Shire bounce back to winning ways

Wigtownshire 22, Strathendrick 19

WITH the league just one week old, it might be seem a bit early to talk about crunch games. However, with Strathendrick having a fine home win last week and being among the favourites in the championship again this season, every point is vital for both sides, even this early in the season.

The early season player availability difficulties continued for the home side. However, it was pleasing to see new players taking the field for the team and some old faces playing again.

From the kick-off, the visitors showed why they bore the favourites tag. They won possession and did not want to give it up in the first ten minutes.

But the local lads were not found wanting and eventually got a hold of the ball and cleared to the halfway line. Now it was the ’Shire’s chance to show what they could do and the lineout that worked so well last week continued in the same vein, producing good ball both for the backs and giving the option to drive through the forwards.

Eventually, the deadlock was broken as a result of the combined efforts of Campbell Reid and Callum Austin. They halted an attack, turned over possession and released Duncan Maccaig, who set off from the halfway line. He broke five tackles as he drove through the visitors to score under the posts. Austin added the conversion.

From the restart the visitors were determined to redress this and they dult did with a pick and drive between the uprights. The conversion levelled the score at half-time.

The visitors scored again ten minutes after the break with sa try out wide, but ’Shire struck back almost immediately when centre Tim Kneale was driven over and Austin added the extra points.

Back in lead again, ’Shire’s confidence was growing and hooker Gordon Keith scored after another powerful drive.

An Austin penalty extended the lead but, after Keith McNeil had to leave the field following a clash of heads, the visitors took advantage with another try and conversion to reduce the deficit to three points with nine minutes remaining.

Strathendrick threw everything but the kitchen sink into their attacks but the home side held firm. They were throwing the ball out along the back line with confidence and kicking with purpose.

More importantly, they chased everything, tackled everything and kept things tight and maintained the three-point gap until referee Rab McHenry blew for no side.

This was a fine display against a strong side. There was most definitely a buzz of excitement, both about the game and season to come among the spectators.

Coach Alan McKie was very satisfied with the performance. Asked about man of the match, he said: “It would be impossible to single out one person – this was very much a team performance. Everyone played their part and played it so well.”

Wigtownshire are in action on Saturday, away to league leaders Annan.

Team: N Warwick; C Reid, J McIntosh, T Kneale, D MacCaig; J Dalrymple, C Austin; S Campbell, G Keith, R Drysdale, G Dunlop, G Campbell, J McKie, R Pauley, K McNeil (Capt).

Replacements: S Taggart, D Watson, J Iyiku.