Shire whitewash Strathaven

BT West Regional League Division 3

Wigtownshire RFC 1st XV 14 – Strathaven RFC 1st XV 0 (Nil)

Saturday saw Wigtownshire take on league leaders Strathaven RFC at London Road.

Strathaven have been going very well this season, having only lost one game in their previous ten outings. They also have a great reputation for try scoring, earning a try bonus for scoring four tries or more in eight of their nine wins. When the two sides met at Strathaven earlier in the league the home side took the honours 44 points to 12, Wigtownshire heaviest defeat in the completion. The local side was hoping to redress this situation at home, but the formidable record of the visitor meant this was going to take a momentous effort from the “Shire” boys.

Strathaven kicked off, playing into the very strong wind blowing along the length of the pitch from the Bowling Green Road end. The field was in great condition given the previous atrocious weather conditions. The grass was dry and the rain/sleet was managing to hold off; however the cold was likely to impact on the game. From the start Strathaven set out their stall. They turned over “Shire” possession from the kick off and began to work up the park. An early penalty for offside against the home side brought the visitor right onto the “Shire” line. Strathaven kept the ball in hand and attacked the line. Wigtownshire tackled and rucked and tackled again, eventually the visitor managed to cross the line but the sterling Shire” defence prevented the ball being grounded. No try, scrum Wigtownshire. From this set piece “Shire” broke out, a full ten minutes after kick off they managed to make their way into the Strathaven half for the first time. With the momentum with them they pressed on. A solid scrum allowed Isaac Porter to break forward, he off loaded to Campbell Reid. When he was tackled the ball was hacked forward, all the Strathaven defence could do was tap the ball into touch, as the “Shire” players poured forward towards the line. The usually sound “Shire” line out lost out to the wind and Strathaven secured possession and began the long trek up the field. They played the ball through their hands passing and advancing. The Wigtownshire tackling was initially found wanting, but they regrouped and halted the visitors progress. Turning over possession they came right onto the Strathaven line again. A penalty this time gave away possession. The clearance kick did not find touch; Porter fielded the ball and brought it back, bursting through as Strathaven sought to halt his progress. When he was stopped, fast ball came out to Munro McConnell on a charge. Bravely they tried to stop McConnell, as he headed toward and over the line for a try. Jason McKie stepped up and added the conversion with sixteen minutes played. At the restart “Shire” caught and kept possession, working their way back into the Strathaven half. They kept the pressure on with mauls and solid rucking. Eventually they came back onto the visitor’s line. The forwards played the ball up and released the backs; the ball went right out to winger John McIntosh, who had a clear run in over the line. Referee Mr. Kingston however had noticed a “crossing” obstruction in the play and a penalty was awarded to the visitor. The game then stuck in the middle of the park. Good defending by both sides halted any breaks. Strathaven could not kick as the ball was more likely end up behind them, were as Wigtownshire kicks bounced and scampered down the park, out of play over the dead ball line, resulting in a scrum when the kick had been taken for Strathaven. Both sides continued to work hard with ball in hand and stopping the other progressing. Neither side managed to gain any advantage before the half time whistle blew.

Wigtownshire kicked off the second half with the wind dropping slightly. Unfortunately not that much as Strathaven was to find. A chip kick, in a good attacking move, resulted in a scrum feed to Wigtownshire on their ten metre line. The ball went out of play over the dead ball line, the wind had not dropped that much. As the half continued the home scrum appeared to be gaining the upper hand. Thy secured good ball at their own put in and disrupted the Strathaven feed, driving and turn the scrum. However as in the first half it was the defending, the tackling on both sides, that kept them away from the try. With fourteen minutes of the half gone, once again it was Wigtownshire who broke the deadlock. Good solid scrumming provided the platform and this time the three quarters combined to break through. Hamish McGeoch sprinted away for a fine try under the posts. McKie stepped up and added the extra points into the face of the gale, assisted by David Lawson who made sure the ball did not fall off the kicking tee. Strathaven came back hard after the score, working their way up onto the “Shire” line. This was their first real scoring chance of the half with twenty minutes gone. Once again the home line out worked its magic, on Strathaven ball Porter got to it and Gary Dunlop cleaned up. The team worked the ball out of the twenty two, but the visitors battled hard at the rucks and eventually won possession. They passed the ball out their three quarters, with “Shire” players closing them down with every pass. Running out of options the chip kick was made. Once again the wind took the ball and it was a scrum to the home side on the ten metre line. Both teams continued to give their all, as frustrations began to grow, tempers began to fray. Mr. Kingston soon brought things under control. Wigtownshire channeled the aggression positively. Once again the scrum provided the platform and Porter made the break. On this occasion Full Back Jason McKie came up in support. The two combined to burst through the tackles. Captain Keith McNeil and his second row partner Gary Dunlop also got in on the act and with help from replacement back Andy Farquhar they came right up onto the Strathaven line. The effort expended by both sides was beginning to tell as players on both sides were going down, both physios were kept busy and the replacement benches were emptied. A scrum ball to “Shire” 5 metres from the line and chances of a score looked good. Strathaven took the strike against the head and under pressure cleared their line. Back to half way, the visitor took heart from this turn around. Another scrum ball against the head and they were right onto the “Shire” line. Once again the home lineout came up triumphs and cleared the danger. Play came back to the half way line and stayed there. Both sides worked away but they did not make much progress outside the ten metre lines. Even a high tackle on the half way line by Strathaven and a wayward comment thereafter resulting in ten more metres saw the penalty kick go out on the ten metre line. The wind was still in play. A short time later Stevie Kingston blew for “No Side” Wigtownshire had beaten the league leaders 14 points to nil.

This was fantastic win for Wigtownshire that marks the half way point in their league campaign. It is very important that they build on this victory and keep the momentum up. With five away games still to come, the ability to field strong teams including a full replacement bench is of great importance. The first test of this will come next Saturday when they travel to the Isle of Arran, weather permitting, for their next game. However let’s not take anything away from this great win against a very strong club who have been performing well this year.

Team: J McKie, J McHarrie, H McGeoch, J McIntosh,M Clarke, D Lawson, C Reid; R McCrindle, D Watson, M McConnell, G Dunlop, K McNeil (Capt), G Keith, W McHarrie, I Porter.

Replacements: C Dickson, A Paxton, J Loch, R McCreadie, A Farquhar, C Hose, J Dalrymple