Game of the Year –
ENGLAND v SCOTLAND
with 25.6 percent of the vote
Nominated by Rob Robertson
2nd place: Currie Chieftains v Hawick with 22.62 percent of the vote
3rd place: France v Scotland with 14.88 percent of the vote
That was the month that was: December 2021
Boroughmuir Academy appoint Alex Toolis as new Academy and Performance Manager
The Lazarus of Bethany Award for Comeback of the Year –
The judges said: “Jamie started 2021 down at Bath as emergency injury cover on a short-term deal, after 18 unhappy months with Edinburgh. He spoke last December about how being moved on by Glasgow in 2019, struggling for game minutes with Edinburgh and a demoralising battle to make an arbitrary weight target built up to the point where he walked out of training mid-session and was reduced to tears. With Rory Sutherland in the form of his life, Pierre Schoeman due to qualify for Scotland in the summer and Oli Kebble still seen primarily as a loose-head, it was not at all clear whether the former slaughterhouse worker from Alloa was going to have a future in Scottish rugby, at international or club level.
“However, he hung in there and is now back at Glasgow, playing in every game for the club he has been available for this season, and involved in three out of four Test matches this Autumn.”
Super6 Try of the Year –
The judges said: “Pace, power, running angles and handling combined to make this score from Stirling County’s Tom Roche our choice, ahead of several very strong candidates.”
Premiership Try of the Year –
The judges said: “Lots of contenders here, but Jed-Forest’s 60-yard effort against Aberdeen Grammar, created by Dom Buckley and finished off by Craig Cowan, edges it.”
Scotland Men Try of the Year –
DUHAN VAN DER MERWE v FRANCE
“For the visitors, however, any sort of win would mean an awful lot after so many years of disappointment in Paris, and they dug deep to produce a breathtaking 22-phase passage of play which eventually – in the fifth minute of injury-time – culminated in Adam Hastings firing a miss-pass out to Duhan van der Merwe on the left wing, who stepped inside and then crashed over to snatch a famous win, which was all the more remarkable because it was achieved after Finn Russell had been harshly sent off on 70 minutes after his forearm made contact with Brice Dulin’s throat.”
Edinburgh Try of the Year –
DARCY GRAHAM v SCARLETS
The judges said: “Quite simply Darcy Graham at his very best. A joy for older fans to watch, and an inspiration for younger ones.”
Glasgow Warriors Try of the Year –
RUFUS MCLEAN v DRAGONS
The judges said: “With this electrifying burst, Rufus McLean demonstrated to anyone who might still have been doubting it that he is the real deal.”
Scotland Women Try of the Year –
CHLOE ROLLIE v IRELAND
The judges said: “After a disastrous start to September’s RWC European Qualifier campaign, when they lost heavily to hosts Italy in their first match, Scotland Women bounced back to defeat Spain, which set up a must-win showdown against Ireland.
“With three minutes to go in that game, it looked like Scotland were going to be stuck at home watching the action on TV when the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand kicks-offs next Autumn, but the players had different ideas. They kept the ball and they kept their patience, building through an astonishing 18 error-free phases under extreme duress from a desperate Irish side, until space finally opened up for Chloe Rollie wide on the right, with the full-back showing the presence of mind to swing back towards the posts and set up a slightly easier conversion.
“It was great rugby, and Sarah Law was ice-cool as she added the conversion, which secured a spot for her team at the Final World Cup qualifying tournament in Dubai in February.”
A Big Shout Out To –
Borders Rugby TV
The judges said: “Thanks to Stuart Cameron for pulling together all the Try Of The Year videos. It is much appreciated by the TOL team.”
The Jeremy Beadle Award for Worst Home Movie –
The judges said: “Rassie thought his Springbok team were not given a fair crack at the whip in the first Test of this summer’s Lions tour, so he filmed an hour-long monologue in which he micro-analysed 26 video clips and over 30 incidents from the match to support his sense of grievance. He claimed that South African players including captain Siya Kolisi did not get the respect afforded to the Lions and their skipper Alun Wyn Jones, and vented frustration that his request for feedback and clarity from referee Nic Berry on Sunday evening was not properly addressed until the Tuesday after the game.
“His smiley, shoulder-shrugging style couldn’t disguise the cynical intent of his behaviour, and the whole episode undermined whatever success the Springboks had in that series.
“It took World Rugby a while, but they eventually slapped Erasmus with a ban from all rugby for two months and from involvement with the Springboks on match days for a year.
“Since then, the South African Director of Rugby has issued a series of cringe-inducing Tweets which are presumably designed to show us that he is just a fun-loving guy who is not taking the sanction very seriously, but looks like childish posturing to everybody outside of South Africa.”
The John Maynard Keynes Award for Muddled Economic Thinking –
The judges said: “The erstwhile Minister for Sport arranged a £15m grant from the Scottish Government “intended to ensure rugby clubs at all levels of the game across Scotland are better able to cope with the financial challenges that Covid-19 has brought” and a £5m loan facility “intended to allow the Prospective Borrower (Scottish Rugby) to assist grass-root rugby clubs in Scotland with the damage caused to them as a result of their compliance with Covid-19 public health rules” – without, it seems, properly ensuring that this money would be directed towards its intended purpose.”
“A £6.5m funding package for grassroots rugby was announced in April, with £1.5m to be made available from May and the rest spread over the next five years. The promised breakdown of how this government cash is being spent has not yet materialised. Meanwhile, a Scottish Rugby press release just before Christmas referenced ‘the turbo-charging of investment into the pro-teams’.”
Breakthrough Player of the Year –
The judges said: “He started 2021 languishing in the academy at Glasgow and wondering if he really had future in professional rugby. Then injuries and catastrophic form led to the 21-year-old [at the time] playmaker being thrown in at the deep end. He impressed off the bench on his debut in the first leg of last season’s 1872 Cup double-header at Murrayfield on 2nd January, then produced a man-of-the-match performance in the return leg at Scotstoun a fortnight later, and went on to be a key man for Danny Wilson’s side as they finally picked up some momentum during the second half of the campaign, to be named McCrea Financial Service Player of the Year and the club’s Young Player of the Year at the end of season awards.
“Covid meant a Scotland debut during the summer had to be pushed back to November, but he now has that under his belt, and continues to pull the strings with authority at Glasgow, meaning more international honours are likely during the Six Nations.”
The Garry Kasparov Cup for Making the Right Move at the Right Time –
The judges said: “What was Richard Cockerill thinking? Edinburgh’s loss is undoubtedly Glasgow’s gain.”
The Lord Lucan Award for Disappearing Without a Trace –
The judges said: “At the start of this year, Sean Lineen held several roles in Scottish Rugby’s performance department, including head of Scottish Rugby Academies, head of national age-grade teams, head coach of the Scotland Under-20s team, and ‘on-field lead’ for Super6.
“Then, Jim Mallinder, Director of Performance Rugby, started his review of the department, and we got a series of announcements about new people in new jobs.
“Grant McKelvey – previously Performance Projects & Talent ID Manager – was appointed ‘Head of Performance Programmes’, which includes being FOSROC Super6 Tournament Director. John Fletcher was recruited to the newly-created role of ‘Head of Pathways and Elite Coach Development’, which includes responsibility for the under-18 male pathway and FOSROC Regional Academy programmes. Meanwhile, Lineen’s name was conspicuously absent from each of these announcements, and we all started to wonder if he was going to be the one left standing when the music stopped in this round of musical chairs.
“Eventually, on 22nd December, we got confirmation from HQ that Lineen had left the organisation. It had all been amicable according to the press release, and he now intends to ‘take a wee breather’ before deciding on his next steps.”
Tweet of the Year –
We're also wishing a Happy Birthday to Sean Lineen today.
Have a good one, Sean! 🥳🎂 #AsOne pic.twitter.com/CWxEYu7Be8
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) December 25, 2021
The judges said: “This one raised a few eyebrows coming just three days after news of Lineen’s departure.”
The Bart Simpson Award for Keeping Your Shorts On –
The judges said: “It wasn’t looking good at this point.”
The Captain Tom Moore Memorial Rosette for Perseverance –
The judges said: “He was elected to the office of President to sort out the sticky mess of SRU governance , and through the challenges presented by Covid and a refusal by some inside Murrayfield to let the rejected Gammell proposals rest in peace, Barr and his working party have soldiered on.
“It is a thankless task, and he has not always had the support he is entitled to, so getting a second (and final) consultation document on a proposed structure out just before Christmas was a fine achievement.
“The proposal might not be perfect. It is going to be impossible to please every interested party. But the clubs have until 11th January to have their say, so the ball is in their court.”
Nadir of the Year –
Benetton 46 Glasgow Warriors 19
Nominated by Stuart Bathgate
IT wouldn’t do to look back only on the highlights of 2021, so, being TOL’s resident curmudgeon, I have been tasked with nominating the low point. Every team has their off days, of course, but the one that sprang most readily to mind was this pitiful performance by Glasgow in the opening round of the Rainbow Cup.
From the charged-down kick that gave the home team an early lead, this was a catalogue of costly errors by the Warriors. The scoreline took on a semblance of respectability thanks to three tries by Danny Wilson’s side in the last dozen minutes or so, but make no mistake, this was a shocker, made all the worse by the lackadaisical approach from many of the players.
Afterwards, the head coach admitted to being “shell-shocked” and called it “a dark day that cannot happen again”. He needed a strong reaction from his players after such a dismal display, and he got it – Glasgow went on to win their remaining four games in the tournament to end the season on a modest high.
This season has seen a new-look Warriors team put in some promising performances, not least being their narrow defeat by La Rochelle earlier this month. But it would not do to end on an optimistic note, so let’s instead remind ourselves that when Glasgow went back to Treviso at the end of last month, on URC business this time, they again shot themselves in the foot. True, they only lost by a point, but it was perhaps a reminder that some problems take a bit of time to rectify.
The game they play in heaven –
AS EVER, at the end of a year, we look back on those we have lost in the preceding 12 months. With Covid, recent years have been difficult for our Golden Oldies and 2021 has been no different (writes Matt Vallance).
January was a particularly difficult month for Kelso, with the loss of veteran Kelso Harlequins mainstay Jock Todd, and that weel-kent and highly-respected former referee George Murray.
Along the road, at Jed-Forest’s Riverside Park, they were mourning the loss of 1950s Scotland cap David Rose, and former Borders refereeing stalwart Billy Bryson also passed away, whilst the world of rugby writing and Scottish Rugby as a whole became the poorer for the passing of ace results co-ordinator Ron Evans.
Death always seems to hit harder when the deceased is still a young man. This was the case in February, when news came through from Australia of the passing of former Scotland age-group cap Aidan McCall Hagan.
Then in March, John Forster, a Wigtownshire stalwart as a player, and a man who spread the rugby gospel at several clubs, latterly with Campbelltown, in Argyll, answered his final whistle.
In April, former Scotland scrum coach Massimo Cuttitta died in his hometown just outside Rome from Covid-19 complications, aged 54.
In May, the great Eddie McKeating, a Heriot’s and Scotland centre of the 1950s and one half of a great double act with Ken Scotland, passed away at his home in Newcastle.
In July, another Edinburgh Rugby great, Ken Ross, the first Boroughmuir man ever to win a full Scotland cap, passed away at his Highland home. Then, right at the start of the new season in September, another Edinburgh and Scotland man, former Stewart’s College Keith MacDonald passed on.
In October, there was great sorrow with the passing of one of the all-time legends of Scottish rugby, the great ABC “Sandy” Carmichael, double British Lion and the first Scotland player to amass 50 full caps.
Another Scottish Lion, Ernie Michie, one of the 15 men who broke the run of 17 straight defeats in the 1950s by beating the Welsh in 1955, also passed on. Things got worse as the month progressed, with the sudden death, aged just 26, of Stirling County and Scotland Women’s XV player Siobhan Cattigan.
It was a particularly hard month for Ayr Rugby Club, who lost former Captain and President David Ferguson, the man who had re-designed the club crest, and a team mate and contemporary of his, former flanker Alistair Wilson, known to all as TAG from his initials.
November brought more sad news out of Riverside Park that Jed-Forest club stalwart Jim Thomson had died after a short spell in Borders General Hospital, and from Philiphaugh in relation to Selkirk stalwart Ross Thomson.
Two more internationalists passed away as the year ended, Kelso’s former Scotland captain Gary Callander lost his brave battle against cancer, while Scotland winger of the 1960s, the 13-times capped, dual international sprinter and rugby player David Whyte also passed on. Then, there was genuine sorrow among the Edinburgh clubs, in particular the smaller community ones, with the passing of Barry Sinclair, for many years a stalwart of Portobello RFC.
Sorrow too at Meggetland, with the sudden passing of that Boroughmuir stalwart, Bill Noble, a man who as both player and official was such an integral part of things for the Edinburgh club over so many years.
Schools/Youth Rugby: relief to be back but big challenges to be tackled in 2022
Great round up folks.
And a big thank you to David and all the Offside crew. A fantastic resource for Scottish rugby
Great round-up. Huge thanks and well done to all at The Offside Line for another excellent year of news and features. Very much enjoyed and appreciated, and here’s to much more in 2022!
Excellent round up of a very strange year. Moving on my greatest wish is that we are able to continue watching live rugby whether this is in a pro stadium or standing on the sideline of your local club as there is no better buzz than watching live rugby.
Thanks for excellent and exhaustive coverage of Scottish Rugby. You do a great job, David, and all the guys who contribute to the site.
To those no longer with us , I raise a glass. Scotland starting to look like the real deal , with two great wins in Paris and London. Two great wins from Edinburgh against Saracens and Glasgow against Exeter. Best find of the year Glasgow’s Dempsey and for Edinburgh their new coach. I thing Joe Marler summed up the empty stadiums well when he said it’s pointless with out the fans.
Nice collection of stuff to round off 2021. That Scotland try in Paris – a Duhan score but much more importantly what a team effort, with every single guy in a blue jersey involved and giving his all. Sincerely hope we don’t have empty stadia again this year, especially with the English and Frogs at home. Scotland potentially looking strong and with both Glasgow and Edinburgh now firing on all cylinders there’s so much to look forward to this year. Fingers crossed for 2022!