Ross Sutherland 12
DAVID BARNES @ BT Murrayfield
THIS was a real battle. Neither team will claim it was a classic, but it was a fine exhibition of what the heart and soul of rugby is all about. Ross Sutherland were deserved winners after dominating large chunks of the match – but they had to dig deep against a Wigtownshire outfit which had not tasted defeat in any competition since the opening weekend of this season.
“We wanted to play a really wide, expansive game, but as soon as there is a drop of rain it goes back to 1970s, pick-and-go, kick to the corners – but it’s all good craic,” said Ross Sutherland’s player-coach and man-of-the-match John Mann.
“They were just hard as nails – tough as old boots – and they really made us work for it. Their defence was just mighty so we just had to kick over or around them.”
Ross Sutherland dominated both possession and territory during the opening quarter with Mann pulling the strings expertly at stand-off, exercising a rich array of kicking options, but the men from the Cromarty Firth couldn’t unlock Wigtownshire’s stout defence.
Wigtownshire, had their opportunities to swing the momentum of this match in their favour, securing a couple of useful turnovers, with open-side flanker Gregor Henry – who has also turned out for Ayr – in his element, but some loose handling meant they struggled to build phases.
The deadlock was finally broken on the half hour mark when Wigtownshire stand-off Cammy Craig directed home a 25-yard penalty after a high tackle on Henry; but Ross Sutherland bounced straight back and snatched the lead when John Gordon – a replacement second-row for the concussed Brian Davies – thundered over from close range after another sustained onslaught.
Craig had an opportunity to restore Wigtownshire’s narrow advantage in the last play before the break, but his long-range shot at goal didn’t have the legs.
It remained a tight, edgy affair; and the next score wasn’t until the 57th minute, when a powerful Ross Sutherland scrum marched Wigtownshire back 15 yards before number eight Andy McKay picked up and flopped over.
There was a lengthy stoppage while teenage winger Sean Henry was treated on the pitch for a neck injury. He was eventually taken to hospital and a full medical update has not yet been provided.
Wigtownshire second-row Mark Burgess had a penalty attempt at goal with ten minutes to go, but it was too far out and fell well short, and Ross Sutherland remain composed during a ferocious late onslaught from their opponents to secure the silverware.
“We dug in deep but didn’t quite have the firepower,” said Wigtownshire captain David Watson. “But we’re not going to let the result dampen our spirits. It has been a tremendous season – everyone has just pulled together for the club – so we’ll have a party tonight. The target for this season was to get promotion out of East League Three and we’ve done that, so this whole experience was just a bonus.”
Wigtownshire: C Hose; G Siwo, R Forsyth, A Farquhar, S Henry; C Craig, A McMaster; R McCrindle, C Lammie, D Watson, M McConnell, M Burgess, W McHarrie, G Henry, J McIntosh.
Subs used:N Irving, A Paxton 40, J McIntosh, C Stephens, (G Dunlop,
Ross Sutherland: G Braddick; A Bridgeford, R Mellis, A Kennedy, K Horsefield; J Mann, D Kennedy; A MacIver (S McPherson 60), M Kennedy, K Drain, J Johnston, B Davies, T Bannerman, D Gill, A Mackay.
Subs used: S Mack, J Gordon, C Watt, S McPhersson, S McGowan, J Reid, R Eunson
Referee: S Burns
Wigtownshire: Pen: Craig
Ross Sutherland: Try: Gordon, McKay; Con: Mann
Scoring sequence (Wigtownshire first): 3-0; 3-5 (h-t) 3-10; 3-12
Man-of-the-Match: It was forward power won it for the men from the north, but stand-off John Mann pulled the strings from stand-off – a classy operator.