Ring-rusty ‘Shire whitewashed at Cumnock

BT West Regional Bowl (Quarter Final)

Cumnock RFC 1st XV 28 - Wigtownshire RFC 1st XV 0 (Nil)

Wigtownshire travelled to Cumnock on Saturday having played no rugby for four weeks.

A combination of reasons had arisen to keep the ‘Shire men off the paddock. Missing what should have been a busy month building on the early games of the season, was likely to be a problem for the local side. Cumnock, on the other hand, had been playing right through the period were sitting third in the league, having won their last four fixtures. Also Wigtownshire continue to suffer from a shortage of available players, injuries and work commitments a very real threat to fulfilling commitments. Nevertheless those who made the trip did so with determination to give of their best for their club. It was however going to be an uphill struggle with only one replacement on the bench, Club President Arthur Henry, one player making his first appearance of the season and one his first appearance ever. This was further compounded by a number of the team playing out of position. Coach Ross McCreadie conceded that this was much about getting the game on and giving his players game time, than prospects of a positive result. However on arrival at the venue the local boys were somewhat surprised to find Cumnock only had fifteen players listed and were desperately trying to gather in some second team players to act as replacements. They eventually found four to add to their numbers before kick off, however this says much about the state of grass roots club rugby at this time.

Cumnock kicked the game off playing with the advantage of the elements. The pitch was wet and sticky, but surprisingly playable given the rain that had fallen. The kick was fielded by David Lawson who set off up the park taking the game to the home side. Support however was slow in arriving at the break down and Cumnock turned over possession. They worked the ball out, but Dale Kelly halted there advance and this time ‘Shire turned the ball over, but some loose play saw the Cumnock scrum half steal the ball and sprint over the line with two minutes on the clock. The conversion kick was added. From the restart Wigtownshire made good ground and pressure earned a scrum inside the Cumnock half. From this platform the visitors attacked the defensive line, unfortunately a chip kick by Jason McKie was charged down. The ball was quickly gathered by the home side who broke up the park. A successful pass out from the centre being tackled by ‘Shire’s last defender Robby Forsyth saw the home side go in for their second try. With the match only six minutes old Cumnock added the conversion for a fourteen point lead. The visitors were clearly ring rusty and the changes of position were having an impact. They did regroup and started to get some possession to work with and began to put some phases of play together. However on the thirteenth minute Cumnock proved their worth again. Clean line out ball was taken up by the forwards, drawing in the defence, their backs then took it on, with the full back coming into the line at pace. He broke through like a hot knife through butter, straight under the posts, the conversion was a formality. The signs were ominous for the visitors, further compounded three minutes later when Prop Richard McCrindle took a knock on his wrist, replacement Arthur Henry came on and the scrum was re-jigged. As time went on the visitor came onto their game, Cumnock did not have it all their own way. Confident of their ability they took the attacking option all the time, but the ‘Shire boys were coming onto their game. Their defence was working, players getting used to their new position and even just playing again after their break. They halted the deluge of scores just as the rain came on, and managed to get some field position. Two penalty attempts unfortunately did not find their mark, the underfoot conditions making kicking increasingly difficult. It was Cumnock who were now under the cosh. They were making the mistake, getting penalized and very much on the back foot. The ‘Shire back line with ball to work with came forward at pace, the last pass just would not go to hand and the chip kicks just skidded too far. They just could not get the score and remained trailing 21 points to nil at half time.

McCrindle recovered sufficiently from his knock to return to play for the second half. With their confidence growing and the rain falling harder, Wigtownshire started the second half in the same vain as they ended the first. On the front foot they set about their opposition looking for a score. With three minutes played winger Dale Kelly received a leg knock putting him out of the game, and Henry back in. Wigtownshire kept the pressure on with Cumnock pinned in their half. The visitors just could not get the break. The elements conspired against both teams as the rain and increasing mud made the ball as slippery as a ball of soap. The referee did make allowances but frustrations did begin to show on both sides. Cumnock did manage a foray into the ‘Shire half and were awarded a penalty some thirty metre from the posts. Their ambitions were most definitely waning as they elected to go for goal. The ball fell sort and the found themselves defending, as McKie and Lawson broke out and carried the ball down the park. The ‘Shire back row was also taking charge with forty metre gains. The ball was carried onto the Cumnock five metre line. For fifteen minutes it stayed there. Scrums and penalties, warning of the home team by the referee, something had to give. Jason McKie was that something, a knock brought him down and off the field. Coach McCreadie would not allow him to continue. Then from the next play, Cumnock broke out. It was their turn to go the length of the field, the only difference they scored a converted try. Three minutes later the referee blew for no side. The final score Cumnock 28 – Wigtownshire 0.

The Wigtownshire players took a lot from the game. They were not expected to win, but once the cobwebs were blown away they came on, all guns blazing. It was very disappointing at the end they did not get a score. It would not have made a difference to the final result as Cumnock had too big a start. It would however have made a difference to the players who gave their all, only to lose a try at the last. A special mention should be made for Craig Eaglesham who played his first game at the club on Saturday. It was some introduction to the sport but he did a great job. Also Campbell Reid who stepped into the scrum half position, and did a great job, a true find through adversity. These are difficult times at ‘Shire.

The problems regarding availability, combining with players retiring or moving away, is a problem. The club would be keen to hear from anyone interested in taking up or returning to senior rugby. Training is on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7pm, meeting at the Club House, Ladies Walk, Stranraer. Club Captain Keith McNeil invites you to come along and join in. The side has another break, until the 29th November, because of the Autumn International Fixtures, when they are back in action, travelling to play Lanark.

Team: R Forsyth, D Kelly, R Dewar, J McKie, C Eaglesham, D Lawson, C Reid; R McCrindle, D Watson, S Blain, M McConnell, L Harvey, G Keith, G Dunlop, K McNeil (Capt).

Replacements: A Henry.