ali Greig and Hugh Lindsay with Angus Rennie and Max Campbell, respectively.
It was, as before, our pack who engineered the retaliatory score, Mike McDonald diving over from close range after good carries from Adam and Willie. Those carries involved some of the ‘latching on’ by supporting players that was largely missing at Raeburn Place the previous week, and it was great to see our forwards reasserting themselves after a tough shift against Accies.
Mike Hanning’s conversion made it 29-17 with 10 minutes to go. We went on to dominate the remainder of the game as our confidence returned, but were unable to make further inroads into the visitors’ lead.
Fraser Strachan then saw red just before the final whistle after using his boot to try and free the ball from a ruck near the line – the consensus from the watching Stew Mellies was that, if ref George Pounder had penalised Watsonians beforehand for killing the ball, then they might have been the team finishing the game with 14 men rather than us.
Another defeat, then – but a much more promising performance from our boys against the league leaders. Our forwards showed signs of regaining their mojo, as noted above, while the backs enjoyed a lot more running room (and a firmer running surface) than they had done against Accies. Mike Hanning steadied the ship at 10, while Sean Murchie caught the eye on his return to the wing.
It was just a shame that Ross McCann had been sidelined for this game at the request of the SRU, as you got the feeling that he might have had the gas to finish off a couple of our moves that broke down just short of the red zone.
Our players now get a chance to lick their wounds for a couple of weeks before Musselburgh come calling on January 9th. The men from Stoneyhill have fallen away a bit after an excellent start to the season, and now sit two places and ten points above us in the table.
With Kelso, Peebles and Grammar all losing again on Saturday, we have managed to negotiate the games against Accies and Watsonians without slipping any further down the table. The Mussy game represents an ideal chance to regroup and start climbing the ladder once again.
There is, of course, more rugby to be watched and played at Invers before then, with the annual Charity Extravaganza once again taking place on Boxing Day from noon onwards. Three games, mulled wine and two kinds of pies (mince and Lawson’s) – stuff the turkey, dust off your boots and I’ll see you at HQ on Saturday!
*Photographs courtesy of John Preece