Match Report v Whitecraigs RFC | Saturday 2nd November
A carnival atmosphere greeted us as we arrived for the now earlier kick off time of 2 pm. The crowds had gathered, the marquees were up, the hot foot outlets were serving up a variety of ethnic food and the bar was rammed. All this and some strange attire ranging from sleeping policemen to chickens was nothing to do with the rugby! It appears that the venue was hosting an annual get together for student vets, and, and, with some strange ‘It’s A Knockout’ type games being played out on the adjacent pitch, music pumping out of the marquees (not very good music, at that) and more beer being spilled than consumed, it was certainly a different setting as Stew Mel initiated proceedings on a damp autumnal day on a wide pitch akin to Invers.
Possession was immediately regained, which the forwards made good use of, making inroads well into the Whitecraigs half. Doug Randall, Momo and the distinctive scrum cap of Scott Alldritt lead the charge down the blindside, but, although the pitch was wide, it wasn’t quite wide enough to keep the ball in play, resulting in a line out in Whitecraigs’ favour, giving them the opportunity to clear their lines.
Stew Mel attacked once more, and, although knocking on in the process to bring the first scrum of the afternoon, possession was soon back with Stew Mel once again, this time Happy breaking through a few defenders, and, with Euan Bowen and Jamie Sword also having a go from 10m out, it wasn’t long before James powered his way over on the left. With less than 10 minutes played it was Whitecraigs 0 – Stew Mel 5.
A positive start, then, only marred by Euan Bowen departing due to an eye injury, with Happy taking up the reins at 10. A poor restart by Whitecraigs then played into our hands, and, with less than 15 minutes played, Matthew Watson slalomed his way through the Whitecraigs defence. A great individual try, with Happy adding the extras. Whitecraigs 0 – Stew Mel 12.
Stew Mel were clearly in the ascendency, however a mistake gifted Whitecraigs a chance to play some rugby in the visitors’ half. This respite was short lived as, again, more pressure was applied with the boot, and, with the forwards showing dominance in the set piece and the loose, Doug rumbled over for the third try of the afternoon. Happy converted to make the score Whitecraigs 0 – Stew Mel 19.
Another period of pressure, this time being applied by Whitecraigs, lead to a clearly kickable penalty, but, unfortunately (from their perspective) the kick was wide. As open play resumed there appeared to be a bit of equilibrium in terms of both possession and mistakes on both sides. A relatively scrappy period followed, with about 30 minutes having been played, but it wasn’t long before a degree of composure returned, a penalty in Stew Mel’s favour allowing us to kick for field position. With clean ball coming from the line out, it was Happy who duly converted his own try, giving the half time score (with the bonus point in the bag) of Whitecraigs 0 – Stew Mel 26.
The second half was soon underway, with Whitecraigs enjoying some early possession. They were almost over the line after some strong forward play 5m out but the ball was adjudged to have been held up. Stew Mel were able to ease the pressure thereafter but Whitecraigs, having had a sniff of the line, were eager to get another, and, after a well earned turnover, they attacked once more, using the width, and managed to get over for their first and only try of the afternoon. 55 minutes played, Whitecraigs 5 – Stew Mel 26.
As play resumed Whitecraigs were managing to slow the ball down, the result being that our backs were not able to penetrate as much as they had done in the first half, with their opposite numbers very much fighting fire with fire. Our dominant scrum gradually began to come to the fore, and, after more territory and a line out in Whitecraigs 22, a penalty came Stew Mel’s way. Quick thinking from Fraser got the back line moving and exploiting the width once more gave Chris Baikie the opportunity to bulldoze his way over, Happy adding the extras. Around 60 minutes played, Whitecraigs 5 – Stew Mel 33.
The onslaught then restarted in the hosts’ half once more, with concerted pressure ultimately leading to a penalty try with almost 70 minutes played. That made it Whitecraigs 5 – Stew Mel 40. In the final 10 minutes it was one way traffic, with Whitecraigs having no answer to Stew Mel’s pack. After quick hands through the back line, there was still time to add some more points, this time courtesy of Jamie McGurk, giving Happy an easy conversion. Final score Whitecraigs 5 – Stew Mel 47.
A satisfying result and a performance that, I assume, would (by and large) have pleased the coaches. Perhaps not quite as slick as the previous Saturday, but, regardless of who you are playing and the score you rack up against them, patterns of play can still be disrupted, forcing errors. It is inevitable that the win over Dumfries in the Cup will be used as a benchmark for what this team is capable of, with, perhaps, the Preston Lodge game showing what can happen all too easily if game management and control is not sustained for the 80 minutes. There were one or two periods on Saturday, particularly towards the end of the first half, where this was again apparent, but, as said, the opposition played a part in this and made every effort to compete gallantly and to the best of their ability.
As the players dispersed the student party was still in full swing. The music had improved slightly and some of those dressed as sleeping policemen were showing that lack of sleep (or, perhaps, alcohol consumption) was finally catching up with them. With the clubhouse resembling a disrupted holiday weekend in the departure lounge at Heathrow, it was clearly time to head east and look forward to next Saturday. Let’s hope for a similar performance against Gordonians – and to see that performance reflected in an improved league position for once!