Edinburgh Accies 31
Currie Chieftains 19
COLIN RENTON @ Raeburn Place
EDINBURGH ACCIES bolstered their play-off challenge with an impressive five-point haul that was built around the ability to capitalise on their spells on the front foot, an attribute that was uncharacteristically absent in the away ranks. Chieftains paid the price for a substantial tally of unforced errors in a match that featured two sides intent on playing a running game. The pair produced an end-to-end encounter that featured plenty of flowing rugby to entertain a large crowd.
There was a common theme in both sides, in that the coaches are currently operating without some of their more experienced men. However, there was divergence in how the teams adapted to that situation.
“The boys have taken real ownership,” said Accies head coach Iain Berthinussen. “There have been some huge opportunities for boys in the group. There has been a lot of talk about unavailability and injuries – we have 12 first team players unavailable at the moment – but I talk about opportunities and the boys that are playing at the moment are really buying into everything that we are about.
“I have seen them grow over the last four or five weeks as we’ve lost our whole leadership group long term. But we’ve seen some guys who’ve been plugging away in our twos for the last two or three seasons really step up”, he added, “I think the boys mixed the game up pretty well and they managed to figure out where the space was, and I thought we adapted through the game to find that space. On the flip, we were really physical up front and you have to be against Currie because they really bring it to you.”
His Chieftains counterpart, Mark Cairns, had hoped for a similar response to the opportunities presented to fringe players, but he was disappointed at the way they performed, saying: “I thought our backs just weren’t at the races today. We have a lot of guys to come back into the team but there was an opportunity there for some other guys to put their hands up. I thought our forwards went pretty well and probably got parity over the piece, but there were just massive holes in our defence in the back-line, and really poor decision-making and handling when we did get opportunities to score.”
Accies were quick to impose themselves on the game. Ben Appleson, who had come close with an ambitious long-range effort earlier, booted a penalty into touch, Angus Inwood gathered the throw and sparked a series of attacks which ended when Appleson chipped ahead and Finlay MacNeill won the race for the corner.
That sparked a spell in the ascendancy and the hosts earned three quick penalties, the last of which led to a yellow card for Rhys Davies and a simple three points for Appleson.
Chieftains were stung into action and, despite being a player down, cut the gap when Ryan Stewart was the last man to rise after a powerful surge from a close range penalty.
The Accies response was instant. MacNeill broke from deep and drew the last defender before releasing Robbie Chalmers for an untroubled run to the line.
Both sides had opportunities to add further points before the break, but Patrick Ritchie was held up over the line and a handling error inside the opposition 22 put paid to a Chieftains effort.
Accies restarted well and Appleson stretched the lead with another penalty after a line-out drive by the hosts was halted illegally. And the gap grew to 16 points after 49 minutes when MacNeill bolted away and sentRitchie scampering over.
The bonus point followed shortly afterwards. Chalmers raced from deep and carried play into the Chieftains half. A line-out win and a surge ended with Fraser McAslan applying the final touch. Appleson banged over the touchline conversion then added a further three points as the game entered the final quarter.
Chieftains were not yet ready to throw in the towel and Sam Cardosi, moved to centre for the closing minutes, sliced through then offloaded to Sam Leto who darted in between the sticks for a self-converted score. That sparked life into the visitors who then started to gain the upper hand. And they battled their way back into the contest when Courtney West showed great pace to hurtle over for a converted score.
The momentum was firmly with Chieftains, and Tom Drennan was sent to the sin-bin for illegally foiling an attack. But a spillage within sight of the whitewash allowed the hosts to clear the danger and ensure that the visitors trudged away empty handed.
Edinburgh Accies: R Chalmers; K Gossman, N Armstrong, G Woods, F MacNeill; B Appleson, P Ritchie; C Imrie, F McAslan, A Hain, T Drennan, S Whittaker, A Inwood, K Slingsby, J Sole©. Subs: C Crookshank, R Dunbar, G Hall, D McGrath, B Grainger.
Currie Chieftains: E Crombie; M Bradshaw, DJ Innes, A Harley, J McCaig; S Leto, C Lessels; T Jeffrey, R Stewart, G Carson©, A Bain, C West, K Steel, S Cardosi, R Davies. Subs: S Fisher, C Anderson, A Fletcher, P Boyer, R Daley.
Referee: Calum Worsley
Edinburgh Accies: Tries: MacNeill, Chalmers, Ritchie, McAslan; Con: Appleson; Pens: Appleson 3.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Stewart, Leto, West; Cons: Leto 2.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh Accies first): 5-0; 8-0; 8-5; 13-5 (h-t) 16-5; 21-5; 26-5; 28-5; 31-5; 31-10; 31-12; 31-17; 31-19.
Yellows cards –
Edinburgh Accies: Drennan
Man-of-the-Match: Robbie Chalmers, Neil Armstrong, Angus Inwood and Ben Appleson all played key roles in the win, but the man who stood out was Finlay MacNeill whose pace saw him bag a try and create two others.
Talking point: Long-term injuries to several key men have presented opportunities to fringe players in both sides. Accies in particular have seen some seize the opportunity, meaning that Iain Berthinussen will have some pleasant selection problems when his squad returns to full strength.