Southern Knights 19
Boroughmuir Bears 33
ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
IN what was as dead a rubber as you could possibly find, Southern Knights and Boroughmuir Bears fought out an end-of-term battle knowing that the result would not affect their respective sixth and fifth places in the Super Series Sprint.
If this game failed to sneak into the uplifting category, then fans of these two teams will barely warm to the prospect of watching next Saturday’s play-off game to determine the bottom two positions.
In many ways Southern Knights will want to put this current Sprint Series behind them as quickly as possible. For this match, the Knights could muster a squad of only 22, which is why they were forced into borrowing a player from Heriot’s – centre Zak Smith – to bring them up to their full quota.
That is a dire situation for any team, but for one that started the campaign less strong than in previous seasons it is difficult to handle. Even so, Knights competed well in the first 40 minutes, going into the interval just two points adrift of the Bears, only to fall apart in the second half with killer errors, as assistant coach Scott Wight acknowledged.
He said: “When you’re playing on the front foot and get turned over it’s dismaying and when the ball goes wide and it’s kicked away that’s not good. Some of the decisions were questionable. We’ve got a team who train well on a Tuesday and Thursday but in a match we just can’t get a performance on the pitch.
“The pack gave us enough go-forward ball to cause damage but then in the second half when we had try-scoring opportunities our line-out falls to pieces. It’s hard and I hate to say it but losing becomes a habit. Until we can find that first win it becomes harder and harder.”
In contrast Boroughmuir Bears committed less foot-shooting and over the piece looked the more competent side, albeit they, too, were guilty of kicking away far too much possession. Overall the performance, however, was one that didn’t displease head coach Graham Shiel.
“You’ve got two teams in fifth and sixth position both fighting for survival,” he suggested. “There was some good stuff out there but it was a tousy affair. Overall I thought we controlled possession better, we controlled parts of the pitch at key times and we took our points when they were afforded us. We did give away some soft scores but that’s part of why where we are.”
Boroughmuir Bears showed their intent in the first five minutes with a try from a driving maul finished off by hooker Arthur Allen, Tom Quinlan’s conversion making it a seven-point score.
Knights quickly countered with a spell of pressure close to the Bears’ line and when the point of attack changed, stand-off Callum Grieve sent out a long cut-out pass to Finn Douglas for the pacy wing to score in the corner.
The home side had barely time to catch breath than Boroughmuir increased their lead with a solo try from Brodie Young, the scrum-half racing through a defensive gap before racing round the last line of defence. Again Quinlan added the extras to put Bears ahead 14-5.
Once more Southern Knights were able to hit back, this time with a penalty try after their attempted driving maul was taken down, resulting in a yellow card for Allen.
Knights were able to make their extra man count and again it was from good mauling work and close-range drives that opened up space for scrum-half Callum Davidson to nip over for a try, Grieve’s conversion putting Knights into a 19-14 lead.
Then with the interval approaching Allen celebrated his release from the sin-bin with a second try, successfully converted by Quinlan to give the visitors a half-time advantage with at the score at 19-21.
If the first half had suggested a close game then that notion was soon scotched in the second half as Boroughmuir Bears applied accuracy to their endeavours, the first fruit of which was a fine try by in-form Mason Cullen from a long pass by Quinlan, who then further stamped his name on the score with the touchline conversion.
Then, with the game moving into fag-end territory, replacement Callum Ramm supplied much-needed second-half sparkle with a clever run close to the touchline for the final score of a match that will surely not go down as a Greenyards classic.
Southern Knights: O Melville; A Cross, Z Smith, A Hall, F Douglas; C Grieve, C Davidson; J Dobie, R Anderson ©, D Gamble, J Campbell, W Hopes, G Young, A Ferrie, R Brown. Substitutes: F Barry, C Greer, E Harrison, E Demirel, C Thompson, R Brand, K Clark, S Derrick.
Boroughmuir Bears: A Scott; M Cullen, A Thom, S Robeson, J Jenkins; T Quinlan, B Young; L Alessandri, A Allen, M Goodwin, J King, J Fisher, L McConnell, S McGinley, K Westlake. Substitutes: J Blyth Lafferty, I Carmichael, M McGinley, S Whittaker, T Andrews, R Swan, G Paul, C Ramm.
Referee: Michael Todd.
Southern Knights: Tries: Douglas, Davidson, Pen try; Con: Grieve.
Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: Allen 2, Young, Cullen, Ramm; Cons: Quinlan 4.
Scoring sequence (Southern Knights first): 0-5, 0-7, 5-7, 5-12, 5-14, 12-14, 17-14, 19-14, 19-19, 19-21 (h-t), 19-26, 19-28, 19-33.
Yellow cards –
Boroughmuir Bears: Allen, Andrews
Man-of-the-Match: Behind a forward pack that became more dominant as the game played out, Boroughmuir’s stand-off Tom Quinlan played a crucial role in guiding his side to victory with confident passing and crucially accurate goal-kicking.
Talking point: Southern Knights will be hoping that they have enough bodies to form a viable squad for next Saturday’s 5th/6th play-off at Meggetland. Clearly they are playing at sub-optimal performance level, notably through the absence of first-choice centres. As for Boroughmuir Bears, they are playing with more confidence now following a good showing against Watsonians last weekend, but they too will want to end the Sprint season with a performance that can inspire both players and supporters ahead of the Super Series Championship in August.