THE two teams taking the field at London Road on Saturday could not have been in more different positions. Wigtownshire are at the bottom of the league struggling to stay up. The visitors, Strathendrick, from Fintry, are at the top looking for champion status.
This being the case, the aim of both sides was the same – to win, and to win well if possible.
It was Strathendrick who ultimately prevailed, but not after a fine display from the home side who belied their lowly position and were probably only undone by the high penalty county against them.
It was apparent from the start that Shire had the advantage up front and the visitors had more penetration out wide.
Play was cagey from the start, both teams probing and being repelled, with no side gaining any clear advantage. But after 14 minutes, Strathendrick scored first from a penalty 25 metres out, for Shire holding on the ground.
And in the next ten minutes this situation was repeated twice more, giving the visitors a 9-0 lead. They were very adapt at the tackle situation, forcing isolated Shire players to hold on, giving the referee no choice but to penalise.
The visitors further racked up the pressure by pinning Shire back on their line and only strong defending managed to turn the ball over and clear the situation.
As the game progressed, however, the Shire backs appeared to find some form with Duncan MacCaig charging forward on mazy runs and John McIntosh running good lines to crash up the pitch. Strathendrick had to be at their very best to stop the rampaging plays.
And just before half-time, Shire converted a penalty to bring the score to 3 – 9.
In the second half, the visitors came out in determined fashion. Only man-on-man tackling, exemplified by Ross McCreadie’s crushing stop of their charging captain, prevented them crossing the whitewash.
After 20 minutes of the half, the teams had exchanged penalty kicks, with the visitors adding to their score and the home side missing.
But it was Strathendrick who managed eventually to break the try drought when, with good handling and running from their backs, they managed to pierce the home defence and add the conversion.
Shire fought to stay in the game, however, and exerted good pressure at the lineouts. Tyrell Wilson and Jason McKie were dominant on their own ball and disrupted Strathendrick’s and they were ably reinforced when young Campbell Reid came on to join the fray.
Rucking and mauling their way forward, Shire pressed the visiting defence and replacement Hamish McGeoch exemplified this spirit, tackling driving and running in a very positive fashion.
Unfortunately, turnovers and penalties prevented turning this pressure into points.
Shire were very much on the up as the game progressed and good hands and direct running took them to the goalline. The forwards then took it on, and Keith McNeil eventually managed to cross the line. Callum Austin added the extra points. But Shire had run out of time to save the game.
This was a fine display by Shire, however, but penalties in the tackle situation proved costly. It is hoped they can carry this form into their last league game of the season on March 24 in Oban.
Wigtownshire: C Austin, R McCreadie, J McIntosh, D MacCaig, N Warwick, A Farquhar (Capt), J Patterson; M Hastie, G Keith, M McConnell, A Love, G Dunlop, J McKie, T Wilson, K McNeil. Replacements: S Taggart, J Montgomery, J Erskine, H McGeoch, J Dalrymple, C Reid, R Dewar.