‘Shire end the season on a high

The Wigtownshire team with their Edwardian visitors
The Wigtownshire team with their Edwardian visitors

Edwardian 5 Nations Charity Challenge

Wigtownshire RFC 1st XV 37 – Edwardian FC XV 0 (Nil)

On Friday evening Wigtownshire played their last game of the 2014 – 2015 season when they welcomed Edwardian FC to London Road, Stranraer.

The visiting team from Solihull, near Birmingham, were undertaking a five match charity challenge, which would see them playing five games in five countries in under fifty hours over the weekend.

The marathon event was to start with the Scottish leg in Stranraer, then progress through Northern Ireland, Eire, Wales and finishing back in England on Sunday evening. The 41 strong squad from the Midlands had left their home base at 9am to make the 316 mile journey to face the ‘Shire for the game. The game was seen as something of a challenge for the local lads as well, facing a side they knew nothing about, in the first game of a very ambitious challenge, with their full complement of nearly three teams of player available to play, very daunting indeed.

Wigtownshire kicked the game off, playing toward Ladies Walk with a very strong cold wind blowing diagonally across the pitch to their advantage. In the first contact the home side conceded a penalty, the visitors showed their intention, setting off with ball in hand, taking a quick tap. They passed it out through the backs and they danced their way towards the half way line. The local boys were having none of it as they made the first tackles count and stamped their authority on the game counter rucking and regaining possession. Quick ball was passed out but a knock on brought the first scrum of the match. The ‘Shire displayed their power once again. At the set piece they drove and turned the scrum to earn the feed at the reset. The visitor were most definitely feeling the effects of their long journey and the home side were not giving them a chance to find their feet. Isaac Porter broke from the scrum and when stopped, set up ruck ball, Campbell Reid quickly fire a pass to Gregor Henry who broke for the line. When he was stopped, Tyrell Wilson was on hand to go over the line and behind the post for the first score. Gary Dunlop added the conversion. At the restart ‘Shire’s captain Keith McNeil fielded the ball and met the Edwardian chases with a solid contact, offloading to Porter. He broke forward, driving and keeping on his feet as the tacklers tried to bring him down. When they did stop him, a penalty for a side entry at the ruck allowed David Lawson to use the wind and kick to the corner for a ‘Shire five metre lineout. A clear catch and quick ball put the visitor under pressure again. ‘Shire forwards and back combined again to put Porter in for a try. Unfortunately this time the conversion attempt came off the post. With thirteen minutes gone and a twelve nil lead, the home side were very pleased and the visitors’ touch line squad had gone very quiet. The home side keep up the pressure and despite Edwardians trying to break out with ball in hand, thirteen minutes later they scored again. This time a kick to touch resulted in an Edwardian line out on their five meter line. ‘Shire’s jumper contested the ball and disrupted the play. The ball fell to the ground at the front of line and hooker Gordon Keith scooped up the ball and drove low and hard over the line for a try. The conversion kick fighting the wind fell under the bar. Once again at the restart a clean catch gave time and possession allowing Henry to use the wind and send the ball back into the visitors’ twenty two. This time the line out did not work so well, and a penalty turned over possession. The visitors tried to run it out taking a quick tap, but the home defence regrouped and halted the advance. The power of the tackles and ferocity of the rucking once again produced possession for Wigtownshire. The team worked well driving forward, working through the phases, using the backs and supporting at the break down. Once again the team effort was rewarded as captain McNeil crashed over for a try. Once again the conversion kick frustratingly hit the posts and failed to go over. Over the remaining twelve minutes of the half neither side could add to the score. Wigtownshire continued to probe and use the elements to get field position. Edwardians seemed to be coming more into the game, showing their skills, both running and passing, but still found it difficult to breach the defence. When referee Alan McKie brought the half to a close the score stood at 22 nil in favour of the home side.

The second half saw ‘Shire adjust to play into the wind, keeping the ball in hand and passing and rucking. They played smart rugby giving the visitor very little ball to play with, making touch kicks from penalties and not kicking the ball away in open play. Seven minutes into the half and a lineout produced good possession. The ball went right across the park, through the hands, to winger Calum Lammie. As the defence raced across to cover Lammie stepped inside and fought his way to the line and over for the score. The conversion kick was blown wide. Edwardian tried to use the wind to work the ball up the park. Wigtownshire however were producing some of their best rugby of the season and were running it back with interest. Ten minutes later Wilson was on the end of another team drive to score his second try, which went unconverted. As the game progressed the visitors were growing in confidence and getting more ball. However the ‘Shire’s young guns were not to be put down. McIntosh, Hose, McGeoch, Henry Campbell and Forsyth were running the ball at every opportunity and supporting each other as they advanced up the field. It was John McIntosh, on the end of one of these forays who scored next, another score near the touchline. A nightmare for kicker Dunlop with the wind in his face, the score was unconverted. Despite the score, the Edwardians refused to give in and last quarter of the game saw them exert real pressure on the ‘Shire line. To their credit the home side dug in and ground it out. Unfortunately this included a rising penalty count. The visitor persisted with quick taps and looked like they were going to break the line but the tackles just kept on coming. So did the penalties, eventually Mr McKie had seen enough and Bob Graham saw yellow as his failure to use his arms in a tackle was one offence too many, with four minutes still on the clock. Even reduced to fourteen men the local side turned over the ball and broke out before Mr McKie blew for no side.

This was a great game of rugby to end the season for Wigtownshire. It was a team effort, everyone played their part. The tight forwards in particular, provided the platform and the ball that allowed the other to perform so well. The boys seem to come alive, despite their reservation before taking the field, they played some great rugby. It is a real test to take on unknown opposition. It gives players a chance to test themselves outside the usual circle they play in. Of course there was no expectations, no pressure, they could enjoy the game. For the visitors it was a hard start to what was grueling challenge they had set themselves. After the match the guests enjoyed some more pleasant ‘Shire hospitality in the clubhouse, and later in the town before heading to Ireland the next day.

Team: Tyrell Wilson, Robbie Forsyth, Hamish McGeoch, John McIntosh, Calum Lammie, Gregor Henry, Campbell Reid; David Watson, Gordon Keith, Bob Graham, Gary Dunlop, Craig Dickson, David Lawson, K McNeil (Capt), Isaac Porter.

Replacements: Richard McCrindle, Ross McCreadie, Campbell McGregor, Andrew Copeland, Corrie Hose, Innes Currie.