Match Report vs Peebles RFC | 13th October 2018

Match Report vs Peebles RFC | 13th October 2018

The last time Peebles rolled into Inverleith was Saturday 10th February 2018, as we had been drawn against them in the BT National League Cup quarter final. As before, and as on Saturday, they arrived with a reasonable number of travelling supporters. Although Stew Mel progressed to the semi-final on that occasion with a 29-13 victory, our Cup run was then halted by Kelso.

The Cup encounter with Peebles was a very competitive game, particularly in the first half; this was reflected in the half time score of Stew Mel 5 Peebles 6. As I reported at the time, it was a game of two halves and Stew Mel eventually started to pull away, undoubtedly the stronger side in the end.

That was then, this is now! If the weather on Saturday was anything to go by, it looks like we’ve seen the end of ‘summer’ rugby as we now enter the challenging period of ‘winter’ rugby. It is always interesting to see how teams adapt to more inclement weather.

With a few slight changes to the side from a week ago – Dave Hampton returning at 15, minor shuffling of the pack, Freddie Roddick back in his more familiar position at stand off and with the usual strong ‘champing at the bit’ bench – the scene was set! Rain falling down, Muddy waters and the Prodigal Sun nowhere to be seen – but a fine looking pitch, despite that.

Peebles kicked off with Stew Mel playing towards the partially visible Castle, the ball being ably taken by Willie Malcolm who was omnipresent throughout. After a bit of climatic adaptation, with the ball obviously ‘soap like’, the end result was the first scrum of the afternoon around the halfway line, Stew Mel’s put in. A quick pass from Fraser Strachan went to his first receiver Freddie, who then found touch 10m out. Stew Mel won the lineout, and, after some good interplay between forwards and backs across the pitch, the try wasn’t long in coming. Alex Wainwright crashed over with Seb adding the extras. Around 10 minutes in, Stew Mel 7 Peebles 0.

An identical restart again saw Willie plucking the ball out of the dreich sky, securing possession and giving us the opportunity to kick down field. Peebles then came back with what became a well used tactic for most of the afternoon, kicking to the corner, however the lineout was well executed and, again, Stew Mel cleared their lines. Peebles were exerting some pressure at this stage, although Stew Mel were dealing with everything that came their way with a degree of composure, and, following some aggressive forward play by Chris Baikie and Ruaridh Mitchell, with Freddie involved once more, a penalty was awarded in front of the posts 20m out. Seb bagged the 3 points. 20 minutes played, Stew Mel 10 Peebles 0.

Another restart and this time it was Ruaridh Stewart who took the initiative upfield and put Peebles under more pressure within their own 22. Despite a solid scrum 5m out, Stew Mel were penalised (I think for an early/eager engagement), allowing Peebles to work their way back down to their familiar position, stand side corner. Still they couldn’t find a way through the robust Stew Mel defence, and, with nearly 30 minutes having been played, of which a significant period had been scrappy, a wayward kick by Peebles resulted in two of their players colliding and one coming off worse. The game was stopped as the stretcher came on, something none of us like to see, but it is to be hoped that this was only as a precaution and that their player has made a full recovery. The first half came to a premature end as both teams tried to keep warm and regrouped for the second half.

Stew Mel kicked off towards Ferry Road, and, as more pressure was applied, the consequential mistakes crept in, giving them the upper hand. Ruaridh Stewart combined well down the stand side flank with Jack Somerville, who was stopped short, however Stew Mel were gaining the majority of possession – only to lose it in a lineout on the Peebles 22. The throw in, from where I was sitting, was as crooked as a ram’s horn – but, again, Stew Mel managed to turn the tables, allowing Adam Greig to head off on one of his brazen runs, taking a significant number of the Peebles players with him.

50 minutes in and on came the subs, eager, as ever, to contribute. Further scrums ensued, and, to their credit, Peebles did start making progress within Stew Mel’s 22 as penalties came their way. One passage of play around this time led to Ruaridh Stewart leaving the field, destination – regrettably- hospital; I hope he will make a speedy recovery. Again Peebles pressed, and, after several scrums 5m out, whilst they could not get over the line, the referee made the call to award a penalty try. 65 minutes played, Stew Mel 10 Peebles 7.

The last 15 minutes was all Stew Mel and the response came pretty quickly as Freddie slid over the line after a dive that would have impressed Neymar. Stew Mel 17 Peebles 7. The visitors were then put under the cosh within their own 22, from where they could not escape (not for the want of trying), and it was only a matter of time before Stew Mel crossed the line again, this time Struan Allan picking up and bossing his way over. 75 minutes played, Stew Mel 22 Peebles 7.

The last five minutes were pretty much as before, and, although Stew Mel were close to getting that fourth try, Peebles put up a brave defence to prevent it coming.

Not the most pretty of games, probably best described as ‘gritty’, and, coincidentally, with a similar margin of victory to the previous encounter – but a win is a win. It is always difficult in any game where a significant stoppage occurs, but both teams must be commended for getting back to the task as the game resumed. As always, it is the welfare of the player that is paramount.

Another successful outcome for Stew Mel, and, despite the conditions, which were not conducive to open, running, ‘champagne’ rugby, they executed the game plan well for the most part, although some complacency crept in. This was probably due to what seemed like a relatively easy start and a try coming so early on. Mistakes, particularly knock ons and hands not quite connecting, were an inevitability, but our players coped well and there were, again, passages of superb play with that quick tempo again being showcased.

It wasn’t fully 10 man rugby but the back row of Willie Malcolm, Alex Wainwright and Ruaridh Stewart were in their element. What a difference that makes, particularly in these conditions. Freddie was the forwards’ link in many phases of play and he trumped his afternoon with a superb try. Fraser again did what he does best and the threequarters all contributed as well as they could in the conditions – although, on Saturday, they were perhaps eclipsed by the forwards this time (marginally!) That is where Peebles’s strength lay and Stew Mel had a battle to contend with up front – a battle which they ultimately won.

Two hard games on the road (or rail) coming up in the deep south of Dumfries and the far flung reaches of the Highlands. Keep the momentum going – you never know what is coming down the track!

Kevin Murchie

Match photo c/o Fred Palmer / 39 Design Photography

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