Shire fortunes on the wane

BT West Regional League Division 3

Birkmyre 15

Wigtownshire 5

Wigtownshire travelled to Kilmacolm on Saturday to play Birkmyre in this rearranged league fixture.

The “Bears” as the home side are known to have had a difficult season. Their pitch was declared unplayable throughout the first half of the season so they are now playing catch up. Unfortunately for the “Shire” whose fortunes have been on the wane recently, the “Bears” have been going well. With wins against most of the top teams in the league in the last few they have been making up lost ground rapidly. Not the best of prospects for Wigtownshire, especially as Kilmacolm has proven a difficult place to get positive results in recent years. Their hopes were further dampened when they found they were playing on Birkmyre’s smaller pitch, which slopes steeply along its length and a fraction less across its width. Nevertheless the weather and ground was dry and with no wind to speak of there was little chance of climatic interference with the match.

The home side kicked off, playing down the hill. In fielding the ball “Shire” knocked on, conceding field position well into the visitors half. In the first scrum a foot up offence followed by a failure to retire properly gave a penalty chance to Birkmyre’s expert kicker.

Three easy points were bagged. The uphill restart was chased but the home side fielded the ball and began to work back down the slope. Once more a penalty was conceded all be it some way from the goal line. This proved not to be an issue for the prodigious kicker who added to his tally. After such disastrous start Wigtownshire regrouped and began to work their way back into the game. They secured some possession and worked through the phases. Eventually as they were closing on the try line, the pitch caught them out again. Poor markings or lack of attention resulted in them going to ground for a score, only to find they were just over the five metre line. Fortunately they were able to recycle the ball but the forward impetus was lost and managed eventually to turn over possession and clear their lines.

The “Shire” scrum was working well and despite the massive pack against them and gravity it was taking possession regardless of whose feed it was. This was a bountiful source of ball was tempered somewhat by difficult to understand refereeing decisions against the powerful unit. It did give the visitors the chance to launch attacking moves, but a lack of support or poor ball retention in the tackle made it difficult to get any continuity. Eventually a penalty award in the area of the twenty two saw Gregor Henry feign a kick to touch, take a tap and head for the line. Stopped short the ball was quickly recycled and came to Jason McKie who crashed through and over the line for a score. Unfortunately the kick for the extra points was wide of the mark. The restart put the ball deep into the “Shire” half. In the process of working their way back out the visitors were once again penalized at the break down. The metronomic Birkmyre kicker stepped up to stretch the lead again. As the game headed to half time “Shire” suffered a blow as Captain for the day Adam Paxton had to leave the pitch, having sustained a shoulder injury. When the break came the score was 9 points to 5 in favour of the home side.

With the slope advantage to their advantage Wigtownshire hoped their fortunes would change. They kicked off and immediately set about addressing the deficit. The forwards continued to provide a major platform for the attack causing all sorts of problems at the back of the Birkmyre scrum on their put in. So much so that their No 8 decided to take matters in hand and make an impression on the “Shire” back row. Unfortunately the referee saw the punch he threw as coming from “Shire’s” Gary Dunlop. The outcome of this debacle, Dunlop shown a red card, the Birkmyre No 8 a yellow card, and “Shire” No 6, Jason Little feeling sore. With Wigtownshire’s main jumpers at the line out both now off the park it did effect, but not at the scrum. Wigtownshire with ball in hand were now attacking through the backs, Farquhar, Henry and Kieran Little were making good ground.

They could not make the try line as the “Bears” managed to turn over the ball in the tackle or were awarded penalties for break down offences. Once back on the park the Birkmyre No 8 decided once again to take the law into his own hand. This time he saw red for a punch the referee did see, but the visitors were reduced by a man as well, as replacement wing forward Conor Stephens was adjudged to have tackled late. The teams now stood at 14 players to 13 in favour of the home side. The Birkmyre kicker came into play again, this time two long range penalties adding six more points to the home tally. Wigtownshire tried valiantly to get back into the game but things just did not go their way. Once the teams were even again, they tried to address the deficit, but just could not get there. They would try and play through the phases but there were penalties for indiscretions at the break downs. The final pass just would not go to hand in the loose, in fact, sometimes the ball was just thrown away, giving the home side the chance to turn it over. The final nail came when try scorer McKie was given ten minutes off the park to contemplate an inappropriate comment regarding a refereeing decision. The final whistle came before he could return and the final score stood at Birkmyre 15 – Wigtownshire 5.

This was a disappointing game for both sides, neither team seemed to get any flow to their play. The major difference on the day was the Birkmyre kicker, who knew his ground well and could score with the boot from any distance up to his own 10 metre line. Unfortunately the penalties awarded gave him all the chances he needed. That being said, some of the play, not supporting the ball carrier or throwing away possession in the tackle was uncharacteristically poor and did not help their cause. Plenty for Coach Campbell to work on before the last two games of the season and over the summer break. Wigtownshire will hopefully be in action again at London Road, Stranraer on Saturday, 3 p.m. kick off, against Clydesdale. This will be the fourth time this game has been arranged as the opposition has had difficulties in raising a team in the past. Anyone thinking of coming along should check the Wigtownshire Facebook page to unsure it is still on before coming along.

Team: H McGeoch, J Gallacher, A Farquhar, B McColm, K Little, J Dalrymple, C Lammie; M McConnell, A Love, R McCrindle, R Dewar, G Dunlop, J Little, J McKie, A Paxton.

Replacements: J Patterson, M Erskine, C Stephens, A McMaster, C Duffin, G Henry