BT West Regional League Division 3
Wigtownshire RFC 1st XV 5 – Millbrae RFC 1st XV 20
The rugby game on Saturday at London Road faced many challenges before the two sides even took to the field. The weather was the major concern both with regard to pitch conditions and road condition. Player availability was also an issue.
The injury list for both teams gave their respective team managers headaches on the run up to the game. However in a strange way one eventually helped the other.
With both the pitch playable and the roads open, the weather resulted in the cancellation of Ayr RFC’s 2nd XV game, giving Millbrae a pool of players to call upon through their close links. It also gave “Shire” back their own regular Ayr player, Gregor Henry for the day, together with one or two others who might have been working in better conditions.
So game on, one of only three, of the scheduled eighteen West League games to be played on the day. A gale force southerly wind greeted the players and spectators as they made their way to the exposed pitch, but it was dry and the pitch was in very good condition considering the rainfall of the past week.
Wigtownshire kicked the game off playing towards Bowling Green Road, the wind howling across the park from London Road at an angle giving the visiting team a slight advantage.
Straight away ball was whipped from the park and a scrum set to get the game going closer to ground level. The “Shire” scrum took the advantage and powered into action. Winning the ball back, they worked through the phases up the field, testing the tackle resolve of the visitors.
With six minutes played they had worked their way onto the Millbrae line, Henry whipped the ball from a ruck to Jason McKie who was running at pace. He was stopped short, but with the support of David Watson and Jordan Little, who drove in behind, McKie was pushed over the line to score. Kieran Little’s attempt to add the extra points fell foul of the wind.
Once again the wind took the ball away at the restart and a scrum was needed to get things going. The home team worked hard to break forward but the Millbrae tackles halted their progress at every turn. They disrupted and wrestled for every ball and were eventually rewarded with the turn over.
Now with ball in hand they came up at pace. It was Wigtownshire who were on the back foot but Millbrae created an extra man to go in for a score on the wing. The wind interfered again at the conversion, blowing the ball from the tee. The kicker decided to attempt a drop goal but despite having the distance dropped under the bar when it reached the goal. The home side then upped their work rate producing mighty maul drives from line out takes, winning thirty metre gains, only to turn over the ball with penalty infringements when stopped.
The visitors put boot to ball to clear the danger. One interception by Mckie saw him make 50 metre before being hauled down, the support came from Henry, but Millbrae regrouped to prevent the score.
Even when the visitors got near to the home line the “Shire” line machines, Adam Paxton and Gary Dunlop denied them of the chance to score. The score remained at five points all when the half time whistle blew.
The wind appeared to have dropped slightly when the visitors kicked off the second half. The home side still took advantage of its power to gain field position.
It was Millbrae’s turn to run and ruck the ball forward. They tested the “Shire” tacklers but made their way onto the home five metre line. A scrum resulted in a penalty for the visitors, a quick tap and obstruction, resulted in McKie being sent to the Sin Bin for his efforts.
The visitor’s reset the scrum and added insult to injury driving the home forwards over the line to score a try. The conversion attempt went wide.
The home side came back with purpose but being a man down and faced by a resolute wall of pink they found it difficult to break through.
McKie had just rejoined the affray, when another penalty concession and quick tap, drew another obstruction of the running within ten metre. This time William McHarrie saw yellow and the home side were down a man again. Undaunted they drove on probing and testing the Millbrae line.
A kick through was touched down by the visitors in goal. The referee appeared to indicate a scrum centre field on the twenty two but then correctly allowed play to restart from a drop kick.
Not one Wigtownshire player had sight of or marked the ball carrier, who had been keeping the precious ball out of sight over on the wing. A quick tap and gather launched an unstoppable run to the posts and a converted try from a lapse in concentration. A school boy error, one the “Shire” boys will learn from, but it created a gap in the score line that would be difficult to bridge, given the tightness of play so far.
Both sides vied to overcome the other and ten minutes from the end, the visitors added to the score line. With a drop goal, a rarity at this level of rugby, but on such a windy day quite remarkable. The two teams worked hard for the remainder of the game, Millbrae for the elusive bonus point try and the home side for pride and honour. When Mr. Mulholland blew his whistle for the final time the score stood at 20 points to 5 in favour of the visitors.
This was a very entertaining game to watch for those who braved the storm. The local side worked hard against an experienced, well drilled and hardened team, who are fighting for the top spot in the league. The local boys never gave up, giving everything they could on the day.
Afterwards Vice Captain Adam Paxton intimated that he felt “It was a much improved performance from the team.”
Those observing from the touch line agreed, but the reoccurring loss of players to the sin bin is a worrying trend and has been costly in points, when the players are off.
The boys coming into the team are doing a great job, but the return from injury of the likes of Hose, Dalrymple, Drysdale McCreadie, Lawson, Kelly, O’Hare and Graham would bolster things even further. On Saturday the side have another mountain to climb, when they travel to table topping Strathaven. No easy task, especially with their form having been so good.
Team: K Little, R Heron, J Gallacher, J McKie, A Farquhar, J McIntosh (Capt.), G Henry; D Watson, G Keith, R McCrindle, R Dewar, W McHarrie, J Little, G Dunlop, A Paxton.
Replacements: C Dickson, D Packer, A Murray, J McHarrie.
Coach: C McGregor