Super Series: Southern Knights bounce back to see off Boroughmuir Bears

Home coach Alan Tait praises his side's resilience

Southern Knights got the better of Boroughmuir Bears at The Greenyards. Image: Douglas Hardie
Southern Knights got the better of Boroughmuir Bears at The Greenyards. Image: Douglas Hardie

Southern Knights 29

Boroughmuir Bears 15

LEWIS STUART @ The Greenyards

THE Southern Knights put themselves firmly in play-off contention in the Super Series Championship as they came from behind to claim a bonus-point win and effectively knock the Boroughmuir Bears out of the race.

It was a gutsy display from the Borderers, who could have been further behind at the break but for some ferocious defence, as they showed they could score in a variety of different ways once they got the scoreboard ticking over.

“I thought I was getting the towel out and throwing it in at half-time, because we did nothing that we had prepared for in the first half,” said Alan Tait, the head coach. “The players knew that. It didn’t take me to tell them. They knew they hadn’t put anything in and were still only 8-5 down.


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“I thought the replacements helped add a it of zip and in the end we came away with a bonus point and that could count for a lot.”

The way the table is shaping up, it is starting to look as though that fourth spot and a place in the semi-finals is between the Knights and Stirling Wolves, who they play next.

“It’s going to be a tough ask, but this is what the Championship is for, this is what these players play rugby for,” Tait added. “They should be looking forward to getting stuck in.”

The reverse is true of Boroughmuir with Graham Shiel, the head coach, admitting they are now out of the running for the play-offs with three games to go. The frustrating thing for him was that he believed they should have had the result sewn up by half-time but blew far too many half chances.

“We had had a lot of pressure, a lot of opportunities. And we just we coughed the ball up and we just didn’t take them. The first half was was pleasing but we were only three points up. We just didn’t execute, so that was frustrating,” he said.

“The second half we couldn’t play the game we can play, the game we wanted. They did play what they wanted and ultimately came out on top. We have to look internally because ultimately, we did ourselves in, we beat ourselves.”

The biggest surprise at the end was just how comfortably the Knights were on the scoreboard after a game that was in the balance for 70 minutes. At the end of the first half, you couldn’t have slipped a piece of a cigarette paper between them.

It had been one of those halves that could have been characterised as basically the visiting pack against the home backs, though both sides had their moments in the other’s speciality.

The Bears had some good back play, particularly when scrum-half Kaleem Barreto or wing Mason Cullen got involved, and the Knights had their moments up front with No 8 Harry Borthwick carrying hard and a couple of lineout steals helping their cause.

All the same, it was Boroughmuir who took the lead with an early penalty from fly-half George Paul, and it seemed inevitable that they would soon add to their advantage. They had almost all the pressure and most of the ball, with Barreto’s running putting real pressure on the home side.

The Knights survived, though. It was a mixture of determined defence and the Bears’ mistakes but it took another 20 minutes before eventually the pressure told. Boroughmuir had had a series of scrums on the home line and were playing advantage for yet another penalty when they released the ball to the backs and full-back Euan Muirhead cruised over.

That didn’t seem to bother the Knights too much as wing Aidan Cross soon laid on a demonstration of their attacking potential with a scintillating 80-metre dash from his own 22 to bring play to inches from the visitors line. A penalty gave them the chance to go for a driving maul and Corbin Thunder, the hooker, broke off the back to go over.

 

That was it until the break, but soon after the return, the Knights inched ahead with the backs being given a chance to practise a training ground move that bamboozled the visitors’ defence and ended with Donald Crawford, the full-back, crossing. Crucially, Gregor McNeish added the conversion.

That only signalled another change in momentum as the Bears worked their way upfield and this time it was their turn to score from a driving maul with skipper Craig Keddie touching down amid a pile of bodies. With the conversion from replacement fly-half Andrew McLean, it was advantage the Bears again.

Not for long. Again, the score changed the momentum. The Knights camped in the opposition 22, winning a string of penalties, and in almost a replay of the opening try, Thunder drove over to put his side back ahead.

It was still anybody’s game until one of those moments that makes any front row’s highlights reel when Mikey Jones, the replacement prop, ripped the ball clear from a maul and had the pace to run 40 metres for the decisive bonus-point score.

 

Teams –

Southern Knights: D Crawford; A Cross, P Anderson, A Hall, C Barrett (H Bentley 67); G McNeish, C Bell; J Dobie (A Dodds 73), C Thunder (L Thompson, 67), D Gamble (M Jones, 26-77), T Nwosu-Hope, A Ferrie (B Weir 53), M Job, J Rutherford (A Hosking 34), H Borthwick.

Boroughmuir Bears: E Muirhead; M Cullen, D Munn, S Robeson, J Jenkins; G Paul (A McLean 53), K Barreto (R Swan 67); C McFeat Smith, C Tait (A Allen 67), M McGinley, M Loboda (K Westlake 56), J Fisher, C Keddie, S McGinley, T Andrews.

Referee: M Adamson.

 

Scorers – 

Southern Knights: Tries: Thunder 2, Crawford, Jones; Con: McNeish 3; Pen: McNeish.

Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: Muirhead, Keddie; Con: McLean; Pen: Paul.

Scoring sequence (Southern Knights first): 0-3; 0-8; 5-8 (h-t) 12-8; 12-15; 19-15; 26-15; 29-15.

 

Yellow cards – 

Southern Knights: Harry Borthwick (32 mins).

 

Player of the Match: Both sides worked hard and Kaleeem Barretto made his fair share of breaks, but the player who lit up the game with his elusive running and helped spark the Knights fightback was wing Aidan Cross, who gets the award.

Talking point: The Southern Knights are starting to emerge as a real force in the middle of the table. They are still struggling to find a full squad but are fighting for everything and could yet be the shock of the tournament.


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About Lewis Stuart 70 Articles
Lewis has been writing about rugby for almost 40 years, the last 18 as a freelance based in Scotland bringing his wealth fo experience to just about every publication in the country. These days you can hear him as well by tuning in to his Wednesday night show on Rocksport Radio.