Southern Knights 7
ALAN LORIMER @ The Greenyards
DESPITE producing a hugely competitive performance, Southern Knights were unable to stop Watsonians from achieving a third successive win in the Super Series Championship to reset their course in pursuit of title honours.
Watsonians came into the match as favourites but in many ways the night belonged to Southern Knights, who, for much of the game, enjoyed a majority share of possession and territory, albeit this statistic did not play out in terms of tries.
Knights, over the past couple of seasons, were the poor relation of this competition but under head coach Alan Tait they have upped their game considerably so much so that they are now competitive against most sides. “I’ve told the lads that that’s the best Knights’ performance I’ve seen since I became head coach,” stated Tait, with not a little pride.
Tait, however, feels that there should be more local identity with the Knights. “What we need now is more Border lads coming and representing us. That’s going to have to happen. It’s great to see Border clubs doing well but we should be having local lads coming and filling in here when we have a crisis like this”.
For Watsonians, aside from a brilliant score by Connor McAlpine, it was a grinding effort, carried out for the most part by a seasoned pack that worked continuously that won them the game. The visitors also had the steadying influence of Lee Millar, who played a key part in directing operations from the stand-off position.
Head coach Nikki Walker, however, pointed to an another vital strength in his side. “I think if I’m honest, it was defence that won us the game. I was really happy with the way the forwards ground out the work and got their driving game going really well. We lacked a bit of accuracy at times and because the game became tight we couldn’t get away from them”.
Walker was correct about Watsonians’ defence, matched by a similar effort from Southern Knights, but what really gave the visitors their win was their ability to maximise scoring opportunities when they presented themselves.
If fast action and accurate defence is the desired currency of the Super Series then the first-half play certainly supplied these attributes in agreeably vast quantities, the only missing ingredient, however, being a bucket load of points.
Southern Knights certainly made the game a viewable spectacle in the first quarter, but despite taking the game to Watsonians with excellent ball retention and ambitious backline moves the Greenyards franchise were unable to capitalise on their pressure in the red zone.
Then, against the run of play, Watsonians grabbed the only points of the first half after winning a penalty and then kicking to the corner. Inevitably what followed was a driving maul – and driven at speed – that created a try for hooker Jake Kerr. Millar added the conversion points for a 7-0 lead.
With a man advantage for the first seven minutes of the second period as a result of Watsonians’ prop Gregor Scougall being carded, Knights piled on the pressure, coming close to scoring when Aidan Cross made a dash to the corner and when fellow wing Callum Barrett tore through midfield.
But for all their effort the Knights could not break down Watsonians’ defensive structure and worse still for the home side they then conceded, again very much against the run of play, what is known in the trade as a ‘sickener’. From a line-out close to the halfway line the visitors formed a driving maul that sucked in the back row defenders leaving a wide gap, visible from outer space, for the alert McAlpine to scorch through.
Millar converted for a 14-0 lead which might have stretched out further but for some excellent defence by the Knights near their own try line. Then after the impressive Harris Rutherford had captured a huge swathe of territory after a Watsonians move broke down, Knights got their reward with a try from a driven lineout attributed to replacement Corbin Thunder, Rutherford’s conversion handing his side a much-deserved bonus point.
Southern Knights: D Crawford; A Cross, P Anderson, A Hall, C Barrett; G McNeish, C Bell; J Dobie, L Thompson, A Dodds, A Ferrie, T Nwosu-Hope, A Hosking, M Job, S Derrick. Subs: C Thunder, C Greer, A Saumaka, G Young, K Buchan, H Patterson, H Rutherford, J Hocking.
Watsonians: D Coetzer; L MacPherson, G Pringle, L Berg, S King; L Milar©, C McAlpine; C Davidson, J Kerr, G Scougall, K Watt, J Berrisford, L Ball, K Main, K van Niekerk. Subs: C Davies, R Deans, B Bratton, A Scopes, F Duraj, M McAndrew, F Owsley, M Reid.
Referee: Sam Grove-White.
Southern Knights: Try: Thunder. Con: Rutherford.
Watsonians: Tries: Kerr, McAlpine. Cons: Miller (2)
Scoring Sequence (Southern Knights first): 0-5, 0-7 (ht) 0-12, 0-14, 5-14, 7-14.
Yellow cards –
Watsonians: Scougall (37)
Man-of-the-Match: The match needed a game-breaker and in this aspect scrum-half Connor McAlpine provided a bit of stardust with his try that was all about mental awareness and sheer pace. Great to watch.
Talking point: Watsonians have now fully recovered from the infamous mauling by Heriot’s and appear to have put right all that went wrong on that disastrous night at Myreside. For Knights the match will have given the Greenyards franchise a shot of confidence and for them it must surely be upwards from this point.