Watsonians Rugby 23 pts (t 2, c 2, p g 3) v Currie Chieftains 29 pts (t 4, c 2, p g 1)
This match of commitment and lung-busting rugby certainly warmed the sizeable crowd and gave both sets of supporters plenty to cheer about on a raw January afternoon. As one spectator commented, ‘I doubt if you’ll get the same level of passion with the no-relegation six team League, that could comprise different players every season who have little allegiance to the club they supposedly represent; perhaps this is the way that professional rugby works. Also, you don’t drive down a cul-de-sac if you want excitement and a chance of viewing better scenery.’ Well, there may be a point here, and spectators can always move to real rugby clubs where relegation or promotion is based on merit.
Watsonians have been on a mission recently, as they, like the Chieftains, chase a top four finish and play-off spot, but it was the visitors’ vibrant early play that helped to establish a healthy lead in the first quarter. Ben Robbins steamed into ‘Sonians 22, and Gregor Hunter kicked a penalty when the hosts failed to roll away. Lee Millar soon had his team level when the visitors were penalised for a similar breakdown offence. Currie continued to play their fast expansive game; gaining plenty of possession and territory they slowly edged into ‘Sonians 22. A further penalty was sent to touch, where Kiran McDonald secured the throw-in and the Chieftains pack did the rest. Scott McGinley’s try was converted by Gregor Hunter.
‘Sonians response was immediate; their speedy backs were allowed space to move, and hooker, Ross Graham led a charge deep into Currie territory. With an overlap of runners on his left, Lee Millar’s long-looping pass was well read by Joe Reynolds who intercepted and ran the length of the pitch for a rather unexpected try. Ben Robbins, in support, and a chasing ‘Sonians player collided as they closed on the ball carrier, but officials were happy with the score, which Gregor Hunter calmly converted.
At this stage, set scrums were few and far between, and a breakdown usually ended with a kick to touch for territorial gain. Handling errors were few with both teams showing astute defensive skills that cut down and slowed attacks. With a good ten minutes or so to the break, ‘Sonians were starting to dominate proceedings and they made several close quarters assaults which initially Currie did well to repel, although the rising penalty count was a concern. The home side’s determination eventually won through, with Murray Scott giving a neat little inside pass that permitted Rory Hutton to stretch over near the posts; Lee Millar converted.
‘Sonians continued to advance their cause, and exchanges became a little prickly; both teams had their numbers cut, as the referee sorted out some anti-social behaviour with a visit to the sinbin. A few minutes later, Michael Vernel was also shown a yellow card, when a rumbling ‘Sonians’ maul was illegally felled. A splendid Scott McGinley steal, ten metres out relieved the pressure, and it looked as if Currie would make halftime with their lead intact, but a clearance kick, which should have found touch, was snapped up by Angus Guthrie, who, with Andrew Charmers carved open the Currie defence to send DJ Innes in for a converted try.
Halftime score – Watsonians 17 pts, Currie Chieftains 17 pts.
With only a few minutes of the second half gone, ‘Sonians were back to full strength and confidently running at the visitors, who did not experience the best of times in 50/50 situations. From a difficult angle, Lee Millar put the home team in front with a well-taken penalty goal. Five minutes later, and just before Currie were restored to fifteen players again, he could have extended ‘Sonians’ lead, but the long-distance attempt fell short of its target. The excitement and tension of a rip-roaring second half saw time tick by very quickly. Both teams showed enterprise, but Currie looked the stronger, and
gradually took control; ‘Sonians found it increasingly difficult to keep any reasonable possession. The Chieftains’ scrum had the opposition going backwards, and the resulting penalties applied more pressure near the ‘Sonians’ line. Fraser Watt, Kiran McDonald, Vince Wright and a powerful burst from Robbie Nelson, all went breathtakingly close, but eventually a fine long pass from Roan Frostwick gave the backs space. Gregor Hunter continued the quick-fire passing to see Ben Robbins crash in at the corner flag. The try was not converted, but the Chieftains had resumed the lead with twenty minutes remaining.
It was clear to both teams how important the outcome of this match was, as each plugged away moving the action from one half to the other. The injection of new energy off the Currie bench, in the form of Graeme Carson, Reece Patterson, Marc Kelly and particularly Rhys Davies, ensured the Chieftains’ momentum for the full eighty minutes. ‘Sonians made the occasional visit into Currie’s 22, but they spent most of the time keeping their own line intact, with exceptional defending which looked like preventing any further score. Another scrum penalty was thumped to the ‘Sonians’ corner flag, where Currie anticipated a repeat performance of their earlier push-over try. The ball was secured, but after a dozen or more phases, the Chieftains could still not breach the goal line. Once again Roan Frostwick sent a bullet pass wide, where second receiver, Fergus Scott coolly stepped inside the scramble defence and crashed over. Gregor Hunter converted, but there were still a few nervous minutes to go.
Watsons courageously threw everything at the visitors in a final flurry of attacking excitement. They forced Currie backwards and eventually gained a penalty, which Lee Miller converted without hesitation to record a valuable losing bonus point. This was a Titanic contest, and a tremendous victory for the Chieftains, but with Heriot’s beating Melrose at the Greenyards, it still looks as if a place in the play-offs will go down to the wire.
Next weekend the Chieftains are on the road again; another almighty clash at Melrose. They will be smarting from the Heriot’s victory and not in a benevolent mood; Greenyards Kick-off is at 2.00 pm.
I.J.S – 20.1.19.
Currie Chieftains team v Watsonians – 20.1.19.
15 Jamie Forbes, 14 Ben Robbins, 13 Joe Reynolds, 12 Robbie Nelson, 11 Steven Hamilton,
10 Gregor Hunter, 9 Roan Frostwick, 8 Scott McGinley, 7 Thomas Gordon, 6 Michael Vernel
5 Kiran McDonald, 4 Vince Wright, 3 Fraser Watt, 2 Fergus Scott, 1 Matius Argiro.
16 Graeme Carson, 17 Reece Patterson, 18 Marc Kelly, 19 Rhys Davies, 20 Matthew Hooks.