COLIN RENTON @ Meggetland
WATSONIANS forced their way into the reckoning for a home play-off spot when they staged a second-half comeback that shattered a Boroughmuir side that had produced some outstanding rugby in the opening 40 minutes.
After being 15-0 up at the break, the home team eventually had to settle for the scant consolation of a losing bonus point. The result leaves them still in the second-bottom play-off place, a point behind Hawick and two adrift of Glasgow Hawks, but with a game in hand on both clubs their survival is still in their own hands.
It was a second successive victory for Steve Lawrie’s men over their near neighbours, having also taken the spoils in a tight cup-tie seven days earlier. The Watsonians coach acknowledged that his side had been off the pace in the first period, saying: “They had a really good first half. You could see they were fighting for their lives, so you just have to give credit to Boroughmuir.”
However, he was pleased with the manner in which his players turned things around. “The boys were honest in the dressing rooms and said it wasn’t what we were needing, so they fixed it,” he added. “That’s character, and that’s what you need to win games like this.”
It was another painful experience for Lawrie’s counterpart Peter Wright, who said: “I thought we played exceptionally well in the first half. We managed to force errors on to the Watsonians game and we scored a couple of tries.
“We said at half-time that this is a quality side and they will come back at us. I’m really disappointed with the second half – we just couldn’t get a foothold in the game.”
Wright remains upbeat on the survival prospects of his team and on their showing in the first half he has every right to feel positive. They produced some outstanding rugby in the opening 40 minutes and arguably could have been further ahead at the break.
They made their intentions clear from the outset. A clever kick by Johnny Adams carried play deep into opposition territory. Aubrey Mncube stole the lineout and fed Johnny Matthews, who was turned over just short. However, the ball went forward and after the ensuing scrum a high tackle by Craig Borthwick on his former Gala team-mate Craig Keddie yielded a penalty. Chris Laidlaw had no problem in stroking over the kick to give Boroughmuir the lead with eight minutes played.
Another penalty despatched into touch provided the platform for the opening try of the afternoon. Keddie carried the ball into contact and, when it was recycled, Laidlaw fed Greg Cannie, who drew two defenders before off-loading to Grant McConnell for the full-back to barge over and complete the job.
The biggest threat from Watsonians appeared to be the rampaging runs of Rory Drummond, but they were struggling to make any real impression and were lucky not to fall further behind – only a knock-on in sight of the line preventing the home side from extending their advantage. The visitors then spurned a penalty opportunity after 27 minutes in favour of the kick to touch, but lost the throw to a well-judged leap by Fin Field.
Boroughmuir fail to deliver again
Throughout the season, Boroughmuir have promised much but failed to deliver. On this occasion, every man in a green-and-blue shirt looked up to the task. And they added to their tally in 35 minutes when Field delivered an exquisite offload out of the tackle to free Cannie for a try, which Laidlaw converted.
With the clock ticking towards half time, Rory Hutton raced into contact and Watsonians pieced together a multi-phase effort that saw Euan Dods halted just shy of the whitewash before Michael Fedo was held up over the line by Matthews. The away side’s woes at the lineout continued, and a further steal by Field after another penalty was booted into the danger zone marked the final scoring opportunity of a disappointing first half for the Myreside men.
The half-time chat in the Watsonians changing room was sufficient to sting the players into action. They restarted well, and clawed their way back into the game in 49 minutes when Drummond was twice involved in an attack that ended with him blasting past three defenders to dot down and leave Ali Harris a straightforward conversion.
The hosts had a brief spell in the ascendancy but failed to add to their tally, and it was Watsonians who were next on the score sheet when DJ Innes raced into space and Michael Allen was the link man, sending Gregor Nelson scampering over. Harris again converted, leaving the deficit at a single point.
Boroughmuir struck back within two minutes, with Laidlaw booting a penalty. However, Harris swiftly cancelled that out and his kick marked a perceptible switch in momentum that saw the lead change hands.
From a close-range scrum the ball was swept along the line to Michael Fedo who found a gap between two defenders to touch down. Harris again converted before recording a rare miss when he tugged a penalty wide of the target a couple of minutes later. That proved to be the final scoring opportunity and Watsonians withstood a final effort by the hosts to see out a victory that puts them just two points behind second-placed Currie.
Boroughmuir: G McConnell; C Whyte, R Kerr, G Cannie, J Edmunds; C Laidlaw, J Adams; R Montgomery, J Matthews, T Gracie, J Ure, F Field, A Mncube, R Ure, C Keddie. Subs: D Marek, A Nethery, R Young, E McKirdy, M Hare.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; M Bertram, M Allen, D Innes, E Miller; R Hutton, A Harris; N Fraser, D Miller, N Borel, E Dods, C Borthwick, R Drummond, J Miller, M Fedo. Subs: M Christie, F Hobbis, A O’Neil, G Nelson, W Thomson.
Referee: R Mabon.
Boroughmuir: Tries: McConnell, Cannie. Con: Laidlaw. Pens: Laidlaw 2.
Watsonians: Tries: Drummond, Nelson, Fedo. Cons: Harris 3. Pen: Harris.
Scoring sequence (Boroughmuir first): 3-0; 8-0; 13-0; 15-0 (h-t) 15-5; 15-7; 15-12; 15-14; 18-14; 18-17; 18-22; 18-24.
Man of the Match: Watsonians flanker Rory Drummond’s direct running put the home defence on the back foot and provided the momentum for Watsonians to stage a fightback that had looked unlikely at half-time.
Talking point: Watsonians have acquired the winning habit and showed here that they have the character to dig deep. Right now, they are arguably the form side in the BT Premiership.