Inter-District Championship: Glasgow & The West pip Caledonia Reds at the post

Late Robbie Baird try seals home win over defending title-holders

Glasgow & The West kicked off their Inter-District Championship campaign with a home win over last year's champions, Caledonia Reds. Image: Bryan Robertson
Glasgow & The West kicked off their Inter-District Championship campaign with a home win over last year's champions, Caledonia Reds. Image: Bryan Robertson

Glasgow & The West 26

Caledonia Reds 22

LEWIS STUART @ Braidholm

GLASGOW & THE WEST got their Inter-District Championship campaign off to a winning start but in a see-saw match both sides had chances to take the points and it took a late try from replacement scrum-half Robbie Baird to pull them clear.

For all that, it was really their defence that won the match for Glasgow as the Reds pummelled their line for long periods but were consistently driven back in a demonstration of physical resistance that the visitors found hard to break down.

The big winner, however, had to be the concept of district representative rugby as a complement to the club game and a stepping-stone for players. Both sides were ferocious and the result was in doubt right up to the final whistle with Reds still hunting the try that would have earned them victory. In terms of quality, it was arguably more about intensity and passion than pure skill – though there was plenty of that – but for sheer excitement it had everything with Glasgow opening an early lead, losing it and then regaining it at the death.


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“Very pleased – we left a few scores out there but we got there in the end,”was the assessment of Kenny Diffenthal, the Glasgow coach. “I’m particularly pleased with the defence. That is something where I thought we were lacking last season so I brought Jamie McCarthy on board this season to look after that and he has done a great job in a short space of time.

“The winning try was more how we want to play. They were good on defence but that is how we aim to play, and hopefully we have a few more of those in the bag.”

It was a case of mixed emotions for Colin Sangster, the Caledonia coach. Although frustrated at bossing so much of the game but still coming away with a defeat, he had nothing but praise for the work his players put in. Ultimately, he admitted the accuracy was not where it needed to be.

He has had a particularly tough job. With 12 clubs from all over Scotland represented in the match-day squad, opportunities to train have been few and far between.

“I’m not making that an excuse though, we still had chances to win it,” he said. “It was a bit of a slow start when our play was very predictable and one dimensional. But then we came out after half-time and a scored couple of tries and looked as if we were going to take it.

“We had more opportunities to score, we left maybe three or four clear opportunities out there, but, overall, I’m very proud of the effort of the guys. They’re from all over the region and playing in all different leagues from Caledonian One to Premiership. There are a lot of things I can be happy about, but also things that we need to work on for the next game.”

Which was really what it was all about. This was the first game of the season for both teams pulled together from a number of clubs and so it was always going to take a while to settle.

Predictably, drawn from only five clubs in a smaller region, Glasgow were first to show their colours, withstanding some early pressure and breaking out thanks to some smart play by Colin Sturgeon at fly-half with Conor Bickerstaff in support. The ball was recycled in the Reds’ 22 and a series of penalties ended with wing Tom Lanni in the clear only for his opposite number Ryan Flett to get a hand in the way and be sin binned for a deliberate knock on.

Down to 14 men, the visitors task was even tougher as Glasgow took the penalty quickly and Grant Baird, the scrum=half, found half an inch of space round the side of the resulting ruck to nip in for the opening try.

The numbers were soon levelled out when Mark McCornick, the flanker, was shown a yellow card for an off-the-ball obstruction, but that didn’t slow the home side with Scott Bickerstaff both launching and finishing the next score.

It was his break from 22 to 22 that shattered the visitors’ defence and after the ball was recycled a couple of times by the supporting forwards, he was back in his usual role near the touchline to take the final pass and cross with Sturgeon adding the extras.

The Reds had an ambitious offloading style and as the half wore on, more passes started to stick. They made it pay when Alistair Johnstone, the No8, found space on a charge close to the left with full-back Adriu Muritoke there in support and slipping the ball to wing Magnus Henry in space. The Highland player still had a bit of work to do to get to the line but made it despite the attention of two defenders.

 

 

That was how the score stayed to the break, though the Reds did spend most of that time camped on the home line but unable to find the killer touch against some ferocious and committed defence with McCorinck and fellow flanker Rohan Pottie leading the way.

Reds obviously used the break to sort a few things out and came out firing though there was an element of luck about the try that levelled things. They had made ground up the right through centre Max Wallace but when they tried to whisk the ball across the field, the pass went astray. Henry, however, was first to the ball and, with the defence all over the place, raced away to score with Callum Beckett‘s conversion levelling the scores.

The Reds pack was beginning to get on top, however, and a 20 metre rolling maul took them to the home line with flanker Calum MacPherson at the back to score the go-ahead try.

Anything they could do, Glasgow could match, though, and given their own chance at a rolling maul, the hosts showed their power with replacement prop Alex Apthorpe the man in possession when they eventually got there, levelling the scores afgain with Andrew Goudie‘s conversion.

The Reds stole a slight advantage when Beckett landed a penalty after Glasgow were caught offside but Glasgow had the final word with a superb try set up by Lanni hitting the line at an acute angle to cut through cleanly and then find Baird on his shoulder to take the scoring pass.

Reds still had their chances, spending most of the final 10 minutes in the home 22, but the Glasgow defence was up to everything thrown at them and the scoreline remained unchanged.

 

Teams – 

Glasgow & The West: J Couper (T MacLeod 64); S Bickerstaff, C Bickerstaff, M MacFarlane, T Lanni; C Sturgeon (A Goudie 49), G Baird (R Baird 51); A Rogers (M Fox 70), R Howie (T Martin 53), M Goodwin (A Apthrope 50), D Andrew, S Leckey (R Airlie 51), R Pottie  L McCutcheon  63), M McCornick,, B Jardine.

Caledonia Reds: A Muritoki; R Flett, M Wallace, M Mitchell, M Henry; C Beckett (G Faulds 65), H Russell ( J Imrie  59); S Murray (G Brough 46), F Allan (S Rendall 47), S Cessford (L Skinner  59, F Allan 78), C McFarlane (S Robertson 63), M Keough, C Macpherson, S Cardosi (G Gregor 67), A Johnstone.

Referee: S O’Neil

 

Scorers – 

Glasgow & The West: Tries: G Baird, S Bickerstaff, Apthorpe, R Baird; Con: Sturgeon, Goudie 2.

Caledonian Reds: Tries: Henry 2, McPherson; Cons: Beckett 2; Pen: Beckett.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow& The West first): 5-0; 10-0; 12-0; 12-5 (h-t) 12-12, 12-12; 17-12; 19-12; 19-17; 19-19; 24-22; 19-22; 26-22.

 

Yellow cards –

Glasgow & The West: McCornick (18 mins)

Caledonian Reds: Flett (16 mins)

 

Player-of-the-Match: Struan Cessford got the official award and Magnus Henry claimed a brace of tries but the result hinged on the ferocity of the home defence with Mark McCornick shrugging off his yellow card to claim our award for his tenacity over the ball and hard running with it.

Talking point: Anyone needing to make a case for district rugby simply has to find the video of this game. There was plenty of support in the ground, plenty of excitement on the pitch and a result that was always in doubt. Give the teams a bit more time to train as units and it could be a real advert for the game.


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About Lewis Stuart 67 Articles
Lewis has been writing about rugby for almost 40 years, the last 18 as a freelance based in Scotland bringing his wealth fo experience to just about every publication in the country. These days you can hear him as well by tuning in to his Wednesday night show on Rocksport Radio.

4 Comments

  1. Interesting it was such a tight match. That was close to a G&W Premiership select against predominantly National League players, and there was absolutely nothing in it. Backs up my thinking that there are plenty of players in the National Leagues that could be playing Prem if they wanted to.

    Also backs up my belief that the G&W squad has too many Marr/Hawks players in it and wouldn’t have been weakened if they’d mixed it up a bit by selecting far more National League players.

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    • Might also be a reflection on the standard that premier league rugby dropped to when the big guns departed for the Super 6. Think a few current prem sides gifted a place at the top are in fit a dose of reality next season.

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  2. Lewis you are sorely mistaken if you think a three game series is a “stepping stone” for players. Keith Wallace has pulled up the drawbridge between player development and the Scottish club game. We clubs are all now mini-Haddington’s.

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  3. Well played Glasgow was a pleasant surprise to see less than 15 Marr players start the game. The back row was immense Tom Lanni lethal in attack and defence, big Leckie decent. Next week would like to see Goudie start offers more than Sturgeon and seems to be a calmer influence. Opposed to all this arm waving, greeting and look at me. Nae wonder Marr are no liked. Bench had a good impact too, more to come from the wider squad.

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