A View from the Touchline – Premier League: 14.9.19.

Currie Chieftains 34 pts(t 5, c 3, p g 1) v Selkirk 17 pts(t 3, c 1)

Just prior to the start of this Premier League match, the passing of Gordon Stewart was respectfully marked by appreciative applause from both players and spectators. For nearly fifty years, Gordon Stewart had helped to establish Currie RFC as a leading force in Scottish rugby. As a past player, coach and Club President, Gordon was instrumental in strengthening every aspect of the Club’s activities. His dedication and commitment was immense, and his presence at Malleny Park will be greatly missed and much lamented.

In their two previous matches, the Chieftains had quickly taken control and thereby accumulated a healthy lead by halftime, but in both of these fixtures they did not maintain their early momentum, and the second half lapses were a little disappointing, but thankfully not disastrous. This week it was not quite a reverse performance, but against a young confident Selkirk team, Currie did take a little time to get into gear, and for periods they were severely tested by their lively opponents who opened the scoring.

It was obvious that the very strong wind would exert some influence on the game, and in the first few minutes Currie used this to advantage as they battered the opposition line. Selkirk defended well, knocking over the ball carriers and slowing play. The pedantic referee penalised Selkirk’s enthusiastic use of the dark arts at the breakdown, and Robert Cook was dispatched to the sinbin for 10 minutes. This had little effect on the visitors’ performance; they disrupted the Currie lineout, and in double quick time they made the most of a succession of penalties that the home team had casually gifted. Some courageous tackling from the Currie backs kept the fourteen attackers at bay, but after 8 minutes the barricade was breached by a perfect little chip from centre Ross Nixon, which bounced into the arms of speedy James Bett for a well-deserved try that Aaron McColm converted.

Again, Currie charged for the Selkirk line, but their progress was uncharacteristically hampered by an alarming number of penalties; at one point the referee warned the offenders of their conduct. To add further misery, Currie proceeded to drop the ball on two occasions on or over the Selkirk goal line! It was all rather frustrating, but thankfully the Chieftains have a number of wise calm heads in their ranks. Following a good build-up that looked promising, Gregor Hunter made a deceptive break deep in the opposition 22; his pass gave Gregor Christie a clear run for the line.

Gregor Hunter converted the try, and his experience was further demonstrated when he used the wind to carry the ball 60 metres and set up another Currie assault. This time it was Fergus Scott who was on the end of some excellent handling for the touchdown. Gregor Hunter converted the try and added an easy penalty goal just before the halftime break; in a ten-minute spell the Malleny team had taken firm control.

Halftime score – Currie Chieftains 17 pts, Selkirk 7 pts.

Having found their rhythm, the Chieftains’ intensity was making life rather difficult for the visitors. The home team was creating gaps for both forwards and backs to exploit. Michael Vernel carried magnificently, and he was ably assisted by Wallace Nelson, whose ten-metre burst was halted just short of the line. After several phases, and some tremendous Selkirk cover tackling, Gregor Hunter used all his skill and power to stretch for the goal line with three defenders on his back. The masterful stand-off proceeded to kick the conversion.

Within minutes, the Chieftains had again cut open the visitors with a try that took everyone by surprise. Gregor Hunter took a quick throw-in on halfway, and the lightning speed of Steven Hamilton did the rest, leaving the entire Selkirk team trailing in his wake as he dived over for the bonus point score. The windy conditions prevented the corner flag conversion, and the gallant visitors were wondering what had hit them.

The onslaught continued with Alex Harley, Adam Hall, Archie MacLean and Charlie Brett making mischief wide out, and gaining ground. Some superb handling was rewarded with a try for the splendid Wallace Nelson, who crashed over after he received a quick ball from Gregor Christie. Once again, the strong wind prevented any conversion. With a good twenty-five minutes remaining, Selkirk now concentrated on gleaning something from the contest, and they certainly put on a display that was a credit to their seven-a-side skills. A demonstration of ball retention and some tremendous running rugby had the Chieftains drawing on their defensive acumen to curtail a memorable fightback.

As the visitors lay siege to the Currie line with constant waves of attack, the penalty infringements returned, and the referee brandished his yellow card for Wallace Nelson; it appeared to be a similar incident to the one committed by Selkirk at the beginning of the first half. Following further pressure, the ball went wide to Frazer Anderson who flew in at the corner flag. The try was not converted but the plucky visitors were in no mood to give up the cause. and a third try soon materialised. After an almighty forward drive into the Currie 22 and beyond, the inevitable outcome saw prop, Bruce Riddell rise triumphantly from the pile of bodies.

The try was not converted, and although the visitors were still well short of the Chieftains’ score, it did seem that they had the ability to get that fourth try bonus point; especially as Currie appeared to have great difficulty wrestling the ball from their clutches. The last ten minutes were exciting and tense, as play moved up and down the pitch with some wonderful passages of rugby from both teams. If the Chieftains’ tackling had not been as clinical, Selkirk could have accumulated more scores.

This was a good result for the Malleny team, but with an excessively high penalty count going against them, particularly in the first half, it is something that the Chieftains’ coaches will, no doubt wish to correct, especially as there is another tough fixture this coming weekend against high-flying Hawick, who will be a bundle of energy, belligerence and skill at Malleny Park; it should be a cracker.

Currie Chieftains Team –

15 Charlie Brett, 14 Steven Hamilton, 13 Adam Hall, 12 Alex Harley, 11 Archie MacLean, 10 Gregor Hunter,

9 Gregor Christie, 8 Diarmaid Dee, 7 Wallace Nelson. 6 Josh O’Brien, 5 Michael Vernel, 4 Matt Poole,

3 Matias Argiro, 2 Fergus Scott, 1 Graeme Carson.

Bench – 16 Ewan Blair, 17 Cairn Ramsay, 18 Hamish Ferguson, 19 Cameron Meager, 20 Cameron Lassels.

I.J.S, 16.9.19.