Super Series Sprint: Watsonians carry on from where they left off with big win over Southern Knights

Experience and step up in physicality decisive in second half at Myreside

Watsonians put Southern Knights to the sword at Myrside in round one of the 2023 Super Series Sprint. Image: Graham Gaw
Watsonians put Southern Knights to the sword at Myrside in round one of the 2023 Super Series Sprint. Image: Graham Gaw

Watsonians 42

Southern Knights 10

ALAN LORIMER @ Myreside

DEFENDING champions Watsonians opened their Super Series Sprint campaign in style by running in six tries for a bonus point win over an inexperienced Southern Knights side that will have to learn on the hoof if they are to survive in what is a hard and physical competition.

Alan Tait, the Southern Knights coach, alluded to this after the match saying: “Our lads have to adapt to the power game”.  Yet, the difference between the two teams was not so apparent in the first half when Knights seemed to give as good as they got.

“The first half – I couldn’t have been more proud of them. They were right in the fight” stated Tait, who watched his side out-powered after the break. “This is the level and we’ve got to be up to it for next week. We’ve got a gym session on Monday night that they’ve got to get used to and then back in on Tuesday and Thursday”.


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He continued: “It’s tough when you’ve got to come to the home of the champions. We knew all week it was going to be a tough order. They’re a pretty well oiled machine: they’v got settled players whereas we’ve got a young squad. A lot of lads have been pulled in.”

Despite having few opportunities to show their skills, there was the promise in the backs of what might emerge in future games. Aidan Cross worked hard to involve himself in the game and there were glimpses of stand-off Harris Rutherford’s talents when he came off the bench.

Overall, Southern Knights will be disappointed that they did not garner a better return for their first half efforts, but the blunt truth for them is that they were seldom able to set foot in the red zone and for the most part operated in the middle third of the pitch.

For Watsonians head coach, Steve Scott, the challenge is achieving the high standards that were set last autumn. By that measure Watsonians’ performance against Knights was modest and it was not until the second half that Scott’s side really dominated the game. Assessing his side’s display Scott said: “They made us work hard for the win, to be fair. In the first half they showed a lot of fight and came at us. We were perhaps a little bit off our game in the first half. But in the second half we got our game going and scored some good tries.

“We used our backs better in the second half because we started to get some momentum through the forwards. We started to get some decent ball carries in the second half. A lot of guys in this team have not played since November but the more games we play hopefully the more we can keep improving.”

Scott would have been delighted by the close quarter work of his forward pack and their ability to strike when they worked their way into the Knights’ 22. Of particular satisfaction to Scott was their improved work in the driving maul and in terms of scores it was particularly effective.

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It was Southern Knights who first made the scoreboard operator work for his crust with a 45 metre penalty goal from their stand-off Calum Grieve.  But no sooner had the three points been registered than Watsonians hit back after Knights no 8 Harry Borthwick had misjudged the trajectory of the ball into touch at the restart, thereby conceding a line-out.

Watsonians took full advantage by driving the subsequent maul, earning a penalty and then from a scrum in midfield launching a series of short-range attacks that ended with second-row Jamie Berrisford crossing for a somewhat soft try, converted by Lee Millar.

The pendulum swung again when Knights were awarded a penalty try after their line-out maul was taken down, Watsonian flanker Karl Main identified as the culprit, earning the back-row ten minutes in the sin-bin.

The liking for driving the line-out continued as again Watsonians showed good technique in creating a try for prop Harrison Courtney, Millar again adding the extras to give his side a 14-10 advantage at the interval.

Any hopes that the Knights could bridge the half time gap were soon snuffed out when Watsonians turned up the intensity and accuracy of their game that brought its reward with the second penalty try of the game for a collapsed maul, this time Clark Skeldon singled out as the perpetrator and a yellow card for his efforts.

Watsonians, now with a man advantage quickly added further points and again from the maul, hooker Cal Davies dotting down and Millar kicking the conversion goal.

Then, with their backs brought into the game, Watsonians turned the screw several notches to score a fine try by Lewis Berg from a long cut-out pass by Jason Baggott, Millar unfailingly adding the extra points.

There was still hunger for another score, this time provided by wing Angus Guthrie from an initial break by Berg, good close range driving from the forwards and then another long pass by Baggott that gave the left wing room to gallop to the line for his side’s sixth and final try, converted yet again by Millar to make it five from five off the tee for the stand-off.

Watsonians were then denied any further points after the game was cut short five minutes before full-time due to an injury to the Knights’ back row Will Hopes who was given precautionary on-field treatment for a possible neck/spinal injury before being taken to hospital.

 

Teams –

Watsonians: D Coetzer; L MacPherson, L Berg, J Baggott, A Guthrie; L Millar©, M McAndrew; H Courtney, C Davies, M Wilson, L Ball, J Berrisford, S Cecil, K Main, N Irvine-Hess. Subs: F Duraj, R Deans, G Scougall, K Watt, C Wilson, R Graham, M Scott, S King.

Southern Knights: K Clark; A Cross, P Anderson, A Hall, R Cottrell; C Grieve, R Brand; J Dobie, R Anderson©, C Greer, C Skeldon, J Campbell W Hopes, A Ferrie, H Borthwick. Subs: B McLean, F Barry, E Harrison, E Demirel, S Derrick, C Davidson, H Rutherford, M Wilson.

Referee: Rob McDowell

Scorers –

Watsonians: Tries Berrisford, Courtney, Penalty try, Davies, Berg, Guthrie; Cons: Millar 5.

Southern Knights: Tries: Penalty Try; Pen: Grieve.

Scoring Sequence (Watsonians first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 7-10; 12-10; 14-10 (ht) 21-10; 26-10; 28-10; 33-10; 35-10; 40-10, 42-10.

Yellow cards –

Watsonians: Main (28 mins)

Southern Knights: Skeldon (44 mins)

 

Man-of-the-Match: Watsonians forwards provided the basis for what was eventually a sumptuous win and none illustrated the frontal power game than second-row Jamie Berrisford.

Talking point: Round one of the Sprint Series showed that Watsonians will be a hard side to beat albeit that a new-look Knights side perhaps made the Myresiders win easier than it should have been.  For Southern Knights the challenge will be moulding a young and raw side – particularly the backs – into a battle hardened unit in rapid time.


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About Alan Lorimer 369 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.