Currie Chieftains 34
COLIN RENTON @ Malleny Park
ANY notion that the wet weather might dampen the ambition of two sides determined to play open rugby was dispelled in a fast-paced encounter brimming with entertaining rugby. In the end, Chieftains were deserved winners, and their coach Ben Cairns had every right to feel satisfied with what he had just seen.
“We’ll take that final result. There’s things we can do better, as always, but there was lots of good bits there,” he said. “I thought some of our defensive sets were outstanding. I thought our ability to still play, even in those conditions, was really impressive. Some of the quality in the wide channels was really good. I thought we got the balance right in terms of when we needed to carry and when it was on to go to the edges.”
And, of the areas that still need work he added: “I was disappointed with our discipline first half and a bit disappointed with our accuracy second half.”
For Chieftains, the hard pitches in the early part of the season have been ideal for the fast flowing style Cairns wants to play, and he is hopeful that deteriorating surfaces over the coming weeks will not dent his men’s ambition.
“We are going to try not to let it affect us although obviously it plays a part in your decision making,” he said.
For Watsonians coach Steve Lawrie, it was a bad day at the office. His assessment was honest and concise.
“The much better team won – it’s that simple. I thought they were more intelligent in the way they went about it,” he stated.
“We lacked tempo in attack. We are disappointed but we’ve got to be realistic – ultimately they were the better side. And, if you play poorly against teams that are good then you will lose games of rugby. I’m disappointed because I thought we were more mature than that, but I think there’s a couple of areas we can definitely tighten up on. “
It started well for Lawrie’s side who took the lead with four minutes on the clock. A penalty for not rolling away on the edge of the home 22 was a gift for a kicker of Lee Millar’s calibre.
Chieftains responded with a score that was a prime example of the pacey counter-attacking style that has become their habit this season. Gregor Hunter started it with a break from deep and a perfectly weighted pass to Mike Vernel was followed by slick transfers via Rhys Davies and Jamie Forbes, before Hunter rejoined the line to dot down in the corner.
Hunter’s touchline conversion was just short of the target but he was back on target after 15 minutes when he added the extras after sending Jamie Forbes in for try number two following a sustained spell of pressure.
Millar spurned the chance of three more points following an offence that earned Joe Reynolds a yellow card, raking the line-out option instead, and it proved the correct decision when a powerful surge ended with Josh Rowland applying the final touch. Millar’s conversion cut the gap to two points.
The next Chieftains attack ended with a yellow card for Rowland. The penalty was booted into touch on the left and from the line-out, Charlie Shiel fed Hunter, and Forbes raced onto the stand-off’s pass to bag his second try. Hunter’s conversion completed the first half scoring.
The Chieftains objective was a four try bonus point, but first they had to endure a spell on the back foot as Watsonians made a determined start to the second period. However, despite having the better of the third quarter, the visitors failed to add to their points tally.
And having survived that period, the hosts regained the ascendancy and after being held out on several occasions, they eventually found a way through when the impressive Scott McGinley crashed over for the score.
Hunter missed with his conversion attempt but found his range to add three points with a penalty that left Watsonians needing two scores to take anything from the game. They grabbed one with nine minutes to play when DJ Innes darted clear and sent Rowland in for his second try of the afternoon. Millar’s conversion trimmed the deficit to ten points.
However, that was as close as they would get and it was Chieftains who had the final word when Campbell Wilson plunged over for try number five as the game entered injury time, and Hunter banged over the conversion.
Currie Chieftains: J Forbes; B Robbins, J Reynolds, R Nelson, S Hamilton; G Hunter, C Shiel; A McWilliam, G Carson, F Watt, R Davies, M Vernel, M Kelly,T Gordon, S McGinley. Subs: C Wilson, M Agiro, T Tameilau, R Frostwick, A Hall.
Watsonians: J Rowland; A Guthrie, R Hutton, D Innes, R McLean; L Millar, M Scott; G Jackson, R Graham, J Stanley, J Hodgson, C Borthwick, G Nelson, C Boyle, M Fedo. Subs: F Renwick, F Hobbis, J Miller, E Fox, P Cunningham
Referee: Ben Blain
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Hunter, Forbes 2, McGinley, Wilson; Cons: Hunter 3; Pen: Hunter.
Watsonians: Tries; Rowland 2; Cons: Millar 2; Pen: Millar.
Scoring sequence: (Chieftains first): 0-3, 5-3, 10-3, 12-3, 12-8, 12-10, 17-10, 19-10 (h-t) 24-10, 27-10, 27-15, 27-17, 32-17, 34-17.
Yellow cards –
Currie Chieftains: Reynolds
Watsonians: Rowland, Borthwick
Man-of-the-match: Just edging out his second-row colleagues Mike Vernel and Rhys Davies was Scott McGinley, who put in a massive shift and was outstanding in all aspects, capping an impressive performance with the bonus point try.
Talking point: The pace at which the game was played is testament to the fitness of the players of both sides and the work of their coaches.