Wigtownshire played host to last season’s Division 4 Champions Moffat at London Road on Saturday.
While Moffat have found things a little harder in their new League, they are not a team to be taken lightly. The “Rams” as they are known, may only have taken four wins from their twelve games so far, but have a healthy try and lose bonus point tally and have run some of the top teams close during the season.
The “Shire” have been going well recently, but a result in their favour was in no way a foregone conclusion. They would have to be at their best to earn a win and keep their wits about them to get that result.
Moffat kicked off, playing with the advantage of the surprisingly brisk wind blowing diagonally across the pitch from the northwest. It was a fine, sunny, dry day, but bitterly cold. This was likely to impact on the game as cold hands can make passing or catching the ball very difficult. “Shire” fielded the kick well and drove into contact but somehow the ball came out on the Moffat side and was carried at pace up the wing. The stunned home defence scrambled back and managed to halt the charge just short of the line.
They were then given a reprieve as the isolated attacker held onto the ball on the ground. This relief was short lived as the wind made the clearing kick difficult and Moffat were determined to capitalize on the advantage it gave. The visitors turned over possession and power through weak tackles from the home side. When the ball carrier was halted the tackler failed to roll away. The resulting penalty was easily converted to give the “Rams” a three point lead with three minutes played. From the restart they repeated the pattern, strong hard running and missed tackles brought them into kicking range and again an offence at the break down gave them the opportunity. Six minutes played, and a six point lead was the result. From this restart the home side chased hard and eventually got their hands on the ball.
This gave them a chance to work their way forward. It was nearly ten minutes later before they got near the Moffat line. But the visitors fought hard and kept the local boys out. The ball was shipped wide after the forward attempt, only to be knocked on, just as the Moffat defence was beginning to struggle.
They then got a chance with the boot as a penalty was awarded but the head wind was too much. It did appear as if the “Shire” were working their way back into the game however try as they might, they just could not get a score. The rising penalty count against them was costing the home side allowing Moffat to keep them at bay. Wigtownshire’s line out was working well and a line break from a take on a Moffat throw in brought back up the park.
Once again at the break down they went off their feet. Moffat did not need to be asked twice and they went for territory. Wigtownshire took the ball but the clearance kick just gave the visitors possession and they ran it back. Straight back, three missed tackles later they were behind the post scoring a try, the conversion was a formality from the west. Despite two more kicks at goal from penalties Moffat were unable to add any more to their thirteen point lead before half time.
The second half could not have started better for the home side. Kicking off, they charged up the field, holding the visitors deep in their own half. They won possession at the break down and shipped the ball wide. The last pass to the winger looked certain to create the score but a foot just in touch stopped play.
At the line out Moffat failed to secure their ball and Jason McKie barged through collecting the loose ball. He headed for the line with tackles coming in for all side. Despite their best effort they could not halt his progress and he went in for a try. The conversion attempt failed to find its mark, as the wind continued to cause problems. This gave the local lads hope, however their discipline once again let them down time and again. Every time they seemed to get going a penalty conceded, lost them valuable ground. The visitors also seemed to be suffering regular injuries, holding up play and preventing any continuity. Frustration began to grow, resulting in a complete breakdown in order following a head butt. The initial incident went unseen by referee, however the player reacting to it, did so in full view of Mr. Gilchrist. A yellow card for “Shire” prop Munro McConnell reduced his team to fourteen player for ten minutes. Moffat made good use of this time to hold Wigtownshire deep in their own half. The visitors worked very hard to breach the line, mauls, rucks, and pick up and drives, all failed to produce a score, as the home defence worked very hard. Even the wind helped to keep attempts at goal away from the posts. Just when McConnell returned to play, Mr. Gilchrist decided to put “Shire” Rory Dewar into the bin for further a penalty offence, returning the side to reduced numbers. Still Moffat could not add to the score and Wigtownshire having weathered the storm, broke out. Once again they worked their way forward for a rare visit into the Moffat twenty two. This time they made the ball do the work and kept possession of the ball at the break down. They sent the ball to the right, then rucked it through the phases back to the left. Eventually out on the wing Campbell Reid took a ball passed quickly from a ruck to bust through and score a try. Jason Gallacher added the conversion to narrow the gap to one point, with six minutes to play. Returned to full strength “Shire” went for the win, Moffat changed down a gear or two, slowing everything down. As the clock ran down, “Shire” had one more chance to steal the game. A long range penalty kick, unfortunately even with the winds help, the ball went under the bar. A short time later Mr. Gilchrist brought proceeding to a halt, Moffat winning 13 point to 12.
This was a very disappointing result for Wigtownshire. After such a good run recently, they never seemed to get going from the start, missing tackles and turning over possession.
However above all, the penalty count against, let them down, and the players profoundly failed to adjust to the way the referee was dealing with play at the break down. Once again the curse of the yellow card returned on the back of the penalties.
Plenty for the boys to work on for the remaining four games, and the challenges still to come. The “Shire” are back in action again next Saturday, 12th March 2016, at London Road, Stranraer, when the face Clydesdale RFC. The kick off has been brought forward to 1 p.m., due to the ongoing “6 Nation” Tournament.
Team: K Little, A Farquhar, H McGeoch, J McIntosh (Capt.), J Gallacher, B McColm, C Lammie; M McConnell, G Keith, D Watson, G Dunlop, R Dewar, J Little, J McKie, A Paxton.
Replacements: C Dickson, B Graham, R McCreadie, W McHarrie, C Reid, J Dalrymple, S Cameron.