’Shire lose out in table-top battle

Uddingston 43, Wigtownshire 5

Wigtownshire travelled to Uddingston with a degree of confidence on Saturday, following one of their best performances in many years the previous week in the RBS Bowl competition.

This table-top clash was set to be a test for both sides, with the outcome having a major impact on the eventual future prospects for both teams due to the size of the league, even this early in the season.

Uddingston kicked off, and Munro McConnell took the ball cleanly and the ’Shire made progress up field. But a kick for field position went out on the full and play was brought back to the ’Shire 10-metre line.

John Dalrymple chased up a clearance kick and put in a fine tackle to keep the home side in their own half. This advantage was, unfortunately, reversed a short time later when the referee decided the visitors had made a high tackle. Only determined tackling and a knock-on prevented Uddingston gaining the ’Shire line.

They then showed their power in the scrum, disrupting any chance of clean ball. Only quick hands and a fine kick from Hamish McGeoch cleared the danger. Once more the ’Shire chase was good, but to no avail as another high tackle decision saw Keith McNeil being sent off for 10 minutes with eight minutes on the clock. ’Shire weathered the onslaught until McNeil returned to play, without the loss of a point.

But Uddingston then won clean ball and took play to the blind side to score out on the wing with 23 minutes played. The conversion was short.

This score gave confidence to the home side and they took a grip on the game. Powerful running and passing at close quarters brought them back down the park. Their No 8 took a tackle, popping to his openside flanker, who similarly offloaded to his blindside counterpart.

The visitors put in the tackles but the pace and power and good hands beat them and a score was made under the posts, so the conversion was a formality.

Three minutes later, without the visitors touching the ball, they crossed the line again, having run the ball back from the kick off, and again the conversion was good.

’Shire put in an effort to halt this deluge, and a series of penalties gave the home side good field position. They chose to run the ball, seeking the bonus fourth try and were rewarded on the 38th minute for a 24-0 half-time lead.

The restart saw both coaches make changes. Stewart Cameron and Jason McKie came on for ’Shire, the latter returning following his elbow dislocation in a pre-season match.

For the first time in the game, the visitors had some possession and they kept it in hand. ’Shire got a chance to show what they could do. Quick thinking by Callum Austin taking a tap, supported by McConnell and McNeil, gave them field position. They kept possession and worked the hard yards. It was the home side who gave away penalties and ’Shire who took it on. This eventually resulted in Cameron squeezing over the line in the corner for a well-deserved try though the conversion attempt went wide.

However, Uddingston returned to their scoring ways and their kicker added the extra two points, before the ball was passed out and a fine step evaded the scrabbling defence for another score near the posts, which was converted.

A short time after the restart Uddingston were on the score board again. A quickly taken penalty put them in for an unconverted score on the wing and took Uddingston out of sight.

This was a hard game for ’Shire. However, the team was not that different to the one who played the week before and was only one short of a full complement on the bench. The boys need to make their first tackle count and work on discipline. The kicking game needs to be more effective. Coach Ross McCreadie said: “There is much we can work on and I am sure we will learn from today.”

Wigtownshire are in action again on Saturday at London Road, when they continue their league campaign against Birkmyre, at 3pm.

’Shire: C Hose, J McIntosh, J Dalrymple, A Farquhar (captain), H McGeoch, C Austin, J Hunter; M Hastie, J Patterson, B Graham, M McConnell, G Dunlop, C Reid, C Stephens K McNeil. Replacements: G Keith, C McGregor, R McCreadie, R Dewar, J McKie, S Cameron.