Improved ’Shire just lose out

Wigtownshire 18, Cambuslang 20

Cambuslang visited London Road with both sides looking for their second win of the season.

The similarities ended there. The visitors had recorded a fine win against Cumbernauld last weekend, while ’Shire had suffered at the hands of Annan. History was not on the side of the home team either, as last season Cambuslang won both encounters by good margins.

One major change for the home side, however, was the availability of players. The sterling efforts of coach and manager Alan McKie resulted in a better turn-out at training as past players rallied to the call for commitment and support. Indeed, a selection committee was needed to pick the team. With a stronger side and a full bench, hopes were high among the home team.

Wigtownshire kicked off on a perfect day for running rugby. The visitors got into their stride straight away fielding the ball and coming up park with determined intent. Strong direct running, good support play and poor tackling by the home team resulted in them scoring after four minutes. They displayed good handling skills, passing well between forwards and backs, with a hint of a foot in touch, before going over in the corner to open their account. The conversion was wide.

Stung into life by the initial surge, the home side started to get to grips with the game. Making ground from the restart, they were awarded a kickable penalty but, unfortunately, the ball came off wrong side of the posts from Callum Austin’s kick.

Straight away they were on the attack again, this time winger Matt Clarke denied a score by means a high tackle from the stretched defence. A penalty was awarded, though the home support felt a penalty try was deserved and made their feelings known.

The forwards took the ball on, but were repelled, and the backs came into play, attacking runs from Maccaig and McIntosh bringing another penalty for offside in front of the posts. A quick tap and drive by the scrum-half was halted and turned over. The visitors cleared their lines but ’Shire came back again and were awarded another penalty with 21 minutes on the clock that Austin converted.

From the restart Cambuslang gained the advantage after a knock-on gave them a fine attacking platform and they showed how dangerous they were, compounded by missed tackles. With three-quarters of the half gone, the visitors turned pressure into points with a forwards driving try, which they converted.

’Shire came back again, the fired up their backs storming upfield. The visitors kicked to clear the danger. Fullback Kneale fielded the kick and set off, moved the ball to a stampeding McIntosh and then to Iyiku who charged forward, offloading to captain Farquhar who crossed for a fine try, though the conversion slipped wide.

Cambuslang once more came back into the game and the home side were on the rack once again. A kick ahead by the visitors sat up for the chasing players, and the ball was gathered and driven in for their third try. The conversion fell short and the referee indicated half-time with the score at 17-8 in favour of the visitors.

The game restarted with ’Shire’s coach McKie making full use of his bench. This strengthened the pack and gave the visitors food for thought. However, it was they who had the first opportunity to score when a penalty went wide.

The second-half deadlock was broken after 15 minutes when ’Shire’s Jason McKie touched down for a try. Strong forwards play had brought them into contention and a maul took them across the line, Austin adding the extra points.

Cambuslang went straight on the offensive from the restart and their backs created major difficulties for the home side. The home side stuck to their game and held firm, though first tackles were still a problem. Halfway through the period ’Shire scored again when their forwards took the ball on the half way line, mauling and driving 30 metres before the visitors went off their feet. Ewan McCurdy stepped up to convert the penalty that was awarded. This put the home side in the lead for the first time in the game.

The pressure was beginning to tell on both teams. The penalty count was rising. As the clock ran down Cambuslang crept forward into the ’Shire half and were awarded a penalty which went wide. Receiving the ball from the restart, the visitors came back again, and earned another penalty which this time was good and earned the win.

This was a much better performance by the home side. However, there were a number of issues identified that could be addressed. Nevertheless, with the improvement in player numbers at the very least this can now happen. Wigtownshire are on the road again next week, traveling to Cumbernauld.

Team: T Kneale, M Clarke, J McIntosh, A Farquhar (captain), H McGeoch, D MacCaig, C Austin; A Love, G Keith, R Drysdale, G Campbell, G Dunlop, C Stephens, C Reid, J McKie. Replacements: C McGregor, R Pauley, M McConnell, J Dalrymple, J Iyiku, E McCurdy, R Graham.

DAVIE HUNTER