THE nominations have been collected and collated, now it is time to have your say. Which of the 10 games listed below do you think should be named The Offside Line’s Game of the Year for 2022?
Email email@example.com to vote. Give us your three favourite games, making it clear which is first, second and third choice. Polling will close at noon on 31st December, and we will announce the winner in our end-of-year awards feature when it is published that evening.
GAME 1: 5th February – Six Nations –
Nominated by: Rob Robertson, rugby correspondent of the Scottish Daily Mail, pick for game of the year.
IN A mediocre Six Nations for Scotland one result stood out. The win over England at BT Murrayfield gave Gregor Townsend’s team back to back Calcutta Cup wins for the first time since 1984.
It was a special day for scrum-half Ben White who came off the bench when Ali Price was undergoing an HIA to score on his international debut.
Finn Russell was in fine form and when Luke Cowan-Dickie slapped one of his cross-kicks into touch to illegally stop a Scotland attacking move a penalty try was the result.
A terrific victory that was the third time out of five that Scotland had beaten England and a worthy contender for The Offside Line game of the year.
GAME 2: 25th February – Rugby World Cup final qualifier –
Nominated by: Stuart Bathgate, the hardest working rugby journalist in Scotland
IN A year in which our senior teams yet again came nowhere close to winning a major trophy, the most significant achievement was Scotland’s reaching the Rugby World Cup, for the first time in 12 years, thanks to this crushing victory.
Colombia, it is true, were limited opponents who had excelled themselves to get as far as this final play-off for the last place in the tournament in New Zealand. But we have often seen Scotland sides struggle with being tagged favourites: here, by contrast, Bryan Easson’s squad got their approach right straight from kick-off.
Sarah Law settled any nerves there might have been with two early penalties, and then Lisa Thomson scored the first of nine tries before the South Americans were able to get so much as a foothold in the game.
“The performance was professional from minute one to minute 80,” the head coach said afterwards. “They did exactly as we discussed.”
The match was the ultimate step in a qualification process that began last year and saw Scotland win narrow games against both Ireland and Spain to book their place in this final qualifier in Dubai. They went on to lose all three of their games in the World Cup itself, but can nonetheless look back on 2022 as a year of tangible progress thanks to this result.
GAME 3: 26th March – United Rugby Championship –
Nominated by: Alasdair Reid, rugby correspondent for The Times
Durban’s Kings Park Stadium is one of the most storied grounds in world rugby (although the stories have lost some of their impact since they took to renaming the place on an almost annual basis). And like all the South African teams and venues, it was something of a fortress for Cell C Sharks, who had not lost a United Rugby Championship game at home before Edinburgh pitched up there in late March.
Under new coach Mike Blair, Edinburgh had transformed themselves over the first half of the season, abandoning the conservative tactics of Richard Cockerill by adding pace, width and ambition to their game. Which was all very well, but none of those qualities seemed to have much value when the heavens opened on the day of the game and dumped what looked like half the Indian Ocean on the Kings Park pitch.
A gale blew as well and the Sharks, even boosted by the presence of World Cup-winning stars like Siya Kolisi and Makazole Mapimpi, struggled to cope with such distinctly Scottish conditions. They lost a player to the sin bin early on and Edinburgh pounced with a try by Blair Kinghorn. Sharks struck back with a score by Thomas du Toit, but their game was riddled with errors and Edingurgh, ironically, looked much the more composed side.
Emiilano Boffelli claimed a second try for Edinburgh after the break. As time went on, Sharks looked less and less likely to claw back the deficit, and Edinburgh sealed their victory, 21-5, with a second try by Kinghorn late in the game. In doing so, they became the first northern hemisphere side to win a URC match on South African soil.
GAME 4: 2nd April – Tennent’s Premiership Play-Off Final –
Nominated by: Colin Renton, a TOL stalwart
THIS game had it all – intensity, noise, razzamatazz and some fantastic rugby.
The clubs had been left to their own devices when it came to promoting the fixture, and Chieftains were fabulous hosts. A special-occasion atmosphere generated by bagpipe music and pitch-side stalls, was enhanced by the typically boisterous home support, ensuring there was never a quiet moment.
Meanwhile, Marr brought busloads of equally vociferous fans and buckets of ambition. Wily coach, Craig Redpath, had figured out a way to beat a home side who had suffered its solitary defeat on the opening day of the campaign.
Covid also still had a part to play, with several cases in the Chieftains camp, although that would not be used as an excuse by the magnanimous runners up.
The intensity of the game was high and the skill level impressive. Sam Leto opened the scoring with a penalty for Chieftains, Blair Jardine responded with a try converted by the impressive playmaker Colin Sturgeon, and there was still all to play for at half time which Marr reached with a 17-13 lead.
The Ayrshire outfit extended the gap, but Chieftains battled back and the margin remained at four points with nine minutes to play. The next score was key, and it went the visitors’ way, with Sturgeon the contributor. And a final touchdown by Craig Miller extinguished the home side’s fightback aspirations.
Marr were worthy victors, Chieftains brought plenty to the party. But the overall winner was club rugby.
GAME 5: 16th July – Summer Tour –
Nominated by: Mark Palmer, rugby correspondent for The Sunday Times and Deputy Sports Editor of The Times (Scottish Editions)
IN the build-up to the deciding third summer Test in Santiago Del Estero, all the talk was about the venue, more specifically the controversy that had surrounded the construction of a state-of-the-art yet barely used stadium in the heart of one of Argentina’s poorest regions.
There was indeed something gut-wrenching about seeing a group of barefoot, bedraggled young kids kicking a football about in the mud quite literally across the road from the opulence of the 30,000-capacity Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades pre-match, but the fact that the Scotland team and coaches would happily see the place razed to the ground has nothing to do with any of the political issues.
The touring Scots were a decent, even underwhelming last half hour away from claiming only their second ever series victory in the southern hemisphere. Gregor Townsend’s men were 15 points up going into the final 30 minutes, and still 11 ahead as we entered the closing 15, only for the wheels to come off in the most Scottish of fashions.
Of course, it had to be Edinburgh’s Emiliano Boffelli who delivered the coup de grace, plunging over from close range with the clock well in the red then converting his own effort to turn the scoreline on its head.
The staggering – and staggeringly bad – collapse was but one instance of a theme of Scotland’s year (and, truth be told, many before it). An inability to close out games had already cost them against Wales in the Six Nations and would again come the narrow defeats to Australian and New Zealand come the autumn.
They did at least take revenge on the Pumas by mullering them 52-29 in the final November fixture, but that Santiago summer shambles will forever remain a desperately bitter pill to swallow.
GAME 6: 30th October – Super6 Championship Final –
Nominated by: Gary Heatly, TOL stalwart
THE biggest sporting final of the year may have taken place at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar on December 18th, but in terms of drama and two teams going at each other well into extra-time, the Super6 Championship final on October 30 had supporters at the DAM Health Stadium on the edge of their seats, too.
Ayrshire Bulls were the defending champions, but Watsonians had finished top of the regular season table and had won the Sprint Series earlier in the year.
When Elias Caven, the Bulls winger, scored his second try of the final with 13 minutes to go it put the Millbrae men 24-17 up, but the Bulls had lost a number of key men to injury during the first hour, including captain Blair Macpherson and centres Andy Stirrat and Bobby Beattie, and that began to leave them stretched as the Watsonians bench made an impact heading into the closing stages.
Lee Millar’s control helped the Edinburgh side back into the Bulls 22 and he converted fellow sub Gregor Scougall’s try to make it 24-24, prompting 10 minutes each way of extra-time, during which time Watsonians were on the front foot.
Tries from Lewis Berg, Cal Davies and Campbell Wilson – with two converted by Millar – saw Watsonians home after 100 minutes of end-to-end rugby.
The part-time professional concept in men’s rugby in Scotland still has to convince some supporters about its merits, but anyone who was at this game or watched it on television would certainly have been entertained.
GAME 7: 17th September – Tennent’s Premiership –
Nominated by: Alan Lorimer, TOL stalwart
WE e all admire top quality skills on the rugby field, but especially so when these are executed under extreme pressure and when they contribute to a winning performance.
That was certainly the case in mid-September at Raeburn Place where Edinburgh Accies faced Hawick in round three of the Premiership. Accies had announced themselves as championship contenders with big wins over GHA and champions Marr during the opening rounds of the season, while Hawick came into this game having drawn 20-20 with a much improved Selkirk side at Mansfield followed by a scratchy away win over Jed-Forest.
The game itself was tight and looked as though it was heading towards a home win when Accies led 12-6 with only seconds left in the game. But a try on full-time by Hawick’s hooker, Matty Carryer, from a penalty kick to the corner made the score 12-11.
That left Kirk Ford with the unenviable task of kicking the difficult touchline conversion to win the game. In the event and much to the delight of the Greens’ travelling support, the modest Ford succeeded with his conversion attempt to give Hawick a 13-12 win. Skill under pressure at its best.
GAME 8: 1st October – Caledonian North Region Division 3 –
Nominated by Jack Nixon, TOL’s man in the north
ON the grand scale of competitive games, this Caley 3 North game between league strugglers Aberdeen University Medics and Fraserburgh, would scarcely have excited.
But for this observer, it represented the reality of club rugby, played in front of a handful of supporters and with Little chance of recognition by the national press, although the ‘Fraserburgh Herald’ would be sure to run a few paragraphs.
The compensations lay in the splendid setting in the shadow Kings College, part of Aberdeen University, combined with the genuine pleasure two sides were getting from being able to play with their mates.
GAME 9: 9th October – United Rugby Championship –
Nominated by: David Barnes, of TOL
THIS won’t be warmly recollected as a vintage year for Glasgow fans, with the 2021-22 season reaching a miserable conclusion when Danny Wilson lost his job as head coach following a humiliating 76-14 defeat away to Leinster in the URC play-offs.
Then, with Franco Smith at the helm, the side made an inauspicious start to 2022-23 with a 33-11 loss away to Benetton, before a 52-24 home win over Cardiff raised spirits, which were soon dashed by another away loss, this time against an undistinguished Ospreys outfit.
However, when Glasgow bounced back to secure an emphatic bonus-point win over last season’s URC runners-up – who had won all three games played coming into this game – it felt like a turning point. Warriors were abrasive and ambitious when scoring four tries during a breath-taking first half, and although they ran out of steam as an attacking force during the second-half, they continued to defend like their lives depended on it, meaning that Bulls were never really in the contest.
Warriors’ away day travails carried on for a few more weeks, losing fairly heavily to the Sharks in Durban and Leinster in Dublin, but those were tough missions, and their recent run of four wins on the bounce suggests that the Scotstoun men can once again become serious challengers to the top teams in Europe and South Africa.
GAME 10: 12th November – Premiership –
Nominated by Iain Hay, TOL stalwart
THIS is the most enjoyable game I’ve covered for The Offside Line. It had all the ingredients you want to make a tasty rugby match.
Heriot’s early lead was reduced thanks to an incredible solo effort by Luca Bardelli, who has turbocharged rocket-boots, before the visitors stormed back into a healthy lead, thanks to an utterly brilliant Sam Wallace try, which the SRU YouTube highlights do not do justice to.
It started with a cross-kick from their own 22 which was volleyball passed back infield, there was offloads, a midfield break, more offloads, another line-break out wide, and more offloads galore before Wallace jogged over.
Another two Heriot’s tries saw them open up a 5-28 lead, however all this excitement had been crammed into under half an hour, and Heriot’s had made a habit of falling away in games this season.
GHA scored twice by half-time, and early in the 2nd half to make it a one score game at 24-31, but Phil Smith called for the big gun in Struan Cessford. The Super6 scrummager dominated the set-piece and helped Heriot’s to another brace of well executed tries before a late GHA consolation, the 11th try of the match.
Some lax defending aside, this was a high quality affair with both sides looking to play, great tries, competitive set-pieces – no scrum penalties until the hour mark – and the excellent place-kicking of Graham Wilson, which made the margin of victory much greater than the 6-5 try count.