Anniversary season opens for ’Shire

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Wigtownshire 15, Larne 41

Saturday saw the start of the 2012 -2113 season for Wigtownshire Rugby Club in a special anniversary year as they affiliated to the SRU in 1922 having just formed.

The guests for this first game were old friends Larne, who have been pre-season match regulars since 1933, with the clubs taking year about crossing the North Channel. This year is special for Larne as well as they are celebrating their centenary.

The game was treated very much as a trial match for both. They played four 20-minute sessions, allowing the coaching staff to make a number of changes at the breaks to see how players performed in different positions. Apart from that, the match was full-on to win and officiated over by West of Scotland Rugby Referee Society member Dougie Gilchrist. His job was made much more interesting because of a raft of experimental law changes brought into force over the close season that both he and the players have to come to grips with.

From the kick-off Larne were much sharper. The work they had been doing on the training paddock seemed to give them an edge. Before very long they capitalised, nipping in to score two soft tries at scrums. However, as the game progressed the ’Shire boys got up to speed and the game ebbed and flowed up and down the London Road pitch.

The young Larne side showed their skills with ball in hand, the local side matched them covering and tackling.

In possession the ’Shire grew in confidence, after the initial lapses, and the scoring was evenly matched. Andy Love and Keith McNeil crossed the whitewash for the home side to score trademark forward tries. Keith crashed over from a tap penalty taking Larne defenders with him. Andy saw a gap in the defence as the ’Shire mauled the ball towards the line. Giving himself a bit of space, he took the ball on to capitalise and burst through for his score.

Callum Austin, playing at scrum-half for the first time, added to the score by converting one try and a fine penalty kick. Unfortunately, Larne matched these scores to maintain the gap.

By the start of the fourth quarter, both coaching teams had tweaked and changed their side to get the most from their squads and, in the last period, the alterations unsettled the home side and the visitors got the upper hand, stretching their lead once more through well worked tries.

After the game Wigtownshire coach lan McKie said: “Although we were a bit rusty, I am happy with the way we played. We still have some work to do, but today was very useful in gauging where we are.”

Wigtownshire’s first league game is away to Strathaven RFC on September 1 with a full season of 21 further fixtures through until March 2013. These games, together with the “Shield” competition, mean it is going to be a very busy season. Nevertheless, everyone at the club is very pleased that this annual long-running fixture has been played in the true spirit of friendship held very important by those involved in rugby.

Team: B Forsyth, K Little, J McIntosh, A Farquhar (captain), D MacCaig, H McGeoch, C Austin; A Love, S Campbell, D Watson, G Dunlop, C McGregor, J McKie, C Stephens, K McNeil.

Replacements: S Blain, R Drysdale, B Graham, D Drummond, C Reid, S Hannah, J Dalrymple.