ERIN McRITCHIE @ Myreside
THE weather played a big part in Watsonians’ Round 18 win over Ayr at Myreside as the wind whipped across the field, and the rain fell, to make playing conditions that much harder for the two sides. Both teams had nothing to play for in terms of final league placing, but the home side were saying good-bye to their head coach, Steve Lawrie, who is off to join Edinburgh, and that was perhaps key to them roughing out the win.
They didn’t make it easy for themselves, soldiering through a somewhat lacklustre first half before completely turning things around in the second 40 – scoring three tries to take a 22-12 win come full time.
“The guys really enjoyed it today and I know Ayr were experimental with their team,” said Lawrie. “But look, there was nothing to play for and we’ve had two weeks of training and it’s just been a bit of fun.
“A nice way to finish. We were disappointed not to be in the play-offs but to do the double over Ayr and win the Bill McLaren Shield this year is showing that the club is moving forward and that everyone is excited for Super 6 now.”
It did not always look as though Watsonians were going to emerge the victors as the first half remained tight for scores, and evenly contested for the most part. The only real dip in the home side’s defence came when Robbie Smith flopped over the line for the opening try for Ayr.
The try came as a result of Ayr gaining a penalty from a rolling maul which Tommy Spinks took quickly himself, breaking to just inches short of the line. The forwards quickly recycled it and Smith found himself with the ball and a small gap in front of him, which he powered through. Paddy Dewhirst converted and so the additional two points.
Tempers flared due to frustration on a couple of occasions during the remainder of the half, the most tempestuous episode being when Smith took exception to something which his opposite number Fraser Renwick seemed to have said following an unsuccessful scum, with the two hookers having to be wrestled apart and the referee giving a stern warning to both captains.
Premiership match reports:
Just minutes after the second half got under way, Kyle Rowe made what could quite possibly have been a try-saving tackle on his opposite number Coran Henderson but Watsonians kept the pressure on.
The home team’s first try came a few minutes later when Rory Steele threw a pretty ugly looking pass, which seems to momentarily stun both sides, before Andrew Chalmers cheekily grabbed the ball off the ground and ran in the score unchallenged. With Lee Millar slotting the conversion, Watsonians had levelled the scores.
A Watsonians kick ahead started the momentum for their next try with Dewhirst ending up under pressure and being forced to concede a line-out just five yards from the Ayr line. Lawrie’s men put the shove on and Michael Fedo barrelled over, with Millar once again adding the extras.
Given the windy conditions, a few eyebrows were raised when Millar decided to take a shot at goal from a penalty award just a few metres inside the halfway line. Any doubters were soon proven wrong, however, as he sent it home to give Watsonians three more valuable points.
Watsonians’ third and final score was a novelty – but clearly effective – effort, with all 15 men joining a driving maul which rumbled over the line, before Sean Crombie got the ball down.
Ayr didn’t completely sit back for the home side with Dewhirst and Rowe continuing to combine well out wide, but it was their forwards who made the breakthrough, with replacement prop Steven Longwell the man to go over for the game’s final try.
“The conditions were difficult – the wind was incredibly strong,” said Ayr head coach Peter Murchie. “We didn’t make the best use of it in the first half, or in the second. But credit to Watsonians, they seemed to manage the wind a bit better.”
Watsonians: J Rowland; C Henderson, A Chalmers, L Millar, R Steele; E Fox, A Harris; F Hobbis, F Renwick, D Ferguson, F Simpson, C Borthwick, C McKill, G Nelson, M Fedo. Subs: S Crombie, C Wilson, K Watt, M Scott, C Bell.
Ayr: P Dewhirst; K Rowe, G Anderson, J Pinkerton, J Bova; D McCluskey, H Warr; C Miller, R Smith, R Sayce, D Corbenici, A North, C Reece, T Spinks, P McCallum. Subs: A McGuire, S Longwell, B Macpherson, J Preston, F Climo.
Referee: Ruairidh Campbell.
Scorers –Watsonians: Tries: Chalmers, Fedo, Crombie. Cons: Millar 2. Pen: Millar.
Ayr: Tries: Smith, Longwell. Con: Dewhirst.
Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 0-5, 0-7 half-time, 5-7, 7-7, 12-7, 14-7, 17-7 22-7 22-12.
Man of the Match: With his impressive kicking control, and his instinctive nature in attack, Lee Millar was instrumental to his side’s win in some seriously tough weather conditions.
Talking point: It looked doubtful during the first half that Watsonians were going to be able to complete the perfect sentimental win for departing head coach Steve Lawrie, but they battled through the wind and the Ayr defence to score three tries – two converted – and an impressive penalty.