’Shire battle all the way

Wigtownshire 15, Cambuslang 26

With only four more league games to play, the importance of this home match could not have been clearer in the minds of the players. Their lowly league position means that every point could be of great importance as the final reckoning approaches.

However, the visiting team, sitting third in the table, have their own challenges as they strive for the top position. Also everyone’s mind was on the result of the game between the two sides earlier in the season when Cambuslang ran out winners 69-0.

As the team took to the field it was very apparent that the weather was likely to have a major bearing on the day. The chill wind was blowing, gale force, from the west. The dark clouds gathering in the sky were laying down rain, sleat and snow at regular intervals. The brave, or some might say “foolhardy”, spectators were wrapped up against the elements and in awe of the players facing the elements in shorts and modern, thin, rugby tops.

’Shire had the advantage of the wind. Despite this, the visitors started playing the conditions well. When they got possession they worked hard to keep it, moving the ball through their hands and keeping passes short.

The home side tackled and defended, working hard to prevent Cambus getting upfield. However, after 10 minutes, they managed to cross the line, only to be denied the score through sterling defending and ’Shire forwards holding them up. From the five-metre scrum, they tried again only to be held-up over the line by the home side. On the third occasion they managed to gain the referee’s approval for the first points of the match. From the scum they went wide, a risky strategy given the wind and cold hands. Their passing was sound and their winger rounded the stretched defence to score in the corner. The wind destroyed any chance of points from the conversion attempt.

With 15 minutes gone the home side managed to win good possession and began to play as they can. They were driving ball upfield, recycling from rucks and mauls and bringing the backs into play, and forcing Cambuslang to scramble and defend. It was ’Shire’s turn to cross the line only to be denied. With weather on their backs they kept hammering away. So intense was the pressure that visitors incurred the wrath of the referee in their efforts to prevent a score. A yellow card resulted in a 10-minute rest for one of their tight forwards.

With storm at its height the ’Shire forwards redoubled their efforts and, similar to the first score, released the backs, putting team captain Andy Farquhar in for a try in the corner. Once more the wind negated the extra points.

With their tails up and the advantage of an extra man they were soon on the attack again. This was impacting on the visitors, injuries abounded and a period of uncontested scrums resulted for a time until their wayward player returned. Now getting possession and able to use the wind, the home team pinned the visitors back. ’Shire’s lineout was working well and possession was being won on the opposition throw. Gordon Keith, Jason McKie, Munro McConnell and Keith McNiel were destructive in the loose. With 35 minutes on the clock, they converted this pressure into points. Jason McKie crashed over the line to score after a fine period of play by all the forwards. Once again the conversion went wide. The score remained 10-5 at half time.

The weather improved and wind dropped after the break. Cambuslang took advantage and pinned the home side back. Stout defending and strong rucking disrupted their progress. McKie and Wilson were making a real nuisance of themselves in the back row. The tight players, particularly hooker Keith, were turning over ball. Unfortunately, they could not break out and Cambus kept the pressure on. With 10 minutes gone a mix-up at the base of the ’Shire scrum on the five-metre line allowed the visiting scrum-half to get possession and dive over. The softening wind gave their kicker a chance and he added the conversion.

It was now the visitors’ turn to apply the pressure. They varied their attack, with long and short kicks, forwards popping up in the backs and good support play. Despite ’Shire’s best efforts they scored again through their winger in the corner, again adding the extra points. They were now in the ascendance and, just three minutes later, the winger was in again for a try and the conversion was good.

’Shire fought hard and came back at them, kicking for field position. Great chasing and recovery put them close to the visitors’ line. Once again the home strength in the tight has shown and from rucking and recycling Jason McKie drove through what seemed an impossible space to score his second try, though the conversion was missed. As the game was drawing to a close, the ’Shire coach brought all the young guns off the bench. They ran the ball at Cambuslang but both time and eventually the touchline allowed Mr Leslie to blow for “no side”.

This was a great game of rugby. Those who stayed to watch had a great afternoon’s entertainment. The only down side for the locals was the score line, with ’Shire getting nothing for their efforts despite giving their all.

With three games to go, two away from home and results elsewhere not being favourable, it will be a challenge. However, if they can show the same commitment and drive and continue to work as a team the results will come.

’Shire : N Warwick, A Farquahar (Capt), J McIntosh, D MacCaig, M Clark, C Austin, J Patterson:

M Hastie, G Keith, A Love, G Dunlop, M McConnell, J McKie, T Wilson, K McNeil.

Subs: R McCreadie, J Mongomery, K Little, C Reid, A McMaster, J Dalrymple, H McGeoch

Davie Hunter