Match Report vs Lasswade RFC | 22nd September 2018
I am sure, as the players and coaches made the short trip out to the Lasswade/Bonnyrigg area on Saturday, it would have been difficult to forget that our opponents were propping up the table and had recently suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Dumfries. In my view this would have been the worst possible preparation for any game if dwelt on, as that could lead to complacency creeping in. The nature of our victory against Glasgow Accies could have helped to offset that complacency – but, in any case, I am sure that our squad would be focussed on their game plan and strategy, disregarding recent results and remembering that the wounded lion can be a dangerous beast!
Lasswade RFC have an impressive set up, with good support from the local community and a venue that hosts games outwith this league. With the adverse weather we have recently had across the pond, with Ali and Bronagh closer to home, it was reassuring to know that someone, somewhere had some respect for Saturday rugby as we were blessed with blue skies, a perfect temperature (don’t want the boys to overheat) and, most importantly, no gale force wind – albeit it was a bit gusty.
Our starting team was pretty much the one that finished the game last week, although the pack had been reshuffled, partly due to Thor’s injury, with Momo returning and Ruaridh Stewart being introduced. Out wide Adam Greig returned after injury to shore up the defence and launch attacks from the full back berth – which he certainly did!
With the wind behind them, Stew Mel kicked off deep into Lasswade’s 22, and, although the ball was not well fielded, Lasswade managed to retain possession and clear their lines for the first lineout of the afternoon. These would prove to be tricky as the game progressed due to the wind, which was also playing havoc with the handling. Within the first 10 minutes there were at least three scrums, and, although Stew Mel looked stronger, they were penalised twice in succession at the set piece.
We struggled to get our hands on the ball in the early stages, much like the Glasgow Accies game, although, after a solid scrum and quick hands from Fraser, Jack Calder hoofed the ball up the park; aided by the wind, it trickled nicely into touch roughly 10 metres from Lasswade’s try line. A good lineout gave Lasswade a platform but another mistake allowed Stew Mel the opportunity to attack first left and then right, although both attacks were stopped short in the corner by some good defending.
The next period saw Stew Mel winning a number of penalties, driving well in the scrum, before Adam Greig came close to scoring after another of his many powerful runs. The penalty count then swung in Lasswade’s favour, preventing us from kicking on. A Lasswade clearance kick then failed to find touch, allowing us to launch another attack that ended with a penalty and a yellow card for the home number 14 – cue dissenting voices from the home supporters on the banking!
With around 20 minutes played, it could only be described as a strange game. There were numerous penalties but both teams were, at least, trying to play rugby – although that rugby could best be described as scrappy and gritty, with mistakes creeping in. It wasn’t, however, long before the deadlock was broken. Adam sprinted through on the left, threw a nice dummy to Jack Somerville, cut inside and scored under the posts. Happy’s successful conversion made it Lasswade 0 Stew Mel 7 with 25 minutes played.
It wasn’t long before Stew Mel got their second after some good forward play, quick ball and hands to the right allowing Sean Murchie to stretch over in the clubhouse corner. The conversion from that angle was always going to be difficult. Our 12 nil lead was, however, short lived, as, following the restart, and after fielding the ball deep in home territory, the Lasswade full back took off and zigzagged his way almost the entire length of the pitch to score in the opposite corner on the stand side. Cue massive appreciation from the home support and the shaking of heads from the Stew Mel contingent as they questioned the poor defence – although, to give credit to the Lasswade player, there was a pretty nifty sidestep on display! 35 minutes played: Lasswade 5 Stew Mel 12.
At this stage Lasswade’s heads were certainly up, and, after a number of strong phases (particularly from their robust pack) they managed to cross the line once more, the try being unconverted. Lasswade 10 Stew Mel 12.
As the first half petered out there was equal amounts of possession from both sides but no change to the score.
With the wind in Stew Mel’s faces in the second half, it was really down to how we were going to deal with this. Lasswade, on the other hand, were intent on keeping the ball in hand for significant periods, making progress which ultimately lead to a penalty within kickable distance. This made the score Lasswade 13 Stew Mel 12 with 50 minutes played.
Stew Mel had started the second half very aggressively, with the entire bench coming on, and the fresh legs certainly made a difference. Adam continued his aggressive running, Ruaridh Mitchell charged down the centre of the field and Doug Randall made the hard yards, all creating a good platform for the new half backs, Charlie Simmonds and Freddie Roddick, to get quick ball out to the left. Jack Somerville managed to find a way through and touched down in the corner. Lasswade 13 Stew Mel 17 with around 60 minutes on the clock.
It was going to be a tough final 20, and, with the number of penalties increasing and further yellow cards to each team, it was one of those games that, at this stage, would have been impossible to call. Lasswade probably enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession in the last 10 minutes and attacked the Stew Mel line relentlessly, twice being held up. Our defence has to be commended at this stage of the game, and, as Lasswade emptied their tanks in a last desperate assault, Stew Mel took the opportunity to grab possession by the throat (metaphorically, of course) and launched the ball into touch. Game over – final score Lasswade 13 Stew Mel 17.
It was, indeed, a tough day at the office. Stew Mel were, in my opinion, the better side – yes, I would say that – particularly in terms of ball skills and strategy, although Lasswade made it an extremely difficult afternoon and the result could have gone either way. At times it resembled a heavyweight boxing contest where both sets of forwards slugged it out, giving a lot and losing a lot in equal measure.
But a win is a win. Stew Mel have to realise that, having been relegated last season, the teams in this league will see us as the ones to beat – the prestigious Edinburgh city club. This is, however, something that I think is working in our favour, as our players are showing what they can do, and there were, again, some very satisfying passages of play. Our forwards are extremely mobile and they all played their part effectively in the set piece, at the lineout and around the park. Ruaridh Stewart, making a welcome return to the squad and in at number 8, lead the attack on many occasions.
The fact that the back three were the three try scorers tells its own story and the half backs did as much as they could, utilising quick ball, while Happy and Jamie continued to punch holes in the Lasswade defence. The smiles and convivial banter after the game was good to see, although I think it would be fair to say that this was more out of relief than celebration.
Well done, lads. A big game looms on Saturday against Preston Lodge. Home advantage – make it work.
Match photo c/o Libby Blakeman / OGBlakeman Photos