Stan Buchan reports from a wet and windy Bridgehaugh
Bridgehaugh was grey, wet and windy on Saturday with a pitch that got heavier as the match went on. The home team played to a plan and with a great deal of energy and deserve credit for that. Except for the scrum, they were better than 'Sonians in every facet of the match. Watsonians had the proverbial ‘Bad Day at the Office’ and some, but in truth we couldn’t really expect much on the back of inconsistent team selection. This has seen the coaches have to change winning teams the last few weeks due to player unavailability. County won the game on the back of a team that has been training and playing together and showed a degree of cohesion and commitment whilst the Watsonian team, although showing commitment, entirely lacked the organisation that County showed on the pitch. There is a relatively easy remedy but it needs to start soon or else our old rivals, Heriots, may have an easier game than anticipated when they visit in two weeks time!
After an initial period of pressure from the kick-off, 'Sonians got turned over in the face of a suffocating County defence. County then used their back row to get them on the front foot and get them into field position whilst playing against the wind. These simple tactics gave them a first score after 13 minutes of the match as they put their blind side winger over in the corner. They couldn’t convert but the match followed a similar pattern of 'Sonians on the back foot, defending but always in retreat and Stirling adding further tries on the 25th and 35th minutes. They converted one of these and took a 17 – 0 lead towards the end of the half. Jack Ferguson looked like he had scored as he hacked through and then fell on the ball over the line but the referee adjudged he had knocked it on. I cannot argue as I was about eighty yards away and the referee only five yards distant! Not to be outdone though, Duncan Ferguson managed to get over right on the stroke of half time and give us a glimmer of hope.
HT: 17 – 5 to Stirling County
Things started badly for 'Sonians as Stirling kicked long and with the wind it looked as though the ball would go dead, we tried to catch it and knocked on to give County excellent field position and they duly took advantage to register the bonus point try at the start of the half. We got our act together and worked our way on to their 22 metre line. From this point we broke them in the scrum and four penalties later we had a try to Bell at scrum-half as he touched down at the foot of a rapidly advancing scrum. A County player was yellow carded during this period but the referee didn’t award a penalty try. We missed the conversion and it was 24 – 10 as opposed to 24 – 12. We put pressure on them again but we missed tackles on the full back who kicked through and the winger was in a chase with Duncan Martin to get the touch. Duncan appeared to tackle his man early and the ref awarded County a penalty try. At 31 – 10 we were up against it but produced some nice rugby to put Henderson over in the corner and take it to 31 – 15. We were after a fourth try but in the conditions we tried to play too much rugby and in turn coughed up the ball to County who ran in a try and added the conversion to take it out to 38 – 15. County then got their seventh try with the final play of the match as their prop showed good speed to get over the line and the try was converted to bring it to 45 – 15.
Not a lot of positives apart from the scrum for the 2nd XV and this appears to have less influence on the game than it once did. We tried to play too much rugby in horrible conditions whilst County were content to stick it up the jersey and grind out the hard yards. We needed a burly centre to simply batter up the middle and get the boys on the front foot but Ali Davidson, Calum Nicol and Jack Ferguson are simply not this type of player in these conditions. This is not meant as a criticism of these players but simply a fact that we do not have a wide and diverse squad to pick from. Three players, including Craig Watters from his sick bed, came up from the 3s to help us and we had to have Coach Aaron Johnston on the bench too. Injuries play their part but this happens at every club, but what we are finding is player unavailability because they have other things ‘on’ which is frustrating especially when we are told on the Friday prior to the game. Some soul searching and straight talking needed methinks!
Team: Goldring, Miller, Ferguson D, Fullarton, Harvey, Brown, Hamilton, O’Neill, Martin, Bell C, Henderson, Nicol, Davidson, Mackenzie, Ferguson J
Reps: McLeod, Watters, Johnston, Conaboy, Rowan