Super6: Watsonians complete the double over Boroughmuir Bears to go back to the top

Fifth win in a row takes Fergus Pringle's side clear of Ayrshire Bulls

Boroughmuir v Watsonians
Watsonians got the better of Boroughmuir for the second week running, with Mesu Kunavula (above) one of their three try-scorers. Picture: Graham Gaw.

Boroughmuir Bears 20

Watsonians 30


A VERY different game from a week earlier produced the same outcome, as Watsonians completed the double over Boroughmuir Bears to go back to the top of the Super6 table after being dislodged overnight by Ayrshire Bulls. 

The presence of hooker Johnny Matthews inspired the home pack, and they caused Watsonians problems in areas where they had been distinctly second best in their 28-10 defeat at Myreside last Sunday. But, while under heavy pressure at times, Watsonians retained sufficient composure to come out on top, again finishing more strongly than their opponents.

Matthews, last season’s top try-scorer in the Premiership with Boroughmuir and now a Glasgow Warriors professional, scored two of his team’s four tries, both from lineout mauls in the first half. But Watsonians countered his threat better in the second half, and although they were outscored 4-3 in tries, Lee Millar added 15 points with three conversions and the same number of penalties, whereas the Bears’ Kyle McGhie missed all four of his conversion attempts.

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The result means Watsonians win the Allan McNish Trophy, named in memory of their former club president and awarded for victory in the Edinburgh derby. They will be tested severely again this weekend when they visit the Bulls, whose win over Stirling County on Saturday had put them top by a point, but they are proving themselves a very versatile side who can think their way out of trouble.

“I thought Boroughmuir were really good today – they were a different side to the one that turned up at Myreside last week,” Watsonians coach Fergus Pringle said. “They put our scrum under pressure in the first half and we struggled a bit there. They put our lineout maul D under pressure in the first half and we struggled a bit there too.

“We spoke about it at half-time and I thought we were better in the second half in both those areas. We had to scrap and fight, it was a bit up and down with mistakes, and messy around the ruck. But I’m proud of how the boys stuck in when we didn’t find rhythm and weren’t playing as we can. We showed a lot of character.”

It was Millar who got the ball rolling with a second-minute penalty after the Bears had smothered a kick into their own 22, but the home team soon hit back through Matthews. The hooker, top scorer in the Premiership last season, had been absent from the Muir side in the match at Myreside, but quickly made his presence felt here by ploughing over from a lineout maul for an unconverted try.

Watsonians steadily applied the pressure after that setback, and with quarter of an hour gone, Edinburgh professional Mesu Kunavula finished off from close range to put them back in front. But, while the Fijian and his fellow-forwards enjoyed some success in the loose, they were under pressure in the scrum, and just past the midway point of the half they conceded a score when scrum-half Ali Harris’s clearance kick was charged down by Callum Atkinson, who pounced on the loose ball to claim his team’s second try.

That try made it 10-10, but two minutes from the end of the regulation 40 Watsonians got their noses back in front after sending a penalty to touch rather than going for goal. The initial drive from the lineout was halted, but the ball came back and a few phases later Harrison Courtney finished off from close range, with Millar adding two more points.

Boroughmuir had one chance to narrow the deficit before the break, and they eventually took it a good six or seven minutes after the half-time hooter sounded. After an attack from midfield was stopped illegally they could have settled for kicking a penalty in front of the posts, but opted to scrum instead. When they got no joy from that set piece, they opted for the lineout when Watsonians offended again. 

Lock Jamie Hodgson was sinbinned when the visitors were again penaised, then at the second time of asking the Bears got it right from the lineout, with Matthews again finishing the move off to make it 15-17 at the break. A Millar penalty made it a five-point lead for the 14-men shortly after the restart, but then a move down the line saw the Bears draw level when Cammie Gray scored in the right corner. 

Boroughmuir dominated play for a long time after that, but they were lacking in midfield penetration when another score at that point might just have settled the game in their favour. After a frenetic spell of play from both sides, Millar calmed things down with a penalty to put his team back in front.

Inside the final ten minutes Bears substitute Jack Steele prevented a try with an interception of a Michael Badenhorst pass to Ruaraidh Smith, but minutes later the winger was not to be denied when, after a free-kick deep in the home 22, he was able to plunge over in the left corner. Millar’s conversion wrapped up the victory, Watsonians’ fifth in a row, but Boroughmuir caused them enough problems to encourage the Bulls, their next opponents on Saturday, to believe that they can become the first team this season to beat them.

“We were very competitive, and I think we were equal or better,” Boroughmuir coach Graham Shiel said. “Watsonians took their chances well, and Lee Millar is very, very dangerous in the game that they play. 

“If you can stop Lee Millar from putting them into areas of the pitch, that’s probably the key. If Lee doesn’t play they will find it harder to play the game that they’re currently playing.”

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Teams – Boroughmuir Bears: M Cimprich; C Gray, A Russell, G Cannie, G Faulds; C Laidlaw, K McGhie; C Capps, J Matthews, D Winning, D Medjebeur, C Atkinson, A Mncube, S McGinley, C Keddie. Subs: T Francombe, M Downer, M McGinley, E Stewart, M Walker, T Wilson, R Arthur, J Steele.  

Watsonians: J Forbes; L Macpherson, L Berg, A Chalmers, R Smith; L Millar (captain), A Harris; H Courtney, C Davies, N Borel, B Leitch, J Hodgson, M Kunavula, C Boyle, M Inness. Subs: C Wilson, F Hobbis, W Gibson, M Badenhorst, H Fisher, M Scott, E Fox, A Guthrie. 

Referee: H Davidson.

Scorers: Boroughmuir: Tries: Matthews 2, Atkinson, Gray. Watsonians: Tries: Kunavula, Courtney, Smith. Cons: Millar 3. Pens: Millar 3.

Scoring sequence (Boroughmuir first): 0-3, 5-3, 5-8, 5-10, 10-10, 10-15, 10-17, 15-17 half-time, 15-20, 20-20, 20-23, 20-28, 20-30.

Yellow card: Hodgson (Watsonians) 40.

Attendance: 755.

Man of the Match: Watsonians flanker Connor Boyle got the official verdict for the second week running, thanks mainly to his excellent work in the loose as attack after attack by Boroughmuir foundered on a ferocious defence.

Talking point: With Johnny Matthews in their pack, Boroughmuir had far more self-belief than last week – an example of how one man can lift a whole team.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1392 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

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