A hard day at the office for Shire

BT West Regional League Division 3

Strathaven 44

Wigtownshire RFC 17

Wigtownshire travelled to Strathaven on Saturday to face the league’s on form side.

Their record of seven wins from seven outings and a try bonus in each a sure sign of team playing exceptionally well and with confidence. With home advantage and pitch that could not be more different to the one the “Shire” lads have at London Road it was always going to be a hard day at the office for the young “Shire” team.

Nevertheless they set off from Ladies Walk in good spirits wondering what waited them, knowing all the other games around Strathaven had already been called off because of unplayable ground conditions. They were also buoyed by the return of winger Arron O’Hare from injury, and Calum Lammie, just back from Australia, who had just got off the plane that morning. When they arrived the found conditions were cold but dry overhead, the pitch was as they expected wet and very soft, especially at the bottom of the slope.

Strathaven kicked off playing up the hill. The first ten minutes saw both teams keeping it tight, playing through the forwards and getting the measure of each other. This stalemate was broken when Strathaven shipped the ball out and headed for the line.

The usually sound “Shire” defence failed to counter this break and missed tackles cost them as the home side went in for the first score. The conversion attempt went wide. From the restart the home side gathered the ball and brought it back up the park. This time their progress was stopped short of the line, unfortunately a “Shire” knock on gave them a scrum feed, in a good position. Quick ball from the scrum allowed them to break through and score again. This time the conversion was added and the visitors were twelve points adrift in what seemed no time at all. The “Shire” boys knuckled down and worked their way back into the game. Once again their top try scorer Jason McKie showed them the way.

The forwards battled their way to the home line. Scrum half Lammie popped the ball from a ruck to McKie on a charge. He crashed over to pull back five points, the conversion attempt went wide. Mirroring their hosts “Shire” fielded the restart and went straight down the park. This time it was Rory Dewar who was on the end of the quick pass that put him in for the score. This time Kieran Little added the extra points to level the score.

Shocked by this rebuff Strathaven raised their game as the half was drawing to a close. They used the restart to gain field position and closed down the visitors as they tried to break out. Eventually they won possession and made good use of the ball, passing and breaking tackles to go in for a try. The conversion was missed and the home side held a slim lead when the whistle blew for the break.

Strathaven rung the changes at half time. Playing down the hill they went to their bench, bringing on two big props to strengthen their scrum and puts the smaller “Shire” pack under pressure. This was further compounded

as the visitors had to make changes in the same area, but with no fresh front row replacements they had to bring boys who normally play further back in the scum to face the onslaught.

This together with the increasingly muddy uphill slope was a game changer. Strathaven came out all guns blazing. Their power game produced five tries and one conversion, including two push over scores from scrums. The Wigtownshire boys worked very hard, battling to keep them out. But the slope began to seem like a mountain, one made even higher when once again indiscipline saw two yellow cards issued for the second week running.

To their credit the “Shire” boys never gave up. They worked for each other, changed positions to fill in for injuries and “sin bin” absences. Their efforts were rewarded as the game was coming a close, all be it with a little good fortune. A kick through by the visitors, bounced back off the post protector. Winger Stewart Cameron chasing up gathered the ball and went in for a cancellation try. Little added the extra points before the referee brought the game to an end.

This was indeed “a hard day at the office” for the “Shire boys, well a very, very hard second half. Strathaven maintained their record and form to return to the top of the league. But the first half showed that the local side had the metal to match with them. The second half did show deficiencies and issues that need to be worked on.

Throughout the game the first up tackling was poor, normally a sound feature of “Shire’s” play, this was a disappointing lapse. The “Yellow Cards” once again this is major problem. Four of the five Strathaven tries in the second half were scored while “Shire” were reduced in numbers. That being said, the spirit and commitment shown by the team in the face of adversity was commendable.

To a man they stepped up to the mark, filled in when and where needed, and never gave up right to the final whistle. The scoring of the final try and having the last word in the match is testament to that. As was the comment in the changing room after the game, “Just wait until we get them down at Stranraer”. The team is in action again on Saturday 19th inst. when they host Clydesdale in their final match before the Christmas break.

Team: K Little, R Heron, J McIntosh (Capt), B McColm, S Cameron, Campbell Reid, C Lammie; D Watson, G Keith, C Dickson, W McHarrie, G Dunlop, J Little, J McKie, A Paxton.

Replacements: R Dewar, A Farquhar, A O’Hare, T Wilson. Coach: J Patterson