’Shire succumb to pluck of the Irish

Wigtownshire 15, Limavady 34

Limavady travelled to Stranraer last Friday to start a short pre-season tour.

Limavady’s senior team played in the same league as Larne last season, against whom Wigtownshire usually open their season. The Larne game will take place later in the year.

A sizeable group of spectators assembled for the entertainment. Limavady had the luxury of two full teams to call upon for the match.

It was the second string who took the field first. They were met by a fired-up ’Shire team, bolstered by return of the local former Scotland international lock and recently retired professional player, Craig Hamilton. This was the first time Craig had donned ’Shire colours for many years and the coach chose to play him in the unusual role of winger.

The home side took a hold of the game from the off, with both forwards and back working well. They attacked through their backs and the new young half-back pairing of Chan and Dalrymple showed skill. However, it was captain Andy Farquhar who made the telling move on the left wing with nine minutes on the clock.

A cross-field kick found Hamilton on the right who gathered the ball and crashed over the line for his first senior ’Shire try. The conversion attempt was wide.

From the restart, Limavady won the ball for the first time in the ’Shire half. They showed their potential with break in the centre, and only a last-gasp tackle by Jason McKie prevented a score. But that only delayed the inevitable, and as the support came in they were able to recycle the ball and cross the line for a converted try to take the lead.

’Shire applied pressure again and battled up the park. They were stopped short but retained possession to attack again. Jason McKie drove through the defenders but as he made for the line he was injured, with a dislocated elbow.

The clock stood at 20 minutes gone when play restarted with the first scrum of the game. Wigtownshire took full advantage of the scrum with Keith McNeil picking up at the back and driving for the line. He was stopped, but Jay Chan was on hand to finish the job with his début senior try. Callum Austin added the conversion.

After the break it was a different game. Limavady replaced their whole team, bringing on their 1st XV players. Wigtownshire did not have that size of reserves but changes were made to refresh the line-up.

Limavady were gaining some rhythm and they looked very dangerous. With 10 minutes played they turned possession into points. The ball was spun out to the backs, and a change of angle of attack created a gap in the home defence for a centre to a score and the conversion was a formality.

The home side responded well and took play back to Limavady. Replacement backs Jason Patterson, Gibson Siwo and Tyrell Wilson combined to get back into the strike zone, but the defence held.

On being awarded a penalty Farquhar took the kick himself to close the gap to two points.

Once again the visitors found themselves camped on the ’Shire five-metre line. Eventually a charged-down clearance kick allowed the visitors to cross the line.

’Shire worked hard but it was the visitors who scored again with a fine try. This put them on the front foot and as the match was coming to a close Limavady scored again. A quickly taken tap penalty allowed them to get behind the defence and support was on hand to ensure Limavady crossed the line for the final score.

This was a useful workout for ’Shire as they prepare for the coming season. The phrase “a game of two halves” applies. Wigtownshire won the first and lost the second. It was also very heartening to see so many former ’Shire players supporting the club. Limavady enjoyed their workout and the hospitality.

Wigtownshire’s next game is at home, taking on Millbrae RFC in the RBS Bowl Preliminary Round on Saturday, August 24, at London Road.

Wigtownshire: C Hose, C Hamilton, M Clarke, C Austin, A Farquhar (captain), J Dalrymple, J Chan; S Blain, G Keith, B Graham, G Dunlop, R Dewar, C Stephens, J McKie, K McNeil. Reps: H Parker, G Siwo, R Pauley, T Wilson, H McGeoch, J Patterson, K Little.