Boroughmuir Bears 10
IAIN MORRISON @ Myreside
THIS encounter, a local derby between the two teams who began the day at the top of the Super 6 table, promised much but under-delivered as Watsonians won a scrappy and disjointed match a little too easily to capture and keep the attention of a desperately thin crowd.
The disappointing aspect of this game was not simply that the favourites won but that the Bears, a team that regularly punches well above their weight, did so little to counter their opponents’ obvious advantages.
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On a day when the Bears needed a little luck and every point going they ignored six, maybe seven penalty attempts, opting instead to kick to the corner and coming away empty-handed every single time. Who knows what a little scoreboard pressure might have done to Watsonians’ confidence?
“Would we take the kicks again if given the chance,” mused coach Graham Shiel out loud. “Perhaps. But we are an ambitious group of guys and I don’t want to criticise the players for taking the option that they did.
“It was tough for us today, we have had a number of changes and we are a young squad who will grow and learn from that. It was a tough day and disappointing, clearly, but it is a big learning curve for us today against a good outfit.
“It was disappointing that our lineout didn’t function, we didn’t really fire a shot in that respect, but at the end of the day I admire the ambition.”
The home side were first out the blocks with a try after just two minutes, thanks to scrum-half Rory Brand, who looked lively all afternoon. He simply stepped inside the last defender before walking over the try line.
Watsonians dominated the contact area and bossed most of the scrums, winning at least one straight-arm penalty, and spent great swathes of the first half especially camped deep in Bears’ territory.
Watsonians also used the wind to better effect. Brand especially is handy with his feet and kicked long and short with accuracy, allowing his wingers to close the opposition space and, on one occasion, scrag the last man into touch for a huge territory gain. If it wasn’t Brand bossing it then Lee Millar was hoofing the ball downtown – although the fly-half only managed one conversion from three attempts before being replaced.
But early points on the board can lead to complacency and, after the opening seven points, Watsonians didn’t score again until the very end of the first half. They made chances and they had opportunities but in truth both sides were guilty of butchering overlaps, the inside men seemingly oblivious to the extra bodies kicking their heels in the wider channels. And someone should mention to the Bears’ midfield that once you tuck the ball under one arm the opposition knows you are not going to pass the ball and can safely double team you.
After that rocky start the Bears recovered to slowly work their way back into this game, enjoying a much better second quarter, carrying with conviction and kicking long to lift the Watsonian siege.
It is a popular choice these days to ignore the three, witness the All Blacks in the recent Bledisloe Cup, but that doesn’t always make it right all the time. Four times in the opening 40 the Bears were awarded penalties inside the Watsonians half (one was long range) and four times they went to the corner rather than take the possibility of points.
The first attacking lineout never happened because Jack Bergin missed his touch, always a difficult one for the coaches to swallow, but a mistake the fly-half repeated after the break. The backs dropped the second and the forwards the fourth. I forget what happened with the third but it resulted in nul points all the same.
Instead of getting onto the scoreboard and creating the pressure that comes with that, the Bears instead found themselves trailing by 12-0 at half-time after Edinburgh breakaway Ben Muncaster stretched Watsonians’ lead in the final knockings of the first 40, breaking a simple one-on-one tackle at the opposite end of the field to dive over in the left-hand corner.]
The Bears got off the mark early in the second half when Bergin finally opted to take the three after replacement Liam McConnell won the breakdown penalty.
That only seemed to galvanise the home side, who responded within minutes with a sweeping move from an attacking lineout. The impressive Matt Currie drew the last man to send full-back Dom Coetzer over the line as Watsonians were finally able to take advantage of numbers out wide.
The Bears again fired some penalties into the corner and enjoyed their best chance of a try following one lineout drive. Oddly enough they had already lost the ball, but some smart thinking from Callum Ramm saw the right-winger charge down Brand at the base of the breakdown. The ball fell kindly for the Bears, but their attack lacked the accuracy to exploit a huge overlap on the left and the chance went west.
In the final quarter Watsonians underlined their superiority with two well-taken tries. The first went to replacement Karl Main in the last of countless short-range attacks, the second to winger Angus Guthrie, who thought he had scored minutes before, only for the referee to decide the ball had been held up.
Undaunted by that decision, Guthrie collected a chip kick from the Bears about 20 metres from the line and weaved his way past a couple of defenders to score a try right between the posts that no one could contest.
The Bears displayed plenty of spirit by scoring with the last move of the match, from replacement Jerry Blyth-Lafferty from short range, with Bergin converting, but it gave the final score a competitive shine it didn’t really deserve.
“We weren’t on it today,” said victorious coach Fergus Pringle. “We made quite a few mistakes. We knew the battle at the breakdown was going to be tricky and we didn’t get much momentum – credit to them, I suppose – and it was a little bit scrappy.
“I still think [in the] second half we kicked well and played in the right areas. It was just that our platform wasn’t as good as it usually is and we made a few mistakes here and there, we didn’t go through the phases as we’d have liked to.”
But you scored five tries while playing within yourself?
“Yeah, look, we have a really good bunch of boys who buy into what we are trying to do here. They work really hard during the week and we are really focused on our performance week by week, not just the scoreboard. Still it’s nice to get the win because Boroughmuir are a good side and tough to beat.”
Watsonians: D Coetzer; H Paterson, L Berg (M Currie 40), C Eastgate, A Guthrie; L Millar (captain, J Reynolds 55), R Brand (M Scott 65); H Courtney, P Harrison (C Davies 45), B Bratton (G Scougall 50), L Ball, P Philips (K van Niekerk 65), S Cecil, C Wilson (K Main 45), B Muncaster.
Boroughmuir Bears: A Scott (K Johnston 63); C Ramm, R Kerr, S Robeson (M Johnstone 65), J Jenkins; J Bergin, R Swann; C McFeat (B Sweet 66), I Carmichael (J Blyth-Lafferty 49), M Goodwin (M McGinley 23), J Fisher, C Atkinson (L McConnell 40), E Ferrie, R Tait (P Bogie 65), S McGinley (captain, G Brown 49).
Referee: Ruairidh Campbell.
Watsonians: Tries: Brand, Muncaster, Coetzer, Main, Guthrie. Cons: Millar, Eastgate 2.
Boroughmuir Bears: Try: Blyth-Lafferty; Con: Bergin. Pen: Bergin.
Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0 (h-t) 12-3; 17-3; 22-3; 24-3; 29-3; 31-3; 31-8; 31-10.
Man of the Match: The sponsors gave it to Edinburgh breakaway Ben Muncaster who showed up well and scored one try. The back three for Watsonians also looked the part and would benefit from seeing a little more of the ball but it’s hard to look beyond scrummy Rory Brand, who kicked well and posed a threat from the base throughout.
Moment of the match: The Bears were up against it and needed a good start. Instead they lost Watsonians’ kick off, conceded a penalty within seconds and a try within minutes. The visitors found themselves 7-0 down before the latecomers had even found a seat and the writing was, rather ominously, on the wall from the get-go.
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