A View from the Touchline – Scottish Cup, Preliminary Round – 31.8.19

Currie Chieftains 29 pts (t 4, c 3, pg 1) v Biggar RFC 24 pts (t 4, c 2)

Despite there being a significant number of unfamiliar faces in the Chieftains ranks, it soon became clear that Mark Cairns, Alistair Donaldson, Bruce McNaughton and the other Currie coaches had honed the skills of their new squad to play high-tempo rugby, in that lion-hearted fashion, that has become the Club’s signature. The evolving Malleny team certainly had to dig deep in the closing stages of this match, as the experienced Biggar outfit clawed their way back into contention to produce a nail-biting finish.

Perhaps it was fortunate that Currie had played a couple of tough pre-season warmup games to get them up to speed. With the introduction of the new semi-professional ‘White Elephant’ League, and not quite knowing what to expect in a re-gigged Premiership, these early season practice matches certainly helped the rebuilding process, especially when they have to cope with ambitious rivals and a strong north-west wind; it all added to the excitement and entertainment on this sunny August afternoon.

With wind advantage and some robust tackling, Biggar pinned Currie to their 22. The home team tried to move out of the danger area with a combination of pick-and-go moves, plus some exuberant running rugby. When a mid-field pass did not connect, the visitors turned the screw. A series of strong drives for the Chieftains line were initially repelled, until the angled run of lock forward Jamie Campbell careered in for the opening score; barely five minutes had passed. The try was not converted.

From the restart the Chieftains took control and for the next twenty minutes kept possession and played mostly in opposition territory. A Gregor Hunter penalty kick found touch near the 22, and a combination of accurate throwing by Fergus Scott, and fine jumping from Mike Vernel, secured the ball; it winged along the backs, and Adam Hall punched his way through. Hamish Ferguson carried the move another ten metres, before Fergus Scott collected at the back of the breakdown and forced his way over from 7 metres.  If it were not for some tremendous Biggar tackling, and the inevitable early season mistakes from Currie, the home team would have accumulated more tries. Rhys Davies made an inspired break down the middle of the park, which paved the way for Steven Hamilton’s fine run down the right wing, which led to a penalty try.

The next score came following some confusion with the laws of the game. Biggar cleared their lines and kicked long. The wind appeared to carry the ball over the dead ball line, and it was secured by the Currie fullback. Strangely, instead of a 22 drop-out, the referee awarded a five-metre scrum to Biggar, this was quickly followed by a penalty. In a flash, astute scrum half, Luhann Kotze took a tap penalty and went over near the posts. The conversion levelled the scores, but it left most spectators a little bewildered.

Halftime score – Currie Chieftains 12 pts, Biggar 12 pts.

Obviously stung by the mix-up at the end of the first half, the Chieftains took the field with an air of determination that quickly brought results. Ben Slessor charged down a Biggar box kick that sparked panic in their defence. Several waves of attacking back play culminated in Wallace Nelson using his considerable power to crash over in the corner. In the windy conditions, Gregor Hunter’s fine conversion was judged to perfection.

Currie continued to dominate as play switched between forwards and backs with Mike Vernel, Matt Poole and Graham Carson battering a resilient Biggar defence; Steven Hamilton, Fergus Scott and Diarmaid Dee were halted just short of the try line. Gregor Hunter stretched the Chieftains’ lead when he popped over an easy penalty after the visitors had failed to roll away. Edging ever closer to the Biggar line, it seemed only a matter of time before the floodgates would open. It was the splendid Gregor Hunter who unpicked the Biggar lock, when he stepped inside the cover defence for a try under the posts; his conversion was a formality.

A long stoppage, for what looked like a serious injury held up proceedings; thankfully it was not as bad as first feared, and the Currie player left the field unaided. The break in play and team reshuffle did interrupt the Chieftains’ momentum but also heralded a Biggar fight-back; for the final 15 minutes the visitors were rampant.

Some slick handling and deceptive running opened the Currie defence on several occasions, and allowed full back, Robbie Orr to show his style and pace. A well-timed pass provided the gap and the long-legged back galloped through for a converted try.

It was now the Chieftains’ turn to keep their line intake. Several last-ditch tackles from Charlie Brett and Alex Harley, deep in their 22, saved almost certain tries. Another patient Biggar build-up was finally rewarded when Currie ran out of defenders allowing Mark Bertram to slide in at the corner flag. The try was not converted but the final few minutes made the one score match a very tense affair. Both teams had their opportunities with play oscillating up and down the pitch as they threatened to grab the winning points. Quite a finish!

Currie Chieftains Team –

15 Charlie Brett, 14 Steven Hamilton, 13 Adam Hall, 12 Alex Harley, 11 Wallace Nelson,

10 Gregor Hunter, 9 Matt O’Neill, 8 Rhys Davies, 7 Diarmaid Dee, 6 Hamish Ferguson, 5 Matt Poole,

4 Michael Vernel, 3 Graeme Carson, 2 Fergus Scott, 1 Grant Williamson.

Bench – 16 Ben Slessor, 17 Ewan Blair, 18 Josh O’Brien, 19 Archie McLean, 20 Cameron Lessells.

Officials – Ref. Jonny Perriam, Darroch Ramsay, Brian McGuff.

 

IJS, 2.9.19.