COLIN RENTON @ Malleny Park
CURRIE CHIEFTAINS offered another glimpse of the ruthless streak that was in evidence in their opening day win at Hawick when they chalked up this impressive six try victory over Watsonians. The dominant feature of the Chieftains side was the pace with which they executed their flowing style. Watsonians had the better of the forward battle and fought gamely, but they were powerless against a home backline bristling with pace.
These are early days for the new Watsonians coaching set up, and Steve Lawrie admits that there is still a long way to go before he has his men playing the type of rugby he wants to produce. However, despite the result, there were aspects of the performance that he found pleasing.
“We were beaten by a lot more abrasive collective effort,” said Lawrie. “We did some really fantastic things but we need to do it more and it’s going to take time. We need to look at certain areas of our game. We are going to have to work hard – that’s a 55 and a 45, so obviously defence is an issue.”
Chieftains coach Ben Cairns is a great student of the game and he has his men playing with impressive pace and flair as he attempts to move the side on to a higher level this season. The raw speed behind the scrum is impressive, and Cairns has his team playing at a rate of knots that few opponents will be able to match.
“I am pretty happy,” he said. “A big part of the way we need to play is with real tempo – we managed that at times. I feel that if we get that tempo, spaces start to open up and our backline will just cut teams open. We managed that well and I was pleased with the way we coped with their physicality. That is an area we need to work on certainly but I still thought we coped with their physicality pretty well, which then allowed us to play with a bit more width.”
Bolstered by the inclusion of three professionals, the visitors were desperate to bounce back from a first day drubbing at Melrose and made their intentions clear from the outset.
After the early match aerial to and fro, Chieftains had the first scoring opportunity with a penalty inside the opposition half. However, rather than go for the posts, Jamie Forbes kicked into touch and from the ensuing lineout Stephen Ainslie smuggled the ball out to Mike Vernel who fed Charlie Shiel. The scrum-half was halted just short but offloaded to Ben Robbins who dotted down. Forbes stroked over the conversion.
Watsonians reacted positively and Michael Allen made a powerful surge into Currie territory. The ball was worked wide to DJ Innes, who squeezed in at the corner. Andrew Chalmers banged over the conversion to restore parity.
The hosts retook the lead in 25 minutes when centre Robbie Nelson – revelling in the role of captain – made a searing break. Thomas Gordon was in support but he was hauled down in sight of the line and the play was switched from left to right where Forbes sent out a looping pass to Glen Faulds and the youngster marked his first start for the club with a composed finish. Forbes was again on target with the conversion.
However, by half time, Watsonians were back in the match after Jamie Hodgson gathered at a close-range lineout and Michael Fedo crashed over.
Chalmers was slightly awry with the conversion attempt, but he made no mistake with his next effort, a long-range penalty early in the second half.
With the gap at six points, Chieftains stepped up a gear and secured the four try bonus when Thomas Gordon gathered a deflected lineout and powered over. Forbes again added the conversion,
However, the visitors were not yet ready to concede defeat and a period in the ascendancy ended with the home defence stretched to breaking point and Allen going in at the corner. Chalmers booted the conversion from wide on the left.
Forbes responded for the hosts with a well struck penalty that left Watsonians nine points adrift, and that remained the situation until ten minutes to play when Chieftains finally shook off their determined opponents with try number five.
Harvey Elms pounced on a loose ball and hacked clear then won the race for the line, narrowly pipping his team mate, Robbins. Forbes slotted the kick then took his personal haul to 15 points when he did so again after Robbins sprinted through the tiring opposition defence to complete the victory.
Currie Chieftains: G Faulds; B Robbins, H Elms, R Nelson©, C Gray; J Forbes, C Shiel; J Cox, G Carson, A McWilliam, V Wright, M Vernel, S Ainslie, T Gordon, R Davies. Subs: C MacKintosh, K Burney, H Bain, S McGinley, G Lowe.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; M Bertram, M Allen, D Innes, G Bryce; R Hutton, W Thomson; N Borel, N Cochrane, K Whyte, J Hodgson, C Borthwick©, M Fedo, A Duckett, E Dods. Subs: S Crombie, F Hobbis, A O’Neill, E McKirdy, J Farndale.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Robbins 2, Faulds, Davies, Gordon, Elms; Cons: Forbes 6; Pen: Forbes
Watsonians: Tries: Innes, Fedo, Allen; Cons: Chalmers 2; Pen: Chalmers.
Scoring sequence: (Chieftains first) 5-0, 7-0, 7-5, 7-7, 12-7,14-7, 19-7, 21-7, 21-12 (h-t) 21-15, 26-15, 28-15, 28-20, 28-22, 31-22, 36-22, 38-22, 43-22, 45-22
Referee: C Jadezweni (SARU)
Man-of-the Match: Clearly enjoying the additional responsibilities of captaincy, Chieftains centre Robbie Nelson was outstanding with his straight and powerful running a constant thorn in the opposition side.
Talking Point: Chieftains coach Ben Cairns has set his sights higher than simply securing a play-off spot, and there is a quality to his squad that suggests his ambitions are well-founded.