Currie Chieftains 31
COLIN RENTON @ Myreside
WATSONIANS coach Steve Lawrie had a glow of satisfaction as he left Myreside to attend his work’s Christmas night out after a hugely impressive showing by his side. A slick handling game and a clinical edge in sight of the line resulted in a victory that was further evidence of the progress that has been made since Lawrie took the reins at the start of the season.
However, the victory came at a price and Lawrie joked that he may have to don the boots next Saturday after his two hookers both suffered injuries. “We had a heavy toll,” he said. “Training will certainly not be full on this week, that’s for sure.
“I said at half-time that we just had to adapt, problem-solve. The boys did really well and dug in. We know where we are at in the league and we have reassessed. I just thought the guys fronted up.”
Despite the current good form, Lawrie insisted that talk of a play-off spot is not on the agenda. While the sides below runaway leaders Melrose have the potential to beat each other, he is looking no further than the next date on the fixture list. “We just need to work really hard,” he added. “We’ve got a massive game against Stirling next week.”
By contrast, Currie spluttered through the opening 10 minutes and, although they made a major contribution to a match that fizzed and crackled throughout a try-laden 80 minutes, they offered only rare glimpses of the form they produced earlier in the season.
“It’s frustrating”, said coach Ben Cairns. “Some of the scores we leaked were really soft. In terms of the pace of the game, we allowed them to dictate it. Because of the number of errors we had and our discipline at the start of the second half, we weren’t able to dictate the pace well enough.
“We have a few areas to work on. Defence is a big issue – we didn’t make them work hard enough for their tries.”
While Chieftains have decent depth to their squad, the absence of three key men did not help. With Harvey Elms on sevens duty and Luke Crosbie having had a reasonable amount of game time with Edinburgh, Cairns has accepted that they are progressing their careers and is happy that they are doing so. However, Charlie Shiel has now been with the professionals as scrum-half cover for two months and has played no rugby in that time – arguably further evidence of where the club game stands in the pecking order of senior management at BT Murrayfield.
That said, the stand-ins are talented individuals and Cairns could have had reasonable expectations of a better performance. However, Watsonians looked the hungrier side on this occasion. The hosts raced from the blocks and edged ahead after two minutes when an arcing run by Ewan Fox wrong-footed two Chieftains defenders and allowed the stand-off to dart round behind the sticks and leave Andrew Chalmers a straightforward conversion.
The visitors were struggling to gain a foothold in the game and Watsonians doubled their tally in eight minutes when Michael Allen ran at the Chieftains defenders, who backed off, allowing the former Edinburgh pro to race over. Chalmers again added the extras.
Chieftains were belatedly stung into action by that score and their first attack of note yielded points. Jamie Forbes booted a penalty into touch five metres from the home line, and a well-worked lineout move ended with Mike Vernel racing onto a pass and crashing over for a try, which Forbes converted. The response was another Watsonians attack which produced a penalty, and Ali Harris stepped up to claim a long-range three pointer.
Back came Chieftains and they crossed the whitewash for a second time, although Rhys Davies was held up. However, the No 8 was not to be denied and he caught the home defence napping when he took a quick penalty and thundered over. Forbes was on target with the conversion to trim the deficit to three points.
That was the situation for five minutes when in the wake of a lineout inside the Chieftains 22, the ball was swept along the line and a slick offload by Euan Dods sent Ross Graham crashing over, with Harris stroking over the conversion.
A bullocking run by Graham then carried the action to within sight of the Chieftains line. He was halted just short, but the recycled ball was switched wide to Fox, who stretched over for the bonus-point score, despite a scything tackle by Vernel. Harris banged over the conversion. Graham was injured in the move and his replacement, Sean Crombie, was helped off a minute after entering the fray before Forbes ended an action-packed first half with a penalty for the visitors.
With both hookers out of action, after a half-time rehearsal, Dods assumed the lineout throwing duties. He did a good job with his first two efforts, but the third, 30 metres out, was stolen by Chieftains, allowing Thomas Gordon to take possession and thunder over. Forbes stroked over the conversion to bring Chieftains within seven points.
The Watsonians reaction was another assault on the Chieftains defence that ended with Willie Thomson slicing through for try number five and Harris again converting. And Rory Hutton ensured there was no way back for the visitors when he latched onto a loose pass after a scrum inside the Chieftains 22 and cruised over, leaving Harris a simple conversion.
However, Chieftains had the last word with a breakout from inside their own 22 that saw the ball moved wide to Ruaraidh Smith, who sprinted from his own half and outpaced the last man to dot down for the bonus point score. Forbes steered the conversion between the sticks to conclude the scoring.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; M Bertram, R Hutton, D Innes, M Allen; E Fox, A Harris; N Fraser, R Graham, K Whyte, E Dods, C Borthwick©, G Nelson, J Miller, M Fedo. Subs: S Crombie, F Hobbis, K Watt, W Thomson, J Harrison.
Currie Chieftains: B Robbins; R Smith, M Hooks, R Nelson©, C Gray; J Forbes, M O’Neil; K Burney, C Mackintosh, D Ferguson, V Wright, M Vernel, S Ainslie, T Gordon, R Davies. Subs: G Carson, J Cox, D Hall, S McGinley, C Smith.
Watsonians: Tries: Fox 2, Allen, Graham, Thomson, Hutton. Cons: Chalmers 2, Harris 4. Pen: Harris.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Vernel, Davies, Gordon, Smith. Cons: Forbes 4. Pen: Forbes.
Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 5-0, 7-0, 12-0, 14-0, 14-5, 14-7, 17-7, 17-12, 17-14, 22-14, 24-14, 29-14, 31-14, 31-17 half-time, 31-22, 31-24, 36-24, 38-24, 43-24, 45-24, 45-29, 45-31.
Referee: G Ormiston
Man of the match: Ross Graham looked to be heading for a man-of-the-match nomination when his involvement was cut short by injury, and Euan Dods deserves plaudits for his all-round contribution, but Watsonians stand-off Ewan Fox just edged it with a livewire performance and try double.
Talking point: In terms of league position, Watsonians must now be looking up the way rather than down and, if they can replicate this form, should not be ruled out as challengers for a play-off slot.