’Shire hold out for narrow win

Cumbernauld 11

Wigtownshire 12

Wigtownshire travelled to Cumbernauld with both clubs positioned at the foot of RBS West Regional Division 2.

With injuries and unavailability for away games still impacting on the ’Shire side, only 16 players made the journey.

Their opponents have been suffering this season, unable to secure any wins in the league to date. However, they should never be under-estimated and historically they are very difficult to beat when they have home advantage.

Cumbernauld kicked off with the advantage of the wind in the first half. From the start the visitors showed their determination and took the game to the home side.

Good forward play and fine tackling resulted in Cumbernauld repelling the advances being made. Eventually, against the run of play, with seven minutes on the clock, the home team reached the ’Shire’s 22 and were awarded a penalty. Their kicker stepped up and used the wind to assist him in converting the kick to take the lead.

A short time later, he was given another chance a little further back, but fortunately for the visitors the ball drifted wide.

The visitors restarted and took the ball back up the pitch, placing the home side under real pressure. This was not converted into points and Cumbernauld broke out, passing along their backs and using a loop move to create an extra man, to score a try in the corner. The conversion went wide with 30 minutes of the game gone.

This score spurred them on and the ’Shire defence was tested for the remainder of the half, but held firm until the referee blew for the break.

The second half kicked off with the home team determined to continue as they had ended the first. They put the pressure on and penalties and scrums conceded by ’Shire brought them into the danger area. However, determined defending, strong tackling and mauling by the visitors prevented them from crossing the line.

They did, however, score from penalty kick to take an 11-point advantage.

This score allowed the visitors to get up the park from the kick-off. With the points deficit growing, the ’Shire boys appeared to dig in and pin Cumbernauld back in their own half. Their efforts were rewarded when they got the driving maul working and David Watson got the ball down once they crossed the line, Callum Austin adding the conversion.

Cumbernauld came back from the kick-off but ’Shire standoff Duncan Maccaig found his kicking boots. Using the wind, he sent the ball spiralling down the pitch, forcing the home side to attack from deep.

This tactic resulted in the ’Shire’s second try in the 66th minute. The ball was touch-bound from a huge kick, and the defending winger patted it infield to keep it live. When he gathered the ball, he found three ’Shire chasers on him and his entire team were in front of him. He was driven over the line and stripped of the ball, for Maccaig to be awarded a try. The conversion attempt slipped wide but ’Shire held a one-point lead with 13 minutes to play.

The home side redoubled their efforts and came back with ball in hand. The visitors worked hard to keep them out but penalties were conceded. With the wind against them, they were unable to convert – the ball even came off the post on one occasion, only to be fielded by an alert Jason McKie, who ran it out 40 metres before being halted.

With the clock ticking down a final penalty was awarded to the home side. The agony of last week’s game was in the minds of the visitors, but into the wind the ball dropped short and was eventually kicked out and the referee brought the game to a close.

This was a hard-fought victory for ’Shire. They left the field pleased with the win but with much to ponder. Their lineout had not worked so well during the match and their penalty count was far too high. These are no doubt things that will be worked in during training sessions in the weeks to come.

On Saturday the team is in action at London Road when they play hosts to West Regional Division 1 side Kilmarnock in the first round of the RBS West Regional Shield competition. This should be an interesting match both for the players and the rugby fans.

Team: C Stephens, C Hose, A Farquhar (Capt), A Love, N Warwick, D MacCaig, C Austin; R Drysdale, G Keith, D Watson, S Taggart, G Dunlop, J McKie, C Reid, K McNeil. Replacement: R Graham.

DAVIE HUNTER