A View from the Touchline – Scottish Premier League: 2. 3. 19.

Currie Chieftains 19 pts (t 3, c 2) v Edinburgh Accies 5 pts (t 1)

As a wet windy blanket slowly enveloped proceedings at Malleny Park, it also marked the end of a 45-year league structure (season-1973/74), that encouraged Scottish club rugby to develop and contest their full potential. Sadly, this era has now passed, and many rugby clubs cannot see much inspiring light emanating from the Murrayfield power station!

An endearing feature of sport is that unpredictability factor, and even though Currie’s task of securing a winning bonus point, to ensure a home semi-final play-off slot, looked relatively simple on paper, it proved to be far from this, as the visitors, sitting at the lower end of the league amply demonstrated.

Only an hour or so before kick-off the bright spring-like weather and green pitch looked ideal for an open game. To their credit both teams started in top gear, with pulsating rugby moving from end to end at exciting, breakneck speed, but as play intensified, so did the rain, and unfortunately the conditions slowly took their toll. There were chances at both ends, and were it not for a splendid Graeme Carson turnover, well inside the Chieftains’ 22, Accies could have been off to a deserving dream start. A fine Gregor Hunter clearance, aided by the wind, set up the Chieftains for their own tilt at the try line; Chris Davies sent Ben Robbins on his way, but a classic tackle, only metres out, stopped the scoring run.

Now, well into the first quarter, Currie turned up the pressure, and opted for an off-side penalty scrum; Scott McGinley picked up from the base and strolled in for a try, when the defence wrongly anticipated action from the Currie backs. In the howling gale, Gregor Hunter had no problem with the conversion.

There was still plenty of action, as Matias Argiro, Rhys Davies and Marc Kelly made strong carries, but with the errors and penalties taking their toll, little tangible progress could be made by either team beyond the 22 line. When in possession the Accies backs looked lively. Full-back Harry Paterson was always well positioned and frequently sparked devastating counter-attacks, but it was Robbie Kent who streaked down the middle of the pitch to panic a scrambling Chieftains defence. The Malleny team looked to have recovered the situation, but the slippery ball was fumbled, and a nifty hack forward saw the impressive Mungo Mason beating the defensive cover for their opening try that was not converted.

With the clock ticking towards halftime, and the visitors’ confidence growing, the Chieftains badly needed another score. A tremendous Gregor Hunter touch kick took play into the opposition 22, where the Accies lineout malfunctioned, and allowed Currie to go through the phases. Throughout the afternoon the well organised Accies defence was strong and effective, but once again an anticipated wide pass allowed Gregor Hunter to dummy his way through, and the masterly stand-off dived in near the posts. His conversions was a formality.

Halftime score – Currie Chieftains 14 pts, Edinburgh Accies 5 pts.

For a short period, the rain eased, and Currie took control, but the ball and surface were not suited for intricate moves, as passes failed to connect and promising opportunities slipped away. The Accies line speed was impressive with barely a chink appearing in their defensive wall; any half breaks were cut down, and conditions severely curtailed quick release. Time after time the Chieftains went close, but Accies didn’t give much away, and appeared to have the measure of their hosts, who became a little frustrated and over-anxious. At one point, a pile of bodies went over the try line, but the ball slipped from the carrier’s grasp, and another chance was blown away with the strong wind.

It was nearly twenty minutes before Accies got out of their half, but when a booming penalty kick found touch only 10 metres from the Currie line, visions of another Hawick/Boroughmuir catastrophe loomed. Unfortunately for Accies, things did not turn out the way they would have hoped. Twice they fluffed lineout opportunities that let Currie clear their lines, and a bad leg injury to Mark Sinclair also disrupted their flow; the match was held up for nearly ten minutes as the medics made him comfortable.

When play did resume it was again in Currie’s favour. Gregor Hunter sent a perfect penalty kick to the corner flag, and finally everything clicked. Graeme Carson’s accurate throw was plucked from the air by Vince Wright and the pack gathered round for the driving maul. It shuddered once or twice as Accies got bodies into position, but the extra weight and safe hands of Robbie Nelson secured the try.

A quickly attempted drop-goal conversion drifted wide, as the Chieftains were eager to use the remaining few minutes to get that valuable fourth try, and bonus point; it was not to be. The dogged Accies defence repelled all that the Malleny team could muster, and perhaps this was their way of registering some semblance of success in a year that has seen their young team mature, and ready themselves for the rigours of next season’s new league structure; whatever that may be!

Although Hawick did not make life easy for Heriot’s at Mansfield Park, they did get their required try bonus to finish level on points with the Chieftains, but Heriot’s points differential is slightly superior, so Currie now travel to Goldenacre for the play-off semi-final on March 23rd. For an unfashionable club that has never ticked all the boxes for the Murrayfield numpties, Currie Chieftains have done better than most of the elite clubs and they have made the play-offs every year since the inception of the format.

I.J.S – 3.3.19.

Currie Chieftains Team v Edinburgh Accies

15 Jamie Forbes, 14 Ben Robbins, 13 Joe Reynolds, 12 Robbie Nelson, 11 Steven Hamilton,

10 Gregor Hunter, 9 Chris Davies, 8 Scott McGinley, 7 Rhys Davies, 6 Marc Kelly, 5 Michael Vernel

4 Vince Wright, 3 Matias Argiro, 2 Graeme Carson, 1 AP McWilliam.

16 Reece Patterson, 17 Fraser Watt, 18 Cal Hope, 19 Adam Hall, 20 Ruaraidh Smit