A View from the Touchline – Premier League: 29.2.20.
Currie Chieftains 36 pts (t 5, c 4, p g 1) v Jed-Forest 26 pts (t 4, c 3)
On Leap Year’s Day the sun shone brightly, and some jokingly talked of the balmy weather and lush green pitch, but during the previous 24 hours, Mother Nature had thrown a mixture of rain, sleet and snow at Malleny Park as she continued to prolong the cold, soggy miserable conditions of the past few months. Despite a very soft pitch, this was an excellent exciting display of open rugby between two teams with play-off ambitions, Currie’s being to achieve a top two finish and home advantage in the semi-finals, and Jed to reach a top four slot, a task that is not beyond their capabilities after this gutsy performance.
Jed had proved a tough nut to crack at Riverside Park back in November, and their big experienced pack certainly caused the Chieftains plenty of problems that could have undermined the plans of many lesser teams. The match set off at a cracking pace, with the home team moving the ball wide and stretching a Jed defence to see if any holes would appear. Centre, Scott King’s strong running delivered the first touchdown which was converted by Gregor Hunter. Jed’s plans were not going to be scuppered by this early setback, and they stormed into the Currie 22 with some fine forward pick-and-drives that the Chieftains did well to stop. Following a sustained period of pressure, the ball was dropped, and Currie cleared their lines. Although Jed had 2 towering locks, the Chieftains’ lineout was going well: both Mike Vernel and Hamish Ferguson secured the pin-point accuracy of Fergus Scott’s throws-ins, and a fine combination of forward and back play put them on the front foot. Tackling was clinical; it had to be, with an array of pacey backs gracing both teams, and they were eager to show their skills. The level of excitement was raised when Fergus Scott crashed through the midfield defensive wall and sped towards the Jed goal line; his perfect pass gave versatile scrumhalf, Ryan Southern, a clear run-in.
Gregor Hunter had an easy conversion, but the excellent stand-off, who has just returned from injury, could not add the extras to Mike Vernel’s corner flag try a few minutes later. It came from a terrific 30 metre break by Roy Vucago, and it caused havoc when he charged into the Jed 22. When finally chopped down, Currie quickly recycled, and Gregor Hunter saw that Mike Vernel was in acres of space on the far touchline; his wonderful kick fell into the Captain’s arms for a try that had Jed on the rack after 20 minutes of play. The visitors now showed their mettle and, for the next 10 minutes, pinned the Chieftains to their 22. The commitment from both teams was ferocious; Currie’s defence took a battering, but held out, although the referee did have a word as their penalty count became excessive. Finally, the hard-working Jed backrow reaped their just rewards with a Donald Grieve try that Robbie Yourston converted. Far from content with the opposition dictating play, the Chieftains used the remainder of the half to consolidate their position and gain a bonus point try. The improvement in Hamish Ferguson’s play during the course of the season has been noteworthy; the young raw back-row has similar qualities to Luke Crosbie, and if this continues? He secured the lineout and a well-drilled pack drove diagonally 20 metres towards the Jed posts. When the ball was released to Gregor Hunter, he threw an outrageous dummy, stepped inside the cover and had an unimpeded passage to the line. The conversion was a formality.
Halftime score – Currie Chieftains 26 pts, Jed-Forest 7 pts.
Although the sun was still shining, the wind had increased, and some ominous grey clouds gave a hint that the promised rain and sleet was not far away. Jed made an enterprising start using their strong pack with some error-free pick-and-drive rugby. When possession did change hands, the Chieftains found it difficult to exit their own half, and back came the visitors. James McCaig and Archie McLean combined well down the left but were bundled into touch by a Jed team that slowly turned the screw. After 10 minutes of play, with several forward drives going close to the line, prop Paulo Ferreira crashed over; Robbie Yourston kicked a tricky conversion. The Chieftains eventually broke free of the Jed hold and moved play down-field with some delightful rugby, involving backs and forwards. Unfortunately, the ball was dropped in the Jed 22, and the visitors countered in splendid fashion; quick inter-passing between the backs sliced through the Chieftains, and Lewis Young streaked in for a breakaway try that Robbie Yourston converted. With only 5 points between the scores, it was a rather anxious time for the Malleny team and their supporters. With 20 minutes remaining, the time started to drag, and the general opinion was that the next score would be the match winner. Archie McLean brought off a try-saving tackle, but the turning point came when prop, Reece Patterson, rampaged 20 metres towards the Jed 22, and their influential lock forward, George Paxton, was sin binned for an offence at the backdown. The Chieftains then made numbers counts, and following a crisp passage of handling, Steven Hamilton’s strength took him over the goal line. The conversion was crucial, and with Gregor Hunter delivering the extras, this put 2 scores between the teams, although there were still a good 10 minutes to go.
Both teams continued to play open exciting rugby, with Currie trying to drive home their numerical advantage, and Jed in search of at least a try bonus point. Fergus Scott again broke through the Jed defence and scampered deep into their 22, but unfortunately, he had no support to press home the attack. With a man light in their scrum, Jed were now finding it difficult to hold the Currie push, and conceded a scrum penalty. Gregor Hunter had no hesitation in taking the points. As the clock ticked down, the visitors’ do-or-die attitude paid off. A cat-and-mouse 7s-style attack accelerated down the stand side in exciting fashion, and Calum Young was given the space to make a dash to the corner flag. The try was not converted but Jed certainly deserved their bonus point; their contribution to the match was first-class. Let’s hope that the spring weather arrives before the Chieftains’ next match, away to Musselburgh in a weeks’ time. I.J.S. – 29.2.20.
Currie Chieftains team – 15 Fraser Sayers, 14 Steven Hamilton, 13 Scott King, 12 Adam Hall,
10 Gregor Hunter, 9 Ryan Southern, 8 Rhys Davies, 7 Wallace Nelson, 6 Roy Vucago, 5 Sam Edwards,
4 Mike Vernel, 3 Matias Argiro, 2 Fergus Scott, 1 Graeme Carson.
Bench – 16 Reece Patterson, 17 Cairn Ramsay, 18 Hamish Ferguson, 20 Cammy Lessels,
Referee – Jonny Perriam
AR 1 – Steven Greenhill
AR 2 – Jonathan Mackinnon
Photography – Fraser Gaffney Photography