‘Shire end season with a defeat

Shire on the move led by Captain McNeill'Photo credit - John Dunlop
Shire on the move led by Captain McNeill'Photo credit - John Dunlop

BT West Regional League Division 3

Millbrae RFC 1st XV 32 - Wigtownshire RFC 1st XV 19

Wigtownshire travelled to Ayr on Saturday to play their last league match of the season.

They were to face Millbrae, who with four games to play are very much still in the running to be Division 3 champions. They arrived at the home of Ayr Rugby to find, unsurprisingly, they were to face a full squad of twenty two. The local team being somewhat depleted though seasonal work commitments of some of their regular players. However, it was pleasing that they still were able to field twenty players despite some still feeling the effects of the 93rd Wigtownshire Rugby Club Annual Dinner the night before.

Millbrae kicked the game off, on a fine sunny afternoon, with a cold wind blowing across the pitch. They chased up and recovered the ball and headed for the line. Strong tackling stopped their advance and “Shire” managed to turn over possession and fought their way out of their half. A lineout gave them good possession as they mauled the ball forward putting the home side under pressure. When the ball was released it was No 8 Isaac Porter who scampered forward, avoiding tackler, before he was pushed into touch. The home side, under pressure knocked the ball on from the throw. The first scrum of the game produced clean ball for the visitor, but a knock on halted progress in the backs. Referee Dougie Gilchrist had noticed that a defender had strayed offside and awarded the penalty. Gary Dunlop went for goal but he miskicked the ball. Millbrae fielded it and brought it out in hand before being stopped on the twenty two. “Shire” recovered the ball at the breakdown. Porter set off again, support from Ross McCreadie, kept it moving forward, then David Lawson took it on over the line. The referee decided the ball was held up over the line and awarded a scrum. Millbrae worked hard at the scrum and put in a drive. Porter tried to pick up at the back, but too early for Mr Gilchrist’s liking and a penalty let Millbrae clear the danger. The ball however failed to find touch and John McIntosh came charging up in attack. He passed to Porter who took it on, but the ball was dislodged in the tackle five metres short of the line. This time it was “Shire” scrum who won the drive. Taking the ball against the feed, Porter picked up at the back and set off on a mazy run, scoring under the posts. Dunlop added the conversion. From the restart Millbrae tried to break through the Wigtownshire defence, but the visitor turned the ball over and eight minutes later they were in for another score. The scrum set up a solid platform for the attack. Porter picked up and danced his way through the defenders. When they eventually stopped him McIntosh was on hand to take the pass and score. Dunlop added the conversion. Millbrae worked their way back into the game from the restart. Using the aerial route they managed to get field position. This time the visitors could not break out and missed first up tackles in the centre of the park cost them. The ball was spun out to the wing and run in for a try. The conversion was missed. This score against the run of play hurt the visitor and gave the home side heart. A fierce contest ensued in the middle of the park with both sides trying to break through. Eventually it was “Shire” who won the battle. A break from Porter, gave the ball to Craig Reid on the wing, he made forty metres before being stopped. With field position in their favour the “Shire” pack took the ball away from Millbrae at the set piece. Fast ball was passed out to McIntosh at full sprint. He rounded the last man to go in for his second try. The conversion slipped wide. The score remained at 5 points to 19 in Wigtownshire until the half time whistle.

At the break Millbrae made major changes to their lineup, making full use of their bench. These changes had a major impact on the game right from the start of the second half. They caught the ball at the restart and came out all guns blazing. Communications, check; organization, check; drive, check; set piece plays, check; game plan, check; all systems go! They were like a different team. Kick for field position, win the ball and maul drive, score. Three minutes on the clock, Try, unconverted; Six minutes later, Try, unconverted; Five minutes later, Try, unconverted; and the lead for the first time in the game. Wigtownshire were shell shocked. A game that they were winning, controlling and winning well, was gone. The drive, power and structure in the Millbrae play was very much giving them the upper hand. They kicked well for field position and were competing at the lineout, disrupting or winning ball and driving through the maul, then releasing their back. Wigtownshire worked hard to try and get back into the game. This they did for fifteen minutes, then the “Pink Machine” broke through again. They pulled in the cover then passed it out the backs, Try in the corner, not converted. “Shire” never gave up, they worked hard, but they could not get back into the game. They managed to get into the Millbrae half, but the home side disrupted play and “Shire” found themselves on the back foot, in their own half, fighting to keep them away from the line. With thirty four minutes played Millbrae broke through again and scored their fifth try of half, this time they added the conversion. The score remained unchanged for the remainder of the game. Mr Gilchrist brought the game to a close with the final score Millbrae 32 - Wigtownshire 19.

Never could the expression a game of two halves be more appropriate, both the Millbrae Coach’s half time team talk and his replacement selection, took his team to another level. For the Millbrae faithful and unaffiliated spectators it was a very impressive display, as they march on in search of the Champions spot. For the “Shire” support and players it was a very disappointing end to the season. The players gave of their best and never gave up, but it was very hard to take especially with the way they had started the game. However in true rugby spirit the local players congratulated Millbrae and wished them all the best for the remainder of their campaign. With the league now over, the “Shire” only have two remaining events in this season’s calendar, Carrickfergus 7’s at the weekend and a match on Friday 22nd May 2015. The latter being part of a charity challenge by Edwardian FC Rugby Club from Solihull. They are playing five games in five nations in one weekend, starting at Wigtownshire at 7 pm on the Friday evening at London Road.

Team: Corrie Hose, Dale Kelly, Hamish McGeoch, John McIntosh, Craig Reid, David Lawson; Richard McCrindle, Gordon Keith, Bob Graham, Rory Dewar, G Dunlop, K McNeil (Capt), Ross McCreadie, Isaac Porter.

Replacements: David Watson, Jason McKie, Adam Paxton, Innes Currie, Calum Lammie.