LOMOND MACPHERSON scored two tries for Watsonians in their Edinburgh derby win over Heriot’s last weekend, and is determined to back that up with another big performance at Myreside this afternoon, when Stirling County are the visitors for a contest which will decide who tops the Super6 table after three rounds of matches.
Head coach Fergus Pringle has stayed largely loyal to the side which got that victory last week with the only two changes to the starting XV being Murray Scott switching in at scrum-half for Roan Frostwick, and Fijian sevens star Mesu Kunavula – released by Edinburgh – replacing James Miller in the back-row.
As a relative latecomer to rugby, MacPherson is delighted that Pringle – unlike some other Super6 coaches – has decided to go with consistency in selection, recognising that time on the paddock is going to be key to his continued development.
He had, initially, tried the oval ball game in his early teens and not thought much of it – “hated it, actually” – so concentrated instead on playing youth football with Dumbarton for the next two or three years.
“I played against Celtic and Rangers and really enjoyed it,” he recalls. “It was fun – but they were streets ahead of us and used to put loads of goals past us – then when I moved up from Under-15s to Under-17s I had a chat with club and they wanted to keep me on, but I decided it wasn’t for me.
“I was travelling three times a week from Oban [where his family home is] to Glasgow, and I knew that I wasn’t going to make it as a footballer, so I decided to give rugby another crack.
“I played a bit of age-grade stuff for Glasgow, but it was only when I went to Merchy [Merchiston Castle School] for my final two years that it really became a big thing for me.
“I was okay athletically before, but there was really good S&C there to develop that side of things, and a really strong rugby culture which I loved. I was boarder and I loved it – being with my friends playing rugby all the time – you can be on campus at the school for two weeks and never leave without even realising it because you are so busy.”
After leaving school, he joined Watsonians and got a few bench appearances for the 1st XV during the 2017-18 season, then played a bit of Kings of the 7s at the end of the campaign. He suffered syndesmosis on his right ankle during pre-season of last season which kept him out for 13 weeks, and no sooner was he back than he suffered the same injury on the left ankle which ruled him out of Scotland’s Under-20s Six Nations campaign, but he returned in time to force his way into the squad for the Junior World Cup in Argentina.
It was a pretty disappointing tournament for Scotland, with their 12th place finish from 12 teams meaning relegation to the second-tier World Rugby Trophy competition next year where they will play against the likes of Kenya, Uruguay and Brazil, however MacPherson is characteristically positive about the experience.
“As a team, I don’t think we really deserved to lose every game,” he insists. “There was a lot of times we put ourselves in good positions and just didn’t quite get over the line. We were in a really tough group – South Africa, New Zealand then Georgia in eight days is really hard going and we were competitive in all those games – but then I think we ran out of steam a bit against Italy and Fiji.”
“Fiji were really good. Really big specimens who could offload from anywhere. It was a good experience and I learned a lot.”
The big question is, where does a player like MacPherson – who isn’t in the SRU academy set-up – go after he moves beyond the Under-20s programme?
With serious, but as yet not fully realised potential, he is exactly the type of player that Super6 is aimed at as an individual who will hopefully benefit from the extra training and support from the more professionalised environment of the new league.Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 27)
Whether the old Premiership could have been adapted to create something similar but less divisive is an old argument and not worth re-hashing now. We are where we are, and MacPherson is clearly enjoying establishing himself in the new competition.
“The standard of the games is quite high, maybe a bit higher than [the Premiership] last year,” he says. “It is pretty cool having one game a week being televised live on a Sunday, everyone is trying to make it more commercial and professional. From a rugby point of view, we have more S&C, more analysis, we’re training at Oriam every Monday and Tuesday, so it definitely feels like a step closer to the pro environment.
“It is good exposure from a playing point of view,” he adds. “You still have those old school guys like Fraser Thomson and Frazier Climo, who you can learn so much from, and then the youngers guys involved in the academies and age-grade stuff that you want to prove yourself against.
“I have learnt so much from [Watsonians’ Kiwi centre] Joey Reynolds already. He’s the type of player you could put into the pro game and he wouldn’t be out of place. He’s a great guy and a good leader, so to have him and Lee Millar inside me is really helpful.
“I still have a lot to learn. My running game is quite good – you can always get better but I would say that is my strength – so, for me, it is about developing my skill-set and my understanding of the game.
“Being a professional [rugby player] is the dream, but I’m not putting all my eggs in that one basket. It’s not like I am training with Edinburgh and things like that, so I need to keep my options open,” added the 20-year-old, who is in his second year studying business at Napier University.
Today’s Myreside encounter is Watsonians’ first home match in Super6. They are up against the only other unbeaten team in the competition, with Ben Cairns’ men backing up their narrow round one victory over Boroughmuir Bears with a frustrating draw against Southern Knghts last weekend.
County are boosted by the release of four Glasgow Warriors pros, with tight-head prop Adam Nicol, No 8 Adam Ashe and stand-off Brandon Thomson all starting, while flanker Matt Smith is on the bench.
Today’s match between Watsonians and Stirling County kicks off at 3pm at Myreside.
Watsonians: J Forbes; L MacPherson, L Berg, J Reynold, A Guthrie; L Millar©, M Scott; H Courtney, C Davies, N Borel, B Leitch, J Hodgson, M Kunavula, C Boyle, M Inness; Subs: C Wilson, F Hobbis, J Gibson, F Simpson, M Badenhorst, R Frostwick, A Chalmers, K McGovern.
Stirling County: J Henderson; E MacGarvie, R Kent, L Hayes, L Trotter; B Thomson, C Korteweg; C Brown, R Kennedy©, A Nicol, J Pow, O Bartlett, D Taylor-Menzies, C Gordon, A Ashe. Subs: A Thomson, A Wood, M Walker, G Arnott, M Smith, A Goudie, M New, A McLean.