Super Series: fast start sees Watsonians break their duck versus Southern Knights

Visitors race into 21-0 lead then defend resolutely to secure first win of campaign

Watsonians picked up their first win of this Super Series sprint campaign against Southern Knights at the Greenyards. Image: Craig Murray
Watsonians picked up their first win of this Super Series sprint campaign against Southern Knights at the Greenyards. Image: Craig Murray

Southern Knights 14

Watsonians 24

LEWIS STUART @ The Greenyards

A RACING start and determined defence were enough for Watsonians to claim their first win of the Super Series Sprint despite being under pressure for most of the final hour of the game.

It was hard work for Fraser Brown’s men, but as he said afterwards: “You can’t get bored with winning.” So, the result alone was enough to leave him happy.

“It’s good to celebrate that,” he added. “The first 25 minutes, I thought we played really well; we controlled where we played on the pitch and controlled the tempo of the game. Our set-piece was excellent – it was excellent all day.

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“After 25 minutes, they came into the game, and we went away from what worked for us in that first quarter. That said, we defended really well. Over the last two weeks, we’ve questioned the players’ mindset and how hard we work to try to make the opposition go through phases and force them to make a mistake. I thought we did that really well in this game; we hung in.

“From a mindset point of view, I’m really pleased because it shows proper growth from where we’ve been over the last couple of weeks.”

For the Knights, it really was a case of one that got away. They created more openings than their opponents but came away without even the consolation of a losing bonus point from a game they dominated for an hour.

“I feel it is a game we gave them,” said defence coach Iain Chisholm. “We’ve been speaking from the start of the Sprint Series about not beating ourselves, but you look at every single one of their scores, and the source of it was one of our mistakes.

“Too much of what we did was not what we talked about. We talked a lot about transferring pressure rather than possession, but we just started kicking the ball back to them and waiting to see what they would do; it was really reactive.

“We’re trying to be quick with what we do and created space with slip passes and good lines, but we didn’t make anything of them. We’ll look at the game, and we’ll find good bits, but at the end of the day, we got beaten; we took nothing away from it. We’re really disappointed with that because we felt we were a better side.”

Not that it looked that way at the start as Watsonians stormed out of the blocks and powered ahead inside the opening two minutes. A penalty just outside the 22 went to the corner where the maul was held, but centre Fin Thomson bashed his way through almost to the line, and flanker Seb Cecil completed the job.

The Knights did have enough pressure to hit back but made nothing of it, and a 50-22 from Dom Coetzer, the visiting full-back, set Watsonians up for another maul on the home line. Again, the first drive was held, but this time it had made enough ground infield for hooker Jerry Blyth-Lafferty to peel off the back and barge his way over.

It was not as though the Knights were struggling for possession. They had enough ball to lay down a more potent threat but struggled to make any headway against the well-organised visiting defence.

Instead, they got a lesson in taking chances when a sloppy clearance gave Watsons another visit to the home 22 and another try. They were already on an advantage for coming in from the side when the ball arrived in midfield, and a half break by Jason Baggott, who had converted the earlier tries, created space for Thomson to cross for the third score.

Despite the scoreline, it had been anything but one-way traffic, more a lesson in taking chances, and when prop Jack Dobie produced the run of the half as he wriggled out of tackles and then cut infield, it gave the Borderers the chance finally to make the breakthrough.

Play moved back to the right where fly-half Gregor McNeish slipped the ball to his centre colleague, Ewan Greenlaw, for the score, converted by Calum Grieve.

The Knights’ profligacy was demonstrated when McNeish and Grieve combined to set the full-back racing through into open space, but when they were shutdown, nothing came of it, and the half ended without further scores.



After the break, it was pretty much all Knights as the replacements came on early and started to make a difference. They were not helped by both fly-half McNeish and his replacement Ross Wolfenden going off, but they held their shape and kept the pressure on.

Eventually, it told with flanker Michael Badenhorst crashing over on a short pass from replacement scrum-half Patrick Ritchie after yet another maul had done enough to suck in the defence while failing to make much progress.

The Knights were still struggling to make the most of their breaks, however, as players got run down after breaking clear, or the ball was spilled after the hard work had been completed.

Instead, Watsonians got the chance to increase their lead with a penalty in front of the posts and took it through full-back Coetzer, and that 10-point advantage was enough for them to see out the error-strewn finale.

It was far from flamboyant, but a win is a win, and that’s all that mattered to Watsonians – while the Knights had enough of the game to feel they can still make an impression on the tournament.


Teams –

Southern Knights: C Grieve; R Brett, A Hall , E Greenlaw, R Chalmers; G McNeish (R Wolfenden 41, M Glen 29), C Davidson (P Ritchie 41); J Dobie (A McGregor 64), F Scott (M Brogan 64), C Crookshanks (Z Szwagrzak 64), A Runciman, D Cockburn (B Singer 64), M Badenhorst, A Ferrie, G Young (W Ferrie 50).

Watsonians: D Coetzer; J Mitchell (R Coetzer 56), L Berg, F Thomson, F Owsley; J Baggott(A Lamb 55), M Scott (H Flinn 77); C Davidson (D Voas 58), J Blyth-Lafferty (G Parry 72), C Lamberton (R Whitefield 58), L Ball (K Watt 46), J Parkinson (A McInnes 77 ), S Cecil, O Gordon , K Van Niekerk.

Referee: Ruairidh Campbell


Scorers –

Southern Knights: Try: Greenlaw, Badenhorst; Con: Grieve 2.

Watsonians: Tries: Cecil, Blyth-Lafferty, Thomson; Cons: Baggott 3; Pen: D Coetzer.

Scoring Sequence (Southern Knights first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 0-19; 0-21; 5-21; 7-21 (h-t) 12-21; 14-21; 14-24.


Yellow Card –

Watsonians: Ball (31 mins)


Player-of-the-Match: A lot of strong individual performances for the Knights with Robbie Chalmers on the wing always creating gaps but it was the Watsonians defence that won the game with Kwagga van Niekerk getting the award for leading the way with good support from his back-row colleagues.

Talking point: Just as well there is a week’s gap in the tournament, by the end both sides looked just about out on their feet while injuries were also mounting up for both squads.

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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.