BT West Regional League Division 3
Isle of Arran 6
Wigtownshire travelled to fulfil their first island fixture of the season on Saturday despite the weather cancelling all other Division Three fixtures.
The Arran team have been going well this season and won convincingly when they were down at Stranraer last October. Based on this experience and previous encounters the visitors were under no illusion that this was likely to be aa easy outing despite their good win against the league leaders last weekend.
On arrival they found a very wet pitch, with slushy snow on the ground at one end. It was dry over head with no wind blowing at all. It was however very cold with the surrounding hills and nearby mountains covered in snow as a backdrop for the match.
Arran kicked off the match playing into the sun. Munro McConnell caught the ball and brought it straight up the park, off-loading to Isaac Porter in support. He took the ball into contact and as it was being recycled a knock on produced the first scrum of the day.
Arran came straight on the attack, with the McMaster brothers combining to carry the ball forward through a ruck and drive advance. They were knocking at the door of a score but Wigtownshire winger Andy Farquhar was on hand to stop the advance, tackling them into touch.
A solid take from a throw gave David Lawson a chance to chip the ball over the advancing defence. The chase was on as the visitors sprinted up the park. The ball did not bounce when it hit the ground and Porter was first to it. Picking up the ball, he off loaded to John McIntosh, who set off for the line.
McIntosh in full sprint was brought crashing down by a despairing lunge and tap tackle. The ball went forward from this, but the visitors had broken out of their own half for the first time with 10 minutes on the clock.
The Arran tackles were solid but the “Shire” worked hard to keep the ball. Eventually the “Shire” backs had a chance of a run. The ball was worked out along the line as they advanced up the park. It was now Wigtownshire who were stopped on the five metre line and a knock on that gave away possession.
A game of “Rugby” tennis then ensued as both team vied for field position. Then out of the blue up stepped the Arran Stand Off with a drop kick which sailed over the crossbar, between the posts for three points with 35 minutes played. From the restart the visitors came back all guns blazing, they were in the Arran half and intended to stay there. They rucked and passed the ball, driving towards the line. Arran did get possession but looked to use the kick to clear the danger. Unfortunately they did not find touch and “Shire” brought it straight back to them. There efforts were rewarded when Lawson chipped the ball over, Hamish McGeoch raced up to take the ball as it landed, passing to Richard McCrindle who made for the line. His charge was halted, just short of a score. But the ball came back out from the ruck to Porter who did get over the line. The conversion kick went wide and the referee brought the half to an end, with the visitors in front by two points.
After the break both team battled and pressed to gain an upper hand but both teams appeared to have the measure of each other. Defence was king, the scrums were very even, and at the line out the “Shire” had the edge but only just.
As they worked hard to get through, mistakes were made by both sides. Then as the match got into the last ten minutes, Arran seemed to be gaining momentum. For the first time in the half they managed to break into the twenty two. The “Shire” men seemed to be giving them a little more room and a little more time. The Arran supporters could see the change and urged their side on from the side line. With five minutes to go the break came. A penalty on the twenty two right in front of the posts. Their standoff made no mistakes and converted the goal to give them a one point lead. The visitor tried to come back, but so close to the end of the game, they seemed to get struck in their own half.
This was a very disappointing defeat for Wigtownshire. Arran are a difficult side to beat and on balance “Shire” had more opportunities to close the game out, especially in the first half.
Wigtownshire’s next game is another very tough fixture, playing Cumnock at London Road next Saturday. This is most definitely one to see and likely not to be one for the faint hearted.
Team: J McKie, A Farquhar, H McGeoch, J McIntosh, J Dalrymple, D Lawson, C Reid; R McCrindle, D Watson, M McConnell, G Dunlop, K McNeil (Capt), G Keith, W McHarrie, I Porter.
Replacements: A Copeland , M Duffy, B Graham, R McCreadie