Match Report vs Jed-Forest RFC
Although our league campaign had only consisted of two games prior to kick off, it was fair to say that the rate at which we were leaking tries had the red, black and gold faithful hoping that we had not been fatally holed below the waterline. Having conceded nearly 100 points in two games, and welcoming an expansive, fast running Jed-Forest team to Inverleith, today was not for the faint hearted.
It was, therefore, with a sense of trepidation and hope that the faithful descended upon a sun baked Inverleith. Those nerves were not settled when we discovered that our normal (if you can call him that) scribe had decided to go in search of a lifeboat today and that his first choice replacement had been dispatched to Aberdeenshire with the 2s.
All week the talk had been about getting first time tackles in, making no errors and protecting the pill (ball) – and don’t kick aimlessly away for the Young trio to return with interest. This lasted all of 40 seconds when our defence parted like the Red Sea and Jed-Forest took a 7 nil lead. With a collective groan, the home support feared that we were in for a long afternoon. Skip forward 80 minutes and those within Inverleith felt that, not only had we been robbed of a losing bonus point, but of victory itself.
Back to the opening minute and a quick look to the technical area saw an air of calm as the players regrouped under the posts. On the far side, Fin Calder prowled along the touch line like a caged animal, wishing he could rewind the clock 20-plus years, before settling into his more familiar vantage point behind the posts towards the castle. If Fin was on a scouting mission for the 3rd XV, where he is joint manager along with brother Jim and Simon Scott, he was to be sadly disappointed.
One of the great things about playing for Stewart’s Melville is the ability to play on one of – if not the best – playing surfaces in Club rugby. The downside is that playing on such a quality pitch also enables our visitors to raise their game, and we witnessed a cracking 78 minutes of rugby – which is a shame, as rugby is a game of 80 minutes, and our two lapses of concentration were to cost us dearly, something that I am sure will be drummed into the players this week. If Mr Cuthill’s and Mrs Howe’s math classes were worth the school fees, we could have claimed a 17 v 16 win.
So let’s focus on the other 78 minutes. If Jed-Forest thought that they were in for an easy ride, they were sadly mistaken, as the red, black and gold proceeded to dominate all areas of the game. Our lineout, which had been our Achilles’ heel for the last couple of seasons, functioned very well. Our scrum was solid after the opening weeks’ creaking, and was replaced by the 8 providing a platform for our backs to attack the gain line – and attack they did.
With his shorn locks, Rappestad seems to have gained some pace, and, after 4 minutes, he squirmed over for Stew Mel’s opening try, with Michael Hanning converting: 7 v 7.
With all to play for and Sam Ross attacking the gain line while Euan Morrison felled everything that moved, some enterprising back play saw Sean Murchie take the ball just inside the Jed half. Having learnt his lesson in the cup game, when Aberdeen used the touch line as an extra defender, Sean ensured he had a good 10 metres between him and the touch line as he straightened up to canter over after 14 minutes to make the score Stew Mel 12 v 7 Jed-Forest. Hanning missed the conversion from a tight angle and, almost immediately thereafter, elected to go for the posts from just inside the Jed half. While on target, the ball just did not have the legs.
There was a real surge of confidence within the Stew Mel team, and that increased further when Hanning put Ferguson away in the far corner. Mike then had time to enjoy a spot of ‘afters’ with his opposite number, delaying the conversion attempt which was then pulled wide to make it 17 v 7 after 25 minutes.
Jed-Forest, unhappy at how they were being outperformed, then made a couple of changes. A cheap penalty after 25 saw Jed-Forest reduce the deficit to 17 v 10, before Sam Ross was yellow carded for use of the shoulder. Almost immediately, Lewis Young went clear, and, with Yourston kicking well, he added a conversion and the penalty in quick succession to give Jed a 20 v 17 lead at half time.
I am not privy to what was said by Stew Mel at half time; Jed-Forest, however, were grateful to not only still be in the game but actually to be leading it. From my standpoint there was not a lot we could improve on, save the opening minute, and our ability to concede two scores in quick succession which has been a common theme over the last couple of weeks.
Into the second half, and Stew Mel and Jed continued to play an expansive game of rugby; for the neutral observer, there could have been no better sight than 15 players for each team giving it their all. Jed-Forest were able to extend their lead in the 52nd minute, and it looked like the game was going to finish 17 v 23 with a losing bonus point on offer – then, in the 80th minute, we gave away a penalty by the half way line which was then kicked to touch. From the ensuing lineout, Jed then went through various phases, controlling the pill until their 8 burrowed over and secured the victory with the final play, making the final score Stew Mel 17 v 28 Jedforest.
The club is developing a strong social side as well, with the players’ court session after the game on Saturday being organised by Nick McCashin, the club’s development manager. Sir Nick, as the charge sheet reads, would like to hear from anyone who can support the club through sponsorship or support our social events with auction and raffle prizes. This is how the club finances itself, and, no matter how large or small, we are grateful for any donations and support. Sir Nick can be contacted on: Nickmccashin@gmail.com.
We may lie at the foot of National 1 at the moment with 0 points, but the the squad can still be rightly proud of how they are developing as a team. Some of the phases and set pieces were better than we had seen at Inverleith for many a season, and, although small errors cost us dear today, this was still a significant step in the right direction, and credit is due to the coaches and players. To date we have used 34 players in three games, and each and every one of these players (and those who are playing lower down the club) deserves credit and thanks for the effort they are putting into turning our playing fortunes around.
It’s worth noting that today’s opponents lost their opening four games last season prior to finishing 4th and narrowly missing out on a play off spot. It was against the men in red, black and gold that their fortunes turned around last season – fingers crossed that the same (or better) fate awaits us this season!
So off to the Honest Toun – Musselburgh – next week, where Gav Calder will return to his normal reporting duties providing he does not have one eye on the Ryder Cup. The boys would appreciate strong support from the Stewart’s Melville community as we seek our first victory of the season.
We look forward to welcoming you back to Inverleith on the 1st of October when we play GHA, and when (we are delighted to announce) SRU TV will be recording our game! Please get down and show your support for the club – if you wear red, black and gold you will get free entry!
Deputy Deputy Reporter