Stewart’s Melville RFC 24 – 22 Howe of Fife
‘Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London, is all that life can afford’
Substitute Inverleith for London in Dr Johnson’s famous quote and you, dear reader, get the picture. The new strips, glistening, caught in the late August sun, Willie Purdie’s freshly manicured playing surface, the castle creating the backdrop, the anticipation of the new season. Summer suns are glowing.
The pre- season chatter had been about our new post of Business Development Manager and the launch of our Rugby Academy, about who had left us and who had joined, pre- season friendlies but now the talking had to stop and attention switched to Pitch1. The last couple of seasons had brought us reasonable success with a second and third spot in National 1- could we maintain that or could we, perhaps, kick on?
A good pack and good half-backs take you a long way in this division, so the good news is – the potential is there. The result could easily have gone against us but we showed a lot of commitment in defence and – on limited rations – continuity in attack to overhaul a twelve point second half deficit and eventually prevail.
The game started with Stewart’s Melville kicking towards the Forth with a healthy breeze at our backs. The dreaded L word was once again a source of frustration as we struggled to win ball. The unfortunate shoulder injury to Howe’s McBain, meaning his withdrawal from the action, should have played into our hands but the Howe line- out overcame this setback. When Willie Wardlaw jinked through it was no more than Howe deserved. McCashin replied and it looked that we might go into the break with only a 2 point deficit but Steedman stretched Howe’s lead. Martin was successful with this conversion, having missed the previous conversion and a couple of penalties. Half –time, then, Stew/Mel 3 Howe of Fife 12.
The second half was better, you sensed that Stewart’s Melville had to score first or heads would go down and sure enough the inspiration came from who else – McCashin – who made no more than a half break but found Angus Rennie on his inside shoulder to run in unopposed. You can understand the thinking behind playing Nick at centre because McCann, Rennie and Greig are all willing and gifted runners and the role of playmaker suits Nick at this stage in his career. If he plays at centre, however, we miss him at stand-off.
McCann, on this showing, was the pick of the newbies, obviously he is fast and as he develops he will realise that it is the change of pace that deceives the cover not necessarily raw pace. We have witnessed Matt Morrell and Liam Steele in recent years attempt to illustrate that – and the wide open spaces of Inverleith will give him bags of opportunity – let’s give him pill!
Both Ross and Ali Greig have to look to link with the full back as often as possible for us to unlock their potential. Ali, carried a lot of expectation on his shoulders – he should flourish – they, Ross and Ali, are serious prospects.
Back to the action, then, and Martin eased Howe further ahead with a penalty, then converted the impressive Lathangie’s try to stretch the advantage to twelve points. Suddenly, things started to go right for Stewart’s Melville- Rhys started finding Fraser Christie with the accuracy of Jocky Wilson at the oche, our continuity play and off loads were good. We started putting pace on the ball. Jamie Berresford , on ‘dayboo’ waltzed home, shortly followed by the uncompromising Neil Bowie. McCashin converted both to give us a two point advantage with five minutes left on the clock. The remaining time was played out without alarm – the fact that a bonus point was on offer seemed to be overlooked – so grateful were we with our turn round in fortune.
Peebles then next week, less space so we must look to the likes of Willie Aitken, Rhys Morgan, Adam Howie and Fraser Morrison to put in a performance that they are capable of and give our young backs the platform to bring home the bacon. Our away trips to The Borders last year were successful but it requires character in abundance to keep that going.
It’s impossible not to get a wee bit excited at the prospect of Scotland doing well at the RWC – they could qualify as group winners and then who knows? Vern played down the fact that some of the tries were intercepts but the Glasgow back division regularly hunts for them. The backs are full of winners add in the Grays, Denton et al and you never know!