Super Series: Southern Knights find their feet to see off Boroughmuir Bears

Dominant second half performance sees Greenyards men surge to a bonus-point win

Southern Knights defeated Boroughmuir Bears in round two of the Super Series Sprint at The Greenyards. Image: Craig Murray
Southern Knights defeated Boroughmuir Bears in round two of the Super Series Sprint at The Greenyards. Image: Craig Murray

Southern Knights 34

Boroughmuir Bears 17

DAVID FERGUSON @  The Greenyards

THE SOUTHERN KNIGHTS got their Super Series kick-started with a dominant second half performance and four-try win at the Greenyards this afternoon.

After losing heavily in last week’s opening match at home to a strong Edinburgh ‘A’ team, while the Bears claimed a fine win over a young Glasgow Warriors ‘A’, this game was always going to be an intriguing match-up of two sides who place a heavy emphasis on blooding young players.

And so while there were mistakes that burst promise and frustrated coaches, and jarring struggles for continuity at times, the Melrose crowd was still treated to a high-octane game with entertaining spells. The glorious sunshine was a treat for the spectators too, but ensured a new challenge this season for players’ fitness and as the Bears wilted in the second period the Knights stormed to victory with 20 unanswered points.


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“Opening against Edinburgh was a tough start, against a professional side, so we said this week that the real campaign against the other Super Series sides starts for us today,” said Knights assistant coach Scott Wight. “So, to get five points is really pleasing, and it creates a great feeling because it is a first win for a lot of these boys at this level.

“But we have plenty to work on. We were a bit sloppy in the first half, and they caused us bother around the breakdown by being half a second quicker than us. So, we challenged the boys at half-time to get to multi-phase rugby, and the subs made a difference, and our speed to support was a lot better in the second half.

“It’s great for young boys like Ross Wolfenden, coming from Peebles High School now starting in the Super Series, Dylan Cockburn, a local boy from Melrose just 18, Finn Douglas and Hector Patterson are in the Edinburgh academy but they’re teenagers and this is valuable game-time for them, and Nairn Moncrieff, still Scotland under-18s, taking his chance to show what he can do. That’s what it’s about, ultimately, and they are buzzing in there with the win.”

For Boroughmuir Bears head coach, Graham Shiel, who has enjoyed many celebratory occasions in the Greenyards changing rooms, the emotional swing of the past week was tougher to take.

“We played well last week and showed an ability to dig in really deep against a pro outfit,” he said. “And that gave the boys a euphoric feeling, I guess. This week you’re at the other end of the spectrum where we didn’t dig deep, we didn’t stay in the game for periods and put pressure on the Knights, and we fell out of the game too easily, so it’s been a Jekyll and Hyde start to the campaign for us, which is disappointing.

“Maybe it’s a bit ambitious to expect consistency straight away, but that’s what this competition is about – sustaining high levels of performance. Without being disrespectful, it’s not club rugby, it’s a higher level where if you’re marginally off you’ll suffer, but that’s the way it goes. We will lick our wounds and re-group, ready to face the Ayrshire Bulls next week, which will sharpen our minds I’m sure.”

 

 

What will please Shiel in the analysis session will be how his side managed to deny the Knights not one or two but four well crafted scoring opportunities inside the first quarter. Their ability to defend across the park, forwards flying up off the ground and centres Ronan Kerr and Scott Robeson providing a powerful lead, must have been infuriating for the hosts.

The Ferrie brothers, Allan and William, were to the fore in the hosts pack, lock Angus Runciman and flanker Gary Young adept in the lineout – as was the throwing of Finlay Scott – and when they let the ball come back, Scotland under-18 fly-half Wolfenden was an assured presence in his first start at this level.

It was a bit of a surprise, therefore, that it was the visitors who scored first, in the 17th minute. Good pressure on the Knights deep in their own half saw Jack Fisher charge down a clearance, and while the hosts cleaned up and cleared, Boroughmuir wing Matt Reid collected and danced through a sluggish home defence, before Robeson kicked through for left wing Rowan Stewart to collect and touch down.

Flanker Bertie Taylor grabbed a second, breaking through the hosts’ flat-line defence and cantering in, and only a last-gasp interception by Allan Ferrie denied Stewart a second. Bears were having fun at this point.

The half finished with a flurry of excitement as the Knights finally scored, wing Finn Douglas finishing off a flowing attack in the right corner, underlining what they could do when they kept possession and composure.

Robeson struck back for ‘Muir, after good line-out work, and then home No 8 Marcus Rhodes came up with the ball at the other end after a well-executed driven line-out. Callum Grieve’s two conversions to one from George Paul might Knights were just 17-14 behind, which was a fair reflection of 40 minutes in which the Knights dominated possession and threatened much, but the Bears worked tirelessly and proved the more clinical.

 

 

The second half was markedly different, as the Knights tightened up their set-piece and breakdown play, held onto the ball better, and, with the pack setting the foundations, their youngsters showed the way. Douglas broke clear on the right touchline from halfway, drew the full-back and found Patterson, on for Callum Davidson at scrum-half, who sped to the posts.

The introduction of Pattersonhelped speed up the home attack, and wing Moncrieff switched from the Edinburgh ranks last week to prove a thorn in the Bears’ side in this one. His first act was a try-saving tackle on Alex Thom 15 metres from the posts, and he was in their face again when he shut down a counter-attack from deep that was poised to exploit a three-man overlap. He was dangerous in attack, too.

Runciman secured the bonus point with his long arm reaching out to the line with six minutes remaining and Grieve’s conversion and last act of a penalty sealed an eventual comprehensive winning scoreline for the home side.

 

Teams –

Southern Knights: G McNeish; F Douglas, A Hall, C Grieve, E McVicker; R Wolfenden, C Davidson; J Dobie, F Scott, Z Szwagrzak, A Runciman, A Ferrie, G Young, W Ferrie, M Rhodes. Replacements: H Patterson, B McLean, A McGregor, T Logan, D Cockburn, M Rutherford, E Greenlaw, N Moncrieff.

Boroughmuir Bears: E Muirhead; M Reid, R Kerr, S Robeson, R Stewart; G Paul, J Beveridge; C Smith, A Allen, M McGinley, M Lowe, J Fisher, A Taylor, E Guy, L Habib. Replacements: C Tait, R Brown, C MacGregor, M Laboda, Z Griffiths, A McLean, A Thom, L Allesandra.

Referee: Ciaran Stark.

 

Scorers –

Southern Knights: Tries: Douglas, Rhodes, Patterson, Runciman; Pens:  Grieve 2; Cons: Grieve 4.

Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: Stewart, Taylor, Robeson; Con: Paul.

Scoring sequence (Knights first): 0-5; 0-10; 5-10; 7-10; 7-15; 7-17; 12-17; 14-17 (h-t); 19-17; 21-17; 24-17; 29-17; 31-17; 34-17.

 

Man-of-the-Match: There were few stand-outs in a game where both teams produced decent collective performances in defence and attack, but the work-rate, dynamism and ability to be at the heart of every attack for the full game meant Knights’ second row Allan Ferrie was a cut above.

Talking point: The conundrum after this match was pinpointing how much the Bears fell off their game here from the standards reached against the young pros of Edinburgh last week, and how much the Knights stepped up from a sobering defeat to Glasgow and gave the Bears little chance in the second half at the Greenyards. Inevitably, it was a bit of both which ensures the coaches have plenty to work on ahead of bigger tests next week.


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About David Ferguson 24 Articles
David Ferguson has covered Scottish rugby for over 30 years. Starting out in the Borders with the Berwickshire News and Southern Reporter, where he was sports editor and also covered rugby for a wide variety of national newspapers, Radio Borders and BBC Scotland, David became editor of Scottish Rugby Magazine, working with then Managing Director Sean Lineen. David was then Chief Rugby Writer with The Scotsman for 14 years, during which time he covered club, professional and international rugby, including several Rugby World Cups and Lions tours. He started his own communications and media business in 2014, and has worked across a wide range of areas from Scottish and UK government to charities and corporate business, most recently as Chief Executive of the Observatory for Sport in Scotland, Scotland's only research think tank on sport.