’Shire enjoy rare win on the road

Birkmyre 9, Wigtownshire 17

On Saturday ’Shire headed north to Kilmacolm to play Birkmyre in their penultimate league game of the season.

Birkmyre can be a difficult side to get a result against, especially at home. The Stranraer boys were under no illusions that this was going to be an easy match.

Birkmyre kicked off, Wigtownshire failed to field the ball and it went out for a lineout well into the ’Shire half. The visitors then conceded a penalty, when a player strayed offside, bringing the Birkmyre kicker into action. He lived up to his reputation and converted for the first points of the match with two minutes gone.

From the restart ’Shire broke up the park winning good ruck ball. However, they fell foul of referee Graeme Fisher’s interpretation of the tackle laws. But good defensive tackling and chasing up from the ’Shire boys kept the pressure on.

Using their power, they held up the Birkmyre ball carrier to win scrum possession. Quickly taken penalties resulted in the visitors crossing the line for a try after 14 minutes. Craig Hamilton made the first drive, Gary Dunlop next, but it was Munro McConnell who broke through to score. Jason McKie added the extra points.

Birkmyre fought their way into the ’Shire half and won a penalty but the kicker slipped and the ball went wide. Duncan MacCaig made the most of the restart, kicking deep into Birkmyre territory.

The ’Shire lineout was working well and they took ball from the home side’s throw. Birkmyre were good at stealing ball at the tackle and broke back down the park. The ’Shire tacklers were strong in defence, but again the “Birkmyre boot” had a chance and added three points to his tally.

A grubber kick restart from Maccaig resulted in a knock-on. A scrum on the 22 gave Wigtownshire field position and the ball was carried up by the forwards. Everyone played their part in working through the phases and Gordon Keith was on hand to cross the line for the score. The conversion attempt went wide.

Both sides worked hard in the mud for advantage, and eight minutes later Birkmyre came out on top. Another tackle penalty just inside the 10 metre line resulted in a monster kick on target and three more points and a 9-12 half-time score.

The second half saw Wigtownshire replacements, something of a novelty on the road. Campbell Reid, Rory Dewar and Stewart Cameron were replaced by Rowan Hookam, Andy Love and Corrie Hose.

The visitors were soon on the Birkmyre line but the home side showed their mettle in defence.

A 30-metre drive took ’Shire into the Birkmyre half. Breaking from the maul and giving the backs possession on the front foot allowed MacCaig and John McIntosh to take them to the 22. Again the ’Shire maul was effective in making ground and gave the backs a chance to run.

From a set piece in injury time, Hamilton passed to captain Andy Farquhar, who quickly passed to McIntosh. He whipped the ball to Maccaig, who went over in the corner, though the conversion went wide.

This was a good result for Wigtownshire. Wins on the road have been rare and it was helped by having a near full bench. The boys adapted well to the conditions and kept the penalty count down.

’Shire now look forward to their final league match against Arran at London Road on Saturday. This should be a great contest; the two sides have met twice already this season and honours stand at one win each. The kick off is at the unusual time of 1pm to allow the visiting team to get back to Ardrossan in time for the boat home.

’Shire: H McGeoch, S Cameron, J McIntosh, D MacCaig, A Farquhar (capt), J Dalrymple, C Hamilton; M Hastie, B Graham, M McConnell, R Dewar, G Dunlop, C Reid, G Keith, J McKie. Reps: R McCrindle, R Hookam, M Clarke, R McCreadie, A Love, C Hose.