Currie Chieftains 35
Edinburgh Accies 7
IAIN MORRISON @ Malleny Park
IT was a near perfect day for rugby and Currie produced a near perfect performance to see off the somewhat lacklustre challenge from Edinburgh Accies with something to spare.
It was expected to be a close encounter but Chieftains scored three first half tries, all converted expertly by Jamie Forbes, to lead this one by 21-0 at the break, and they added two more in the second half to run out winners by five tries to one.
Coach Mark Cairns agreed that this was his team best performance of the season but when it was suggested that his side were coming good at the right time he was quick to point out: “The right time is next week isn’t it!?” – alluding to next Saturday’s final against Hawick at Mansfield Park.
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“We worked hard this afternoon,” he added. “We had a lot of possession in the first half but only seven points for all our efforts and, perhaps because I was nervous, it looked to me like they could score and we could have a tied game. Then we scored two tries in quick succession and that made things a bit easier at half time.
“I thought that we defended well when they had the ball, I felt that we had good line-speed and we had good double hits and we were the ones dominating the collisions and that is what rugby is about nowadays.”
Accies briefly threatened an unexpected comeback by scoring early in the second 40 but they failed to back it up in any meaningful way and the final score may even have flattered the visitors who were well off the pace throughout.
Accies supporters on the opposite side of the ground to the stand were uncharacteristically quiet, something picked up by the vocal home fans, but they had little enough to cheer about. It is difficult to remember a genuine scoring opportunity for the visitors in the opening 40 and their solitary score early in the second half never looked like being repeated. The home side held all the best cards, muscle, pace, accuracy in execution, and they played them well.
Currie made their intentions clear from the off, switching their kick-off from right to centre field, they targeted the receiver and won a turnover at the very first breakdown. It wasn’t the last time they dominated the breakdown.
The opening sequence of this match was used as a blueprint for much of the ensuing action. Currie used their big men to bash holes in a determined Accies defence before spreading the ball wide.
Accies had almost no big lumps to call upon, at least in the back-five of the scrum, and one big ball carrier like Currie skipper Rhys Davies would transform their fortunes. Instead, the visitors relied on their backs who looked strangely out of sorts all afternoon. Without front foot ball Accies midfield found their time and space at a premium. Accies badly missed centre Robbie Kent who invariably gets them on the front-foot because there was no one else able or willing to do the job.
Passes went behind the intended recipient, skipper Jamie Loomes lacked conviction at ten, running in circles at one point, and failing to make much ground with his boot.
Early on in proceedings, Currie conceded two quick penalties both of which went to touch but the second was ten metres from the home try line when it should have been five. Loomes’ grubber aimed at winger Lewis Wells early in the second half sat up nicely for Currie’s Iain Sim. Loomes tried a dummy and got swallowed by the home defence to jeers from the stands. Like the rest of his team, the skipper was not himself.
Lots of little things conspired against Accies but their lack of a gainline specialist, whether in the midfield or the backrow of the scrum, meant this game was a little too lop-sided to be interesting.
Currie’s big men’s early bashing resulted in a quick score for Kody McGovern when the right winger found himself with a one on one against Accies scrummy Sinjin Broad and the space to make it stick.
Currie’s second score, some 30 minutes later, went to skipper Davies who, again, took advantage of all the hard work of his fellow forwards who softened up the Accies defence until an inevitable gap appeared near the posts.
Just before the break, Loomes hacked ahead and was in a foot race with Currie winger Iain Sim to reach the ball deep inside the Chieftains’ red zone. He lost that race and Sim sparked the Currie counter attack that ended, umpteen phases later, and thanks to important yards from DJ Innes, with flanker Gregor Nelson doing a swallow dive over the Accies try line.
Trailing by three tries to nil at the break ,Accies needed the first score of the second half and they got it within five minutes of the restart. Loomes stuck a penalty into touch and Accies big men did the rest, prop Clem Lacour claiming the score, as he likes to do, and the fly-half converting to throw his team a lifeline.
If Accies had any illusion this was the start of the fightback they were soon put right because McGovern grabbed his second just four minutes later. The move was instigated by a midfield break by Forbes with Innes with Nelson providing the link to the Kiwi winger, who walked the ball over the line in the right-hand corner.
That score arrived just before the 50 minute mark and the game disintegrated visibly after Currie re-established their 21 point advantage. Both teams huffed and puffed without achieving very much, the outcome was no longer in doubt and the raft of substitutions by both sides certainly made it look as if the coaches had both settled for the status quo.
With an unlucky 13 minutes left on the clock, the match was interrupted by a nasty looking injury to Accies No Ruairi Campbell who fell over holding his head although no one was any the wiser as to what had happened. He was carted off after a longish stoppage and was waiting for an ambulance to take him to hospital after the game although this was thought to be a precautionary measure. The injury rounded off a thoroughly miserable afternoon for the visiting team.
As the match wound down to the close, Forbes continued to tease, and one no-look pass to centre Greg Cannie gave Currie the impetus and field position to grab a fifth try with winger Sim scoring from close range.
“Mark [Cairns] told us exactly what they [Currie[ were going to do in last week’s match report … win the gain-line,” said Accies coach Iain Berthinussen. “If Currie win the gain-line they get their hands free and they can play good rugby. We didn’t stop them winning the gainline today and that was that.
“If you don’t win the gain-line and you don’t win the collisions then you are not going to get very far in a game of rugby.”
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; K McGovern, DJ Innes, G Gannie, I Sim, J Forbes, G Christie; C Anderson, R Stewart, C Ramsay, E Stewart, W Inglis, A McCallum, G Nelson, R Davies©. Substitutes: J Drummond, J Ramsay, A Cameron, M Vernel, P Boyer, A Hall, J McCaig.
Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; K Gossman, M Wallace, N Armstrong, L Wells; J Loomes©, S Broad; C Imre, F McAslan, C Lacour, J Mills, F Simpson, T Drennan, M Walker, R Campbell. Substititutes: C Taylor, H Campbell, S Whittaker, C Bain, M Love, V Hart, H Cameron-Barr.
Referee: Ross Mabon.
Currie Chieftains: Try: McGovern 2, Davies, Nelson, Sim; Cons: Forbes 5.
Edinburgh Accies: Try: Lacour; Con: Loomes.
Scoring sequence (Currie Chieftains first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0; 21-0 (h-t) 21-5; 21-7; 26-7; 28-7; 33-7; 35-7.
Man-of-the-Match: Lewis Wells and Ruari Campbell had their moments for the visitors and replacement Vincent Hart did well in the second half but the stand-out players were all in black. Currie centre DJ Innes made the best turnover of the day and Rhys Davies was his usual industrious self, Kody McGovern took his brace of tries very well but the award goes to the home stand-off. Jamie Forbes was at the heart of everything good in his team’s performance. He made one crazy solo break at the back of a lineout and kick-started several of Currie’s scores as well as adding all five conversions for 100 percent success with the boot.
Talking point: Around the middle of the second half, Currie launched an attack and tight-head prop Cairn Ramsey not only popped up in the thirteen channel but he collected the ball like Huw Jones and then unleashed his inner Finn Russell to offload it one handed to the backs outside him with a near perfect pass. Good work fella!
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Well done Currie, Ben Cairns and his backroom staff. Good luck in the final.