Southern Knights 26
IAIN HAY @ Myreside
THE last match of the regular, inaugural season of the FOSROC Super6 saw league leaders Watsonians pip the in-form Southern Knights to set up a rematch in the play-offs. If that match is anything like this one, it should be a feisty affair, as this one had more twists and turns than a Hitchcockian thriller, remade by M. Night Shyamalan.
After a minute’s applause to honour the passing of former player and club treasurer Mike Crerar, Watsonians got off to a blistering start. Inside centre Joe Reynolds wriggled out of two tackles to take Watsonians up to the Knights’ 22. A few phases later they had numbers on the left, allowing Fijian flanker Mesu Kunavula to dummy the last man and dive over. Club captain Lee Millar did terrifically to drill the conversion from out near the touchline, and it wasn’t to be for the last time.
His opposite number Jason Baggott then had a couple of unmemorable moments, first putting a clearing kick out on the full, and then pulling a penalty left of the sticks, but when his pop pass set Dalton Redpath through a hole, Knights were up into the 22. Field possession was lost, however, when Baggott’s attempt at a grubber was picked off by Reynolds, who was then hit high and fairly hard by James Head. After discussing with touch judge Mike Adamson, referee Hollie Davidson pulled out the yellow card for the lock.
With numerical advantage the home side then decided to commit disciplinary seppuku. Successive penalties allowed the Knights to kick for territory, as well as running the sin-bin clock down, and despite being a man down, they levelled the scores when blindside flanker Iain Moody finished from close range.
Knights then took the lead through openside Ruairidh Knott’s strong finish, fending off two would-be tacklers to go over, after Knights had once again gained yards through Watsonians’ indiscipline.
Although Baggott and half-back partner Bruce Colvine had started to take command of proceedings after Head’s yellow card, Watsonians had looked keen to play an adventurous off-loading game when they had possession, and when it stuck, they looked dangerous. After breaking into the Knights’ 22 and winning a penalty, hooker Cal Davies was at the back of a maul which surged over, and Millar’s conversion levelled the scores.
Baggott had a chance to give Knights the lead with the final play of the half after the half-time hooter, but he missed his second penalty attempt of the evening, despite seeming to have his from-hand and conversion kicking boots on.
He did prove how accurate that right boot could be at the beginning of the second half, when, playing with penalty advantage, he knocked a hanging kick-pass over towards right-winger Ciaran Whyte. At first, it looked like there may have been a touch too much sauce on it, but Whyte did tremendously well to take a diving catch over the line.
The penalty count had been racking up against Watsonians, and another easy kick to the corner for Baggott saw Fraser Renwick do what Cal Davies had in the first, with an almost carbon-copy maul try which meant the Knights now had the try bonus point.
Excluding the early Kunavula try, Southern Knights had been the stronger side for over an hour of play, but then came the twist. Somehow the giant Fijian squeezed through a gap in midfield, and although his rampaging run was stopped by an excellent chop tackle by Fraser Thomson, Knights were eventually pinged for offside.
Once Millar had kicked for touch, Watsonians got their maul going at such a rate the Knights could only stop them illegally, so the penalty try was awarded and replacement prop Grant Shiells was the second Knight of the sin-bin.
With the game now so tight, errors started to sneak in, but it was two moments of Millar magic which sealed the victory. First, he broke through in midfield and galloped into the 22, and although they had penalty advantage, Watsonians continued to play.
No 8 Harry Fisher took it on in the Knights’ 22, he found Lomond MacPherson, and although the winger was prevented from scoring, he offloaded for Ewan Fox to level the scores in the right corner. Millar’s conversion attempt started well right of the post, but it arced its way round to dissect the sticks to the delight of the home crowd.
Knights got one last chance to attack after the hooter had sounded. Although they had been penalised at first for side entry in their desperate attempt to regain possession, there was a stramash instigated by MacPherson which saw the penalty reversed. Alas, Baggott’s forward pass in the 84th minute of play was right in front of the ref, and Watsonians regained their status as Super6 No 1 seeds.
“It’s probably the same for both teams, but we were really tested in our strength in depth”, said winning coach Fergus Pringle, who was without five front-line players on Scotland Under-20s duty. “I was really happy with how the boys who came into the squad stood up. We wanted to win our last home game of the season, but going into the semi it’s 50-50. We’ll need to put in a very, very good performance, because they (the Knights) are a very good team.”
After seeing his pack decimated by injuries through the game, Rob Chrystie was hopeful the two-week rest would be long enough to see some of them recover. “We’ll have to just mop it up and see where we are Monday night,” the Knights coach said. “It is what it is. It’ll be a completely different game in two weeks. Some of the boys got a good hit out, and we’ve utilised the whole squad. Our focus now shifts to two weeks’ time.”
Watsonians: J Forbes; L Macpherson, L Berg, J Reynolds, R Smith; L Millar©, M Scott; S Grahamslaw, C Davies, N Borel, M Badenhorst, J Hodgson, M Kunavula, J Miller, H Fisher. Subs: R Graham, F Hobbis, H Courtney, J Gibson, G Nelson, A Harris, E Fox, A Guthrie.
Southern Knights: F Thomson©; C Whyte, J Jenkins, G Wood, I Sim; J Baggott, B Colvine; S Gunn, F Renwick, E Mcquillin, J Head, D Redpath, I Moody, R Knott, N Irvine-Hess. Subs: R Anderson, C Crookshank, G Shiells, A Gregory, A Runciman, S Hutchison, P Anderson, N Sweeney.
Referee: H Davidson.
Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 7-0, 7-7, 7-14, 14-14 haf-time, 14-19, 14-26, 21-26, 28-26.
Scorers – Watsonians: Tries: Kunavula, Davies, penalty try, Fox. Cons: Millar 3.
Southern Knights: Tries: Moody, Knott, Whyte, Renwick. Cons: Baggott 3.
Yellow Cards: Southern Knights: Head, Shiells.
Man of the Match: just like the result, this one also to and froed, but thanks to his break for the decisive score and 100 per cent accuracy off the tee, Watsonians captain Lee Millar just sneaks it.
Talking Point: with their entire back row failing to make it out for the second half, what seemed to be concussive issues for James Head, and other bumps and bruises, Knights coach Rob Chrystie will be hoping nobody else goes down between now and the semi-final rematch. Both sides can expect reinforcements, but on the basis of this game, they’re fairly evenly matched.