Wigtownshire 51, Bishopton 7
Saturday saw Wigtownshire back in action at London Road for the third time in as many weeks.
This time it was in the RBS West Regional Bowl knock-out competition, with progression taking clubs into national stages and, if successful, finals at Murrayfield. Bishopton kicked off on a fine, dry, sunny afternoon with light wind. It was a great day for running rugby and, from the off, Wigtownshire’s intent was clear as they spun the ball wide, driving hard at the Bishopton line.
With three minutes gone their efforts were rewarded. Keith McNeil picked up at the back of the scrum and passed to Munro McConnell, who pulled in more defenders as they struggled to bring him down. Quick ball from the ruck came out to captain Andy Farquhar who crossed for an unconverted score.
’Shire lost hooker Gordon Keith with a back injury, resulting in scrum-half Jason Patterson moving into the scrum, and James Hunter coming on.
The game continued at pace, the home side denying Bishopton clean possession. With ball in hand, ’Shire broke forward at every opportunity, forwards driving up and the backs attacking wide. Bishopton covered well but ’Shire’s efforts were rewarded with a penalty that Callum Austin kicked.
Twenty minutes into the first half the ’Shire scrum was well in charge, pusheding the visitors off their own ball, which was spun along the line to stand-off Austin who was on hand to go over for the score, though he was unable to add the conversion.
Frustration was shown by both sides as half-time approached, and Gary Dunlop saw yellow. A short time later the referee signalled the break with the score at 13-0.
The second half started with Bishopton determined to make the extra man count but strong defending and aggressive tackling halted their efforts.
Jay Chan’s game ended when he brought down a larger opponent but was left him with a painful neck and shoulder. He was replaced by Ross Pauley.
’Shire were returned to full strength without loss of any points and the visitors were under pressure again. The home scrum powered forward, giving a platform and attack is what they did: Hunter to Austin, and out to Maccaig travelling at pace. He burst through the line, rounded the last man and went under the posts for a try. Austin added the conversion.
Bishopton were then awarded a penalty and elected to kick for goal, despite being 20 points adrift and it drifted wide.
Every play brought the home side closer to the line. They were eventually awarded a five-metre scrum and the spectators were treated to something not seen for some time at London Road, a Wigtownshire pushover try, Keith McNeil having no problems picking up to drop over the line. The conversion went wide.
Bishopton restarted, only to have the ball run back at them, McNeil, McConnell and Dunlop driving up, then fast ball out through Hunter and Austin to Maccaig, once more at pace. He went straight through and under the posts, and Austin had no problems adding the conversion.
The restart once more was returned with interest. The ’Shire young replacements sprinted into action. The Bishopton fullback was under severe pressure with the ball and three blue shirts closing on him. He chose to take out a player rather than the ball and Mr Fortnum had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try to which Austin added the conversion.
It was Austin who got on the scorecard next. McNeil picked up at the scrum and passed to Austin. He took the play to the blindside, crossing the line then adding the conversion.
Bishopton managed to win a scrum ball and their stand-off showed danced over the line and score. The conversion was added.
Wigtownshire, however, had the last word. A penalty quickly taken by Farquhar brought them into the Bishopton 22. ’Shire’s backs then worked the ball, before giving it to Mickie Hastie, who finished the move for an unconverted try.
This was fine display of running rugby, made possible by a powerful platform by the forwards. It was great to see the ability of the players, whose confidence grew throughout. There was still room for improvement, dropped last passes and scrum time indiscretions are areas to work on.
’Shire head for a table top league clash at Uddingston on Saturday.
’Shire: C Hose, J McIntosh, A Farquhar (captain), D Maccaig, H McGeoch, C Austin, J Patterson; S Blain, G Keith, M Hastie, M McConnell, G Dunlop, J Chan, C Reid, K McNeil. Reps: B Graham, R McCreadie, R Pauley, J Dunlop, S Cameron, J Hunter, K Little