’Shire leave it late to win

Wigtownshire 13, Paisley 11

Wigtownshire’s league campaign started at London Road on Saturday.

They are now playing in the RBS West Region League Division 3, which will take them to a number of new venues. However, it was a well-known opposition they faced in this game. Paisley featured high in the league last season and see themselves as promotion prospects.

From the start neither side managed to gain any clear advantage. The damp conditions underfoot made the ball appear like a bar of soap with both sides guilty for handling errors.

Referee John Ferry enforced the new scrummage laws to the letter. The players took the instructions well and settled down for a good contest in the scrum.

’Shire got the better of the visitors, pushing them off their ball and disrupting possession. They did not get it all their own way, however. Early engagements and squint feeding kept the home side in check and raised the spectre of yellow cards. Unfortunately, ’Shire’s spirits were dampened when vice-captain Keith McNeil had to leave the field having twisted his ankle.

Hamilton, Chan and Dunlop all showed skill to put the visitors under pressure.

The first real scoring opportunity came 20 minutes into the game. Paisley had a scrum on halfway, but a good drive and quick break by Stephens and Chan caught their stand-off in possession. The referee adjudged the defence as having been offside, giving Callum Austin his first kick at goal. Despite the strong wind and the ball falling off the tee, he managed to convert to kick.

This settled the home side, who took the game to the visitors. They, however, were having none of it and continued to drive forward. ’Shire’s defence stopped Paisley recycling the ball and the score remained 3-0 at half-time.

At the start of the second period Wigtownshire made a number of changes, moving Hamilton to wing forward, Chan to scrum-half, Austin to stand-off, McIntosh to wing and brought on debutant Lawrence Smith at inside centre.

With four minutes gone Paisley got their chance with a penalty 30 metres out and their kicker levelled the score.

The ’Shire scrum and maul continued to dominate, but the Paisley defence managed to contain any moves with ball in hand. The visitors were then rewarded with a penalty that was converted to give them the lead for the first time.

The ’Shire coach brought on McConnell and Patterson, and the home side went on the attack. ’Shire were awarded a penalty which slipped wide but they kept the pressure on, with replacement scrum-half Jason Paterson turning the screw.

A swinging arm brought a penalty against Paisley and the home side went for the line. The forwards mauled up the park but were stopped short. The ball was released to the backs, and fast hands resulted in the ball being passed to John McIntosh on the wing who sprinted in for a try. Austin added the extra points.

Paisley attacked from deep, brushing aside the scrabbling defence. A penalty for being offside at a ruck was quickly taken and the ’Shire line was breached but the conversion went wide.

With two minutes left ’Shire threw everything into attack, winning a penalty. Austin He kicked the ball clean through the posts, retaking the lead and securing a narrow win.

Wigtownshire showed some fine skills. The forwards were strong in the set piece and the maul. They adapted well to the enforcement of the new laws. Nevertheless, the penalty count was high and could have been their downfall.

Wigtownshire are in league action once again on Saturday, away to Cumnock, last season’s Division 4 champions who are no doubt eager to impress in the new league, especially against the team relegated from Division 2.

Wigtownshire: C Hose, C Hamilton, A Farquhar (captain), J McIntosh, H McGeoch, J Dalrymple, C Austin; S Blain, G Keith, M Hastie, G Dunlop, B Graham, J Chan, C Stephens, K McNeil. Replacements: M McConnell, A Love, R Pauley, R McCreadie, S Cameron, L Smith, J Patterson.