Win puts ’Shire into second

Isle of Arran 12. Wigtownshire 16

Wigtownshire travelled to Arran on Saturday for a game that completed the first half of the league campaign.

They also hoped to turn around their poor away form having lost both previous games on the road.

’Shire fielded a strong squad of 22 players and were accompanied by a number of officials and supporters.

’Shire fielded Arran’s start and set off back into the home team’s territory. Despite the worsening weather conditions, the visitors stuck to their running game, attacking with ball in hand and were rewarded a penalty after six minutes. Callum Austin stepped up to slot the ball between the uprights for the first points.

’Shire kept the pressure on to keep the home side close to their line.

Corrie Hose displayed determination from full back with a fine chip and chase, only to be beaten to the ball in front of the line by his opposite number, but it was only a matter of time before the visitors turned the pressure into more points. This time a wayward clearance was handled by an Arran player who had been in front of the kicker. Austin had certainly brought his kicking boots and converted the three-pointer.

From the start ’Shire set plays were working well. The scrum was holding its own but the lineout was dominating, taking own ball and winning or disrupting Arran’s. One area of concern was at the tackle and ruck. The home side was managing to steal Wigtownshire’s ball.

Then out of nowhere a chip kick from the visitors in the middle of the pitch was fielded by the home side and run back towards the posts. The ’Shire tacklers fell off the strong runner and he was only brought to ground as he crossed the line to score. The conversion attempt hit the cross bar.

The visitors regained their composure and returned to putting pressure on the home line. With 25 minutes on the clock they managed to get on the score board again. A solid scrum gave ’Shire good ball and it was passed through the hands to the left wing, back across to the right, then returned to the left. Duncan Maccaig broke the defensive line to score a fine team try. Austin added the conversion to put ’Shire 13-5 in front at half-time.

After the break, and with the support of the storm, Arran came out all guns blazing. They drove straight up the park to cross under the posts. The referee arrived to peel the players of the ground and awarded the try. The conversion was a formality and the lead reduced to one point.

The rain continued in torrents and the wind strengthened but players on both sides knuckled down.

It was now Arran’s turn to test the visitors’ defence. They were not found wanting and the game got bogged down in the middle of the pitch.

Arran was coping better and their scrum was coming into its own. The visitors tackled their hearts out and took on the ball when they got a chance. Both sides chose the aerial route to gain ground. ’Shire did well in fielding the ball and bring it back up.

With 22 minutes of the half played, an Arran player handled on the ground again, a penalty in kicking range was awarded and, in howling wind, Austin stepped up added three points.

The home scrum was now in charge, but under pressure the visitors worked together to keep any possession. Gordon Keith and the tight five did everything they could to ensure some ball to work with. Arran had field position and possession, but could not find a way through.

The outcome could have gone either way as both sides worked hard to put on good display for the fans. Wigtownshire came away with their first win on the road this season. They have reached the halfway point in the league in second place and their squad continues to grow in size and confidence. They will need both for this Saturday. They return to Bowl competition action in the West Regional semi-final, returning to Arran for that game.

’Shire: C Hose, A Farquhar (captain), L Smith, D Maccaig, J McIntosh, C Austin, J Hunter; S Blain, G Keith, M McConnell, B Graham, G Dunlop, C Stephens, J McKie, K McNeil. Replacements: C McGregor, J Adams, J Patterson, A Murray, S Cameron, H McGeoch, K Little.