Super Series: Watsonians show grit to see off Boroughmuir Bears

Next weekend's play-off matches will be a test of character for both teams

Kwagga Van Niekerk on the charge for Watsonians versus Boroughmuir Bears. Image: Peter Watt
Kwagga Van Niekerk on the charge for Watsonians versus Boroughmuir Bears. Image: Peter Watt

Watsonians 36

Boroughmuir Bears 14

LEWIS STUART @ Meggetland

A FIRST-HALF surge and gutsy defence after the break were enough to see Watsonians through to the third-place play-off next week, with the added carrot of getting the better of long-standing Edinburgh rivals Heriot’s helping to make sure it is not a dead rubber.

It’s a different tale for Boroughmuir Bears, who face Southern Knights in the fifth-sixth play off. Head coach Graham Shiel frankly admits that, after the toughest few months of coaching he has ever experienced, simply getting the players up for a wooden-spoon decider before the semi-pro outfit closes for good will be his hardest task.

“When they made the decision to scrap the Super Series, they should have just got rid of it there and then,” he said. “I’ve had some tough coaching gigs, but these last few months have been, without a shadow of a doubt, the most difficult time I’ve ever coached.


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“You’ve got guys who are looking for the exits and considering their futures, and who can blame them? Ultimately, we go down to Melrose, but fifth/sixth – does it really matter? Nobody is going to remember who wins that.

“The thing for me is that this is a young group we are working with, and some might come through, but they need time and the right environment. Where are they going to get that now?

“Is there a pathway? The answer is ‘no’! Nobody at this point in time can honestly say what the path for young players looks like. We are talking about a generation of young players who want to progress, and they have absolutely no idea where to go. In fact, we’re probably now in our second generation of players with no pathway. It’s frightening.”

At least Watsonians can use the Edinburgh rivalry with Heriot’s to gee up their players. Fraser Brown, their coach, is delighted by the signs that at long last his players are starting to deliver the kind of physicality in defence he has been demanding all season.

“It was not just the work rate, but some of the collisions were as physical as I’ve been demanding,” he said. “At the start of the competition, I was critical about our collisions being a bit passive, but across the 80 minutes of this game, our collisions were excellent.”

“Now it’s a local derby to finish on, and we have a point to prove after the opening game of the Sprint when I thought we just didn’t turn up for the first 65 minutes. This is a chance to put that right.”

Watsonians might have been unsettled by the strange experience of being the home team at their opponents’ ground, but, in fact, they took no time at all to settle. They were on the attack straight from the kick-off. After hooker Gavin Parry broke from a maul and came close to scoring, they recycled the ball, zoomed to the other side of the field, and prop Craig Davidson completed the job.

It took a while for Boroughmuir to get their act together, but when they did, it brought a period of sustained pressure for the first time in the game. They kicked for the corner, and when the maul was held, they kept recycling as the big forwards came around the corner to pummel the Watosnians defence, before a  switch in direction gave skipper Scott Robeson the chance to coast through.

Kickers Jason Baggott (for Watsonians) and George Paul (for the Bears) both added the conversions to leave the scores level until a piece of individual brilliance put Watsonians back in front.

Freddie Owsley, the wing, seemed well covered when he took a straightforward kick into his own backfield. However, he spotted the smallest of gaps in the chasing defence and, in a fraction of a second, was through it. Sidesteps took him past the second layer of defense, with only the back three cover left as he pinned his ears back and raced to touch down in the corner, just beating the cover tackle from Euan Muirhead, the Boroughmuir full-back.

Five minutes later, Owsley was at it again. A maul on the opposition line was brought down illegally, giving his side a chance to probe in midfield, then the former Edinburgh flyer came off his wing to collect the ball, and again his pace was too much for the defence as he squeezed through for his second score.

Watsonians went in search of the bonus point try but were held at bay until the final minute of the half when some clever play by Finlay Burgess, the scrum-half, won a scrum five, which soon turned into a penalty. Despite the previous maul having been held and turned over, they went for the same move, and this time Parry managed to reach out and ground the ball.

 

 

Half-time changed the pattern as Boroughmuir started to have more confidence in their forwards after centre Duncan Munn had put them in an attacking position. It took several minutes, two line-out mauls, and a scrum under the posts, but eventually, with another penalty coming, they moved it wide, and wing Matt Reid crossed.

Watsonians thought they had restored their advantage when Owsley crossed again, but as he stumbled the last few steps after a tap tackle, he lost control of the ball, and the score was not allowed.

It was just the let-off Boroughmuir craved, and they took full advantage in terms of possession and territory. However, despite hammering the Watsonians line for most of the rest of the match, they struggled to convert all that pressure into points.

Full credit to the men in maroon for their defensive resilience, but the Meggetland men would have expected to get at least something from all that pressure. Frustratingly for their coaches, they failed to create a single clear-cut chance.

Bears paid the price when Watsonians got a rare breakout and mauled their way to the line for replacement hooker Matthew Pritchard to touch down, and the scoreline got an even more favorable gloss for the ‘home’ team when Baggott danced his way to the line with the final play of the game.

They had been made to work for it, but individual flair and a gutsy defensive effort were enough to see Watsonians  home.

 

Teams –

Watsonians: D Coetzer; L Macpherson (R Coetzer, 65), J Mitchell, L Berg (S Clark, 54), F Owsley; J Baggott, F Burgess (M Scott, 37); C Davidson (D Voas, 54), G Parry (M Pritchard, 41), B Bratton (C Lamberton, 54), J Berrisford (K Watt, 54), J Parkinson, K Van Niekerk, S Cecil, N Irvine-Hess (C) (O Gordon, 29).

Boroughmuir Bears: E Muirhead; M Reid, D Munn, S Robeson (C), R Stewart (R Kerr, 80); G Paul (A McLean, 58), R Swan (R Cadzow, 67); C Anderson (C McFeat Smith, 41), A Allen (Z Griffiths, 54), M McGinley (Z Toerien, 21), M Laboda (S Whitaker, 42), J Fisher, D Davison, L Calder (H Stewart, 69), L Habib.

Referee: Rob McDowell

 

Scorers –

Watsonians: Tries: Davidson, Owsley 2, Parry, Pritchard; Cons: Baggott 3.

Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: Robeson, Reid; Cons: Paul 2.

Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-7; 12-7; 17-7; 19-7; 24-7 (h-t) 24-12; 24-14; 29-14; 31-14; 36-14.

 

Player-of-the-Match: Freddie Owsley produced the moments of magic to turn the game but it was Watsonians’ defensive efforts in the second half which ensure his inspiration mattered, so Seb Cecil gets the award for his breakdown work and big hits.

Talking Point: A perfect afternoon for running rugby did not disappoint, though the biggest job for both coaches will probably be motivating their players for next week’s play-offs before the whole thing is scrapped.


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About Lewis Stuart 77 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.

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