Under a beautiful sky, the Watsonians 1st XV played their last league game of the season against rivals Heriot's in an attacking bonanza. Stan Buchan Reports.
Saturday the 2nd of April saw the Club 1st XV bring their 15s season to an end with a trip to Goldenacre to play old rivals and title-chasing Heriots. Heriots were buoyant with a large lunch taking place and their 2nd XV in National Reserve League 1 play-off action against Stirling County.
The reporter presented the East Title to Heriots 2s at the end of the game. This Saturday at Goldenacre against GHA, who beat Currie in the other play-off, they will be in action for the National Reserve title. It's worth mentioning because it illustrates the gulf our Club has to close in the coming seasons to maintain parity with our City rivals. (Our 2nd XV, despite being the only team to beat East 2 title winners, Melrose, finished 6th out of 10 teams)
A bright but cold day saw Heriot's begin the game and as in so many games this season, defences were on top. We made little headway with the ball in the early stages, leading us to find field position through kicking the ball.
When we did kick, Heriot's were keen to run it back, and they did with a vengeance. Ex-player Rory Steele, who chipped ahead after a sweeping move, regathered the ball and went over near the posts. A successful conversion followed.
Worse was to follow.
In Heriot's next attack, John Rae went over in the right-hand corner, in one that would certainly have been sent to the TMO if there was one available. In fairness to him, the referee didn't ask him either and so the try stood but was unconverted.
Heriot's 12 v Watsonians 0.
The game then went haywire, which certainly benefitted Watsonians. From a seemingly hapless position about 10 metres out but close to the touch, we handled it well to get McMillan over in the corner; he then converted and on the touchline, we breathed easier. Heriot's then got in to the spirit and scored in the left corner, but again could not convert and the score went to 17 – 7.
Three tries to Heriots already and we were staring down the barrel.
Back they came again, and in trying to spread the ball wide again, got turned over and Mark Wilson ran at least half the length of the pitch to score our second try. Matt McMillan converted and the scoreboard read Heriots 17 – Watsonians 14.
We came back with a storming run by Stu Allison that took play into the Heriots 22. A couple of phases later and Fin Jacobs was over for the score. McMillan could not convert and we were in front for the first time at 17 – 19.
Heriot's pressed again and from within our half looked to move the ball wide to the wing. Our defence forced a fumble and the ball went loose. Mark Wilson pounced upon the mistake and he showed a formidable turn of speed to go 60 metres for the score in the corner and take it out to 17 – 24 for Watsonians. McMillan could not add the extras into the breeze, but we had secured the try bonus in the first half!
Half-time came with the score still at Heriots 17 – Watsonians 24.
Heriot's began the 2nd half in a determined fashion and looked to use their bigger pack to win possession, penalties and territory. We were up against it in the scrum and started conceding penalties.
With a tightened defence and less expansive attack, Heriot's scored three more tries in this half, in a less free-flowing half. They converted two of them and looked good at 36 – 24.
For a game we had put so much into, it looked like we would get little reward. We attacked again, though. With minutes remaining on the clock and from a Young pop up inside pass, Fraser Cousin took the ball on a great line and stormed over underneath the posts. McMillan converted and the score was now Heriots 36 – Watsonians 31.
If the score had remained this way, we would have secured a vital 2 points against the team sitting second!
Unfortunately, it was not the last play and Heriot's kicked deep. A kick it off the park and that would be that, but the boys had other ideas. In trying to run it from 5 metres from our own line, we conceded a penalty for holding on, and Heriot's kicked it to steal away what could be a vital bonus point. leaving the final score Heriot's 39 -31 Watsonians.
Such has been our season which now rests in the hands of others to decide our fate. Cartha Queens Park has three games still to play and there is only a 3 point gap between us. Win one of those games and next season, we will be in National League 2.
It's going to be a tough three weeks for all supporters of the Club as we track Cartha's results away at Highland and Dundee and then at home to Heriot's on the 23rd of April.
For myself, it was my final game as manager, a job I have done for all three teams at times over the last 12 years.
It was not a decision based on this season as I had informed then Coach Andy Bell of my intention to finish before the season started.
I think 18 years as a player and 12 as a helper is a nice round figure to end on. Obviously, nothing like the commitment shown by Dennis Carmichael, but then again, not many can!
Thank you and see you in the bar.
My thanks to all the players, coaches, physios, touch judges and supporters who have made this topsy-turvy season so incredible.
Good Luck to all for the future.