COLIN RENTON @ Myreside
SOME may claim that this wasn’t Scotland’s biggest sporting derby of the day. But, in terms of intensity and skill, the showdown between the teams from either side of Edinburgh’s Colinton Road, would surely take some beating.
The key difference between this encounter and the hostilities in the West was in the final outcome when the unbeaten top flight newcomers extended their run of successes to three matches after holding off a rousing finish by the visitors.
Watsonians owed their win to a tremendous performance by a solid pack that gave Boroughmuir’s young eight a stern examination. However, the visitors were bristling with pace and adventure and some of the handling they produced was of the highest order.
The visitors opened the scoring in six minutes when skipper Chris Laidlaw latched onto a loose ‘Sonians pass and booted clear. ‘Muir winger Grant McConnell showed his pace to win the race and pick up before plunging over in the corner. Laidlaw was on target with the conversion from the touchline.
And the ‘Muir stand-off added three more points with a penalty as the hosts struggled to cope with the energy of their near neighbours.
‘Sonians had the edge up front with Tongan international Viliami Fihaki, on release from Edinburgh Rugby, adding his considerable power to an already solid unit.
And it was the pack that proved to be the source of the home side’s opening points of the afternoon. A drive from a scrum five metres from the opposition line was twice thwarted illegally. There could have been few complaints if the referee had awarded a penalty try. Instead, it was a third scrum and this time the shunt ended with Euan Dods bagging the try. Andrew Chalmers added the extras.
The hosts may have been dominant up front, but they were finding it tough to cope with the speed of ‘Muir’s ball transfer.
By the interval, the visitors had extended their lead to six points after Laidlaw’s trusty boot was again on target with a penalty attempt.
Within four minutes of the restart the lead had changed hands. The host stretched the ‘Muir defence with attacks down the right then the left and that created an overlap that left Mark Bertram – a half time substitute – with a clear run to the line. Chalmers added the extra points to fire ‘Sonians in front.
The pressure was unrelenting and Matthew Tweddle was shown yellow after the referee lost patience and, within a minute the gap had grown to six points when slick passing allowed DJ Innes to dot down.
Things got worse for the visitors when Ross Dunbar was also despatched to the sin bin for ten minutes.
Edinburgh pro Sean Kennedy had looked lively after coming on at half time and he appeared to have clinched the victory when he dived over the bonus point try and left Chalmers a conversion that extended the lead to 13 points with 20 minutes to play.
‘Muir had other thoughts and, despite having been hemmed into their own half for 20 minutes, they came out fighting. Ross Dunbar forced his way over and Laidlaw converted. And suddenly the ‘Sonians lead was starting to look precarious.
Ronan Kerr was held up over the line and the intense pressure was taking its toll on the hosts who had Darren Miller sin-binned.
Then in the play of the game the ball was whipped along the line to Dougie Steele who darted in at the corner leaving Laidlaw a testing kick from the touchline to snatch the victory. He struck the ball wall well but watched in anguish as it hit the far post.
“We rode our luck at the end”, said a relieved ‘Sonians coach Marcus Di Rollo. “It’s good to win the close ones. Three wins from three so we can’t complain.”
And while it was a disappointing outcome for Di Rollo’s counterpart Peter Wright, there was great satisfaction in the type of rugby his men had played.
“I thought when we had ball and we got the tempo of the game up they struggled”, he said. “Obviously when they had the ball and played their game plane we struggled. We just have to keep working hard at the breakdown and the scrum to try and make it better”.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; R Steele, S McLeod, D Innes, K Young; E Scott, R Cullen; M Christie©, S Crombie, S Ruwer, F Morrison, C Borthwick, V Fihaki, A Duckett, E Dods. Subs: D Miller, N Borel, K Beattie, S Kennedy, M Bertram.
Boroughmuir: D Steele; G McConnell, R Kerr, M Hare, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw©, S Johnson; D Robertson, T King, D Winning, J Ure, J Scott, C Keddie, D Hearn, M Tweddle. Subs: J Bett, R Dunbar, A Mncube, M Walker, R Cairns.
Watsonians: Tries: Dods, Bertram, Innes, Kennedy Cons: Chalmers (3)
Boroughmuir: Tries: McConnell, Dunbar, Steels Cons: Laidlaw (2), Pens: Laidlaw (2)
Referee: Graeme Ormiston
Man-of-the-Match: Euan Dods who scored one of the four Watsonian tries and was a constant thorn in the flesh for the Boroughmuir defence.
Talking point: For supporters in the Edinburgh area, club rugby currently offers far more entertainment than the professional game?
Scoring sequence: (Watsonians first) 0-5, 0-7, 0-10, 5-10, 7-10, 7-13 (h-t) 12-13, 14-13, 19-13, 24-13 26-13, 26-18, 26-20, 26-25
Image courtesy: rugbypeople.net