At London Road on Saturday Wigtownshire faced Birkmyre for the first time this season. The club from Kilmacolm, have had a troubled season with many games cancelled due to issues with their pitch back at home.
However “Shire” were well aware, from previous encounters, that they were not a side to be taken lightly. They are a very able, strong side, who have no problems taking on and beating the best sides in the league, given half a chance.
Wigtownshire kicked off, playing into the cold gusty wind blowing from the west. These conditions immediately had an impact as the kick did not travel the required ten metres. This gave the visitor a scrum feed in the centre of the park, an opportunity the sizable Birkmyre pack no doubt relished. This optimism was short lived as the home scrum showed its strength in the set piece.
The scrum was set three times before the “Shire” bested their opposition and got the game underway properly. The ball was given out to the backs but a penalty at the break down allowed Birkmyre to use the wind and clear the danger. The visitor having achieved a good field position fully capitalized on this when a short time later they were awarded a penalty at a scrum. The kick at goal was good and gave them a three point lead with five minutes played. The home side responded to this early score with purpose and determination. Unfortunately nothing they did produced any score, cold hands resulted in the ball being knocked on and hands in the ruck incurred the displeasure of Mr. Kingston with the whistle.
It was Birkmyre who had the next kick at goal from another penalty, fortunately for the home side it went wide of the posts. The “Shire” team regrouped and went on the offensive once again. With both the line out working well and the scrum overwhelmingly dominant possession was not a problem. It was turning the pressure into points that was elusive. White line fever appeared to have taken hold and poor ball retention was taking its toll. The score remained at three nil in favour of the visitors when the half time whistle sounded.
Birkmyre kicked off the second half, not only facing the wind but having to contend with the ever more intensely falling rain. Play started very much as it had been before the break, however the pressure and injuries were beginning to tell on the visitors.
Fourteen minutes into the half, the injury situation resulted in Birkmyre requesting uncontested scrums on safety grounds. With the game so tight score wise, this was very much in favour of the visitors, as the home scrum was so dominant. The strength sapping scrums had been taken out of the equation. The visitors were now guaranteed their own ball at the scrum, something that was not the case previously.
Things were not looking good for the local boys. Coach McGregor decided to freshen things up, going to his bench to effect a change. It seemed to do the trick. One minute late winger Andrew Farquhar was on the end of a fine backs move, when quick ruck ball was played through the hands, allowing him to go low and hard over the line at speed for the first try of the match. Jason Gallacher stepped up to take on a new role as kicker. He added the extra points from the conversion, wide out on the wing in awful condition. This score appeared to settle the “Shire” and ten minutes later they crossed the line again. This time it was Adam Paxton who scored through a little deception. Awarded a penalty close to the line, it looked to everyone, including Birkmyre, that maul drive was going to be the play. A quick switch to Paxton standing out wide allowed him to crash over for the score. Unfortunately the conversion kick drifted wide of the posts.
The home side appeared to be very much in control and found the way over the line. Jason McKie was next to add to the score. A move straight from the training pitch, with backs and forwards working together. Paxton picked up at the back of the scrum and broke to the blindside; Stand-off James Hunter came across behind the scrum to join Farquhar on the wing and draw the defence. Jason McKie, at Scrum-half for the play, took the ball at pace from Paxton, going through the gap created. Birkmyre had no chance of stopping him before he reached the line. Gallacher added the conversion. With seven minute to play and well on top, “Shire” went in search of the bonus point try, however the clock beat them. Mr. Kingston blew his whistle for the final time with the score at 19 point to 3 to the home side.
Another good result for Wigtownshire. It should have been far better. The possession they won throughout the game and their superiority in set play was impressive. But the chances that were squandered and opportunities not taken were disappointing. The penalty and handling error count was also very high and something they need to work on, especially with the fixtures they have yet to play. However their fitness and tenacity won through in the end and they should be congratulated on that.
Next up for the boys are Moffat RFC. It will take place on Saturday 5th March 2016, at London Road, Stranraer, kick off 3pm. Moffat are only two places below them in the League, so they will have to be on form that day.
Team: K Little, J Gallacher, J McIntosh (Capt.), B McColm, A Farquhar, J Dalrymple, C Lammie; M McConnell, G Keith, D Watson, G Dunlop, W McHarrie, J Little, J McKie, A Paxton.
Replacements: C Dickson, R McCreadie, M Erskine, J Hunter, C Hose, A Henry.