BT Premiership: Mid-term report – Watsonians

Image courtesy: Graham Gaw

Head coach: Stevie Lawrie

Current league position: 7th

The story so far:

They might be seventh in the league and five points adrift of sixth placed Glasgow Hawks, but Watsonians gave notice that they have the potential to be a serious force during the second half of the season when they visited Millbrae and handed Ayr a dose of their own medicine in a 12-48 demolition two weeks ago.

They came up short against Melrose last Friday night, but opposing head coach Rob Chrystie has identified the Myreside men as having given his all-conquering outfit their toughest examination so far in this league campaign.

Outside centre Rory Hutton (who is experiencing a renaissance of his precocious youth since making the switch from Mansfield to Myreside during the summer) is one of a raft of Borderers providing the bedrock to the team’s progress after a shaky start, alongside fellow Hawick expat Ross Graham at hooker, former Gala number eight Euan Dods and captain Craig Borthwick.

With props Nick Fraser, Kyle Whyte and Finn Hobbis (when available) providing the scrum platform, Jamie Hodgson looking ever more assured in the second-row, and Rory Drummond adding serious ballast to the back-row since recovering from injury, the pack is beginning to look like a serious unit. Behind the scrum, Andrew Chalmers has been a rock at full-back, while Ewan Fox and Ali Harris look increasingly assured as the half-back pivots.


Image: © Craig Watson –

Coach’s comments –

Rate your season so far:

We have been inconsistent, which reflects where we are in the league. However, we have had a series of performances against Boroughmuir, Ayr and Melrose which suggests to me that we are moving in the right direction.

It has taken a bit of buying in to what we are trying to do. The young guys needed experience and the older guys had their own way of doing things, so it has been a bit of a feeling-out process for everyone.

What I do see is a group of guys who are motivated to succeed so we are going to keep working hard and really just look to iron out the inconsistencies.

Rate your coaching so far:

As in all walks of life, when you go into a new role there is a lot of learning on the job. I had a fantastic five years as an assistant coach at Heriot’s, and two years as head coach for Scotland Under-16s, so that’s a fair bit of experience; but this is a new challenge. Ultimately, the big thing is about how you manage your group, and making sure you feed back to them appropriately.

This is a completely different environment to what I have been in before so I need to tailor the way I go about my business accordingly. But I also have to make sure that I stay true to what I’m about as a coach and also what the other coaches are about, because we’ve got Neil Cochrane, who is bringing in a lot of experience from the pro game, and Richard Snedden, who has brought a lot of ideas in from a thriving Currie club.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I think the boys have as well. It’s easier when you win, of course; but we probably learn more from our defeats than we do from our victories.

Most important player:

We’ve got quite an interesting squad make-up. The young guys like Jamie Hodgson, James Miller, Finn Hobbis and Ewan Fox have done really well in terms of learning and developing, so all credit to them. But, also, a shout out to the older guys who have been around the block a bit, like Craig Borthwick, Euan Dods, Rory Drummond and Rory Hutton, because they are getting used to a new environment and different ways of doing things.

For me, the key is that both these groups have been willing to learn and adapt. So, I know it sounds wishy-washy, but I don’t have a set answer on who is our most important player.

Most improved player:

Jamie Hodgson played National One last year and has come in and taken on the responsibility of line-out caller, and his performances have improved week-on-week. He made a lot of mistakes in the early part of the season, but he’s learned a lot and is coming on to a game now.

He reminds me a lot of Lewis Carmichael when I had him in the Under-20s [at the 2015 Junior World Cup]. He’s an intelligent guy, really enjoys his work at the line-out, and as he’s physically developed he has just got better and better.

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Best performance by your team:

To play like we did against Ayr was huge. In all my years at Heriot’s, I can’t remember us going through there and doing that at Millbrae, so that was our most complete performance – but we know that it can’t be a one-off, we need to see that sort of edge more often.

On that day, our set-piece was pretty much 100 percent, and our contact stats were sound, at least statistically, so that’s a good lesson on how much easier it is for us to play the rugby we want to play if we get those key areas right.

The following week, Melrose had much better contacts than us, and their line-out was better than ours, so we just need to get that consistency.

Biggest disappointment:

Our ability to close out tight games.

Toughest opponents:

Melrose have been a class above.

Realistic aim for the second half of the season: 

We’ve got a big December coming up with Currie Chieftains, Stirling County and Marr – those games as are season definers because after Christmas it can get quite bitty – so it is important that we keep the kettle boiling.

If we do that then we are right in the play-off race. We’ve got the quality in the squad to get there. So, top four and a cup run would be ideal.

About David Barnes 3913 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.