1st XV Rugby v Merchiston
Wednesday 22nd February 2017
St. Mary’s 1st XV recorded an outstanding result as they bested Merchiston Castle School’s U13s 33 -26 out on the Front Field before a big crowd.
We fielded a strong side with William Mac and Joseph W lining up either side of hooker Thomas M. Team Blunt filled the boiler room ahead of a sparky back row of Ollie C, Liam B and veteran 8 Hamish M. William T sniped around the base with Tommy outside. Big centres Captain Harris R and Lachlan F lurked in the midfield and a snappy trio of Alex F, Will S and Matt B filled the backfield slots.
The match kicked off and a big and skilful Merchiston side were all over the brave home defenders. Pressure led to points and Merchie finally breached the Green Machine’s tight defence. The try was not converted but had been scored with an ease that felt very ominous.
Harris straightened his run and dummied through a big hole to level the scores before Tommy slotted the conversion. However, Merchiston were running rampant at this stage and their bug backline could not be contained in the wide channels. Every time they spun the ball wide they looked dangerous and were only kept out by some last-ditch tackling by Will, Alex and Matt.
It has to be said that St. Mary’s were complicit in Merchiston’s second try as they turned their backs to retreat from a penalty awarded on the half-way. Merchie took the quick tap, spun the ball wide and ran in almost unopposed.
You can not afford to switch off at key moments. If you have your back to the ball you are out of the game.
Merchiston ran in a third try just before half-time and St. Mary’s were looking down the barrel. Things did not look they could only get worse for the newly appointed coach. They did when a passing bird deposited an unwelcome gift right on his head!
This incident proved to be the nadir and half-time offered a relief for the home team from the Merchiston onslaught and an opportunity to talk through how to steady the ship.
Half-time: St. Mary’s 1st XV 7 – 19 Merchiston Castle School
We looked dangerous when we had the ball but were not able to retain it for any period or to wrest in from our opponents. Frankly, our forwards were being bullied in the loose and in the scrum and needed to man-up a little.
With the required rocket duly delivered the boys took to the field with some real bite before directing that venom at their opponents.
Straight after half-time Harris intercepted a loose pass to streak through from his own 22. The roar from the touchline support definitely helped him on his way as he swooped over the line. Tommy slotted the conversion from in front of the sticks.
It was now Merchie in the huddle behind their own line working out how to get back into the match.
A fire had been lit under the St. Mary’s forwards and they roared into the fray. Dicken and Wilfie bashed and bullocked and drove the scrum forward. Ollie and Liam linked backs to forwards and stalwarts William Mac and Joseph pulled the scrum in tight. Hamish M popped up in the midfield on a number of occasions and came close to scoring as he intercepted a loose ball in the line-out.
It was therefore against the run of play when Merchiston put their big lad through a few tackled to score to restore their 12 point lead.
Harris and Lachlan were imperious in the midfield. They utterly dominated the oppo in the second period making the big hits in tight and out wide and cutting through at will.
Tommy and William T made a super partnership and really pulled the strings as the St. Mary’s pack rumbled forwards. They sniped and harried and pulled in the defenders to leave the space out wide. They won the quick ball to set up Harris’ third try as the big Form 8 completed his hat-trick – what a player.
From that point onward it was all St. Mary’s. The crowd bayed them on. Alexander NN climbed a small tree to shout more loudly. The pack grunted and ground the pitch to mud in the corner. The ball was spun wide but, caught in the stiff Westerly, it curved forward into Will’s hands and the try was disallowed.
This St. Mary’s XV would not be denied.
The forwards fought in the thick mud to set the platform for their backs to play from. Wilfie crashed the ball up the right. The ball went left from William to Tommy to Harris and then popped back inside to Lachlan on the crash. Lachlan turned on the afterburners and scored wide and right.
The conversion just drifted wide and the scores were tied.
A draw would not be enough for these determined fellows.
They crashed back into the fray, blowing Merchiston away in the rucks. Thomas was a dervish as he forced the ball forward before tagging Hamish in to blast defenders out the way. Joseph W cleared the rucks and Dicken, Liam and Ollie built the platform from which the backs launched the final attack in the last minute.
William Mac won a turnover. Will ran short and set up a ruck cleared by Dicken and Wilfie. Ollie freed the ball at the base and William T was on hand to spoon the ball out to Tommy who flicked it on to Captain Harris. Harris posted Lachlan through a hole and he goosestepped through the last tackle. The last defender flailed in the mud as Lachlan motored through on one final, thundering, unstoppable run to the line.
Tommy slotted the extras before the referee’s shrill whistle sent the home crowd into ecstasy.
Final score: St. Mary’s 1st XV 33 – 26 Merchiston Castle School
Men of the Match: Captain Harris and Lachlan; kept the team in the game with tackle after tackle and then won it with moments to spare – immense.
Honorary Mention: Mr RE Mill; Mr Mill built a fantastic team and it has been this Coach’s great pleasure to inherit a side with such spirit and no little skill. Nobody was more delighted than Mr Mill to hear of this richly deserved result.
Coach’s Notes: Big results require big performances. I was delighted to see the core players respond in the first half to the challenge set down by a battle-hardened Merchiston outfit. I was even more delighted to see how, once they had run the rust out of their systems, every player turned the screw on their opponents in the tight and turned on the style out wide. Every player improved throughout this superb match and thoroughly deserved to be on the winning side when the final whistle blew. Well done to you all.
Mr T Rawson
photographs courtesy of Ms D Wood
Jules Birdsall, 23/02/2017