6 days ago
By Christopher Mclellan
East Kilbride 17 – Garnock 25
First of all I must thank Malcolm MacDonald for reporting on last week’s match. As he mentioned I was at Murrayfield watching the team I played for in the late 1960s lift the bowl. The game that followed between Carrick and Hawick Harlequins resulted in a fairly comfortable win for Carrick demonstrating, once again, the strength of rugby in the west and, perhaps, why progressing from West Division 1 to the national leagues is challenging.
It was 3rd v 4th at Torrance House on Saturday. The visitors, Garnock started the day in third place and harboured hopes of progressing into 2nd place before the end of an extended season. The home team, East Kilbride, having lost to the teams placed 1st and 2nd, Carrick and Allan Glen’s, in two earlier encounters were placed firmly in 4th place.
Chris McLellan (aka Thunders) was unavailable having been married on the Friday before the game and his place was taken by Calum Hastie. The only other change of note was that Ian Brown was on the bench.
Garnock kicked off and a subsequent knock on gave EK the put in at the first scrum. Having been dominant in set pieces throughout the season it was unusual and worrying to see the EK pack being driven back. Thankfully Rian Anderson can still strike effectively and Calum Aitken did sterling work in tidying up at no. 8. With possession shared both sides showed a willingness to attack. Calum Aitken and Paul Rosie ran strongly challenging defenders to take them down and when in possession Garnock backs and forwards showed similar resolve. With 7 minutes played it was Garnock that drew first blood with a penalty. Good handling saw EK return to the attack and their efforts were rewarded 3 minutes later with a penalty converted by Ethan Aitken.
The game continued to move from end to end. A siege gun kick from Robbie Greenfield moved the play into the Garnock 22. The clearance kick gave EK the throw in at the line out. Rian Anderson hit his target, Alex Irvine, and EK drove towards the opposition’s line. Aiden Stott sent the ball out to Richie Murray and accurate passing involving him, Robbie Greenfield and Calum Simpson saw Calum break through the Garnock defence to score between the posts. Ethan Aitken’s conversion made the score EK 10 – Garnock 3 after 15 minutes.
From this point on the game followed a familiar pattern with both sides mounting but defences proving resolute to prevent further scoring. EK were living dangerously though and it took a wonderful try saving tackle from Mark Ellison to keep the score at 10-3. In making the tackle Mark received a minor injury and had to leave the field. Ian Brown came off the substitutes bench to join the fray. The home team’s risky behaviour continued with penalties conceded in loose play and it seemed that it would only be a matter of time until a yellow card would be issued. Unfortunately this happened when, close to the end of the first half, captain, Eddie Beaton, applied his foot to the ball in a ruck near the EK line and was sent to the bin. With props Chris McLellan and Chris Quinn unavailable EK, much to the chagrin of Garnock’s players, coaches and supporters, were without a complete front row and ten minutes of uncontested scrummaging ensued. Unable to opt for the scrum the visitors kicked to touch and with good ball won at the line out crossed the EK line for a try converted by their no. 9. Five minutes further, nearly all stoppage time, were played before the referee sounded the whistle to end the first half.
With scores level as the second half kicked off it was anybody’s game but it was EK that opened the scoring. Calum Simpson and Connor Wilson carried the ball well into the Garnock 22. Ruck ball was gathered by Aiden Stott who went through a gap in the Garnock defence to score between the uprights. Ethan Aitken converted. With Eddie Beaton back on the field contested scrums were reintroduced and while not in the ascendancy the home pack was holding its own and, at time, making things difficult for the opposition. 5 minutes after EK’s score Garnock mounted an attack on the EK line to score a try in the left corner. The conversion fell short leaving EK with a slender 2 point lead. With less than 20 minutes remaining EK conceded a penalty and when, as a result of back chat to the referee the kick was moved 10 paces towards the home posts Garnock converted to take the score to EK 17 – Garnock 18.
During the final 15 minutes the game continued to move from end to end. With just under 10 minutes of normal time remaining the Garnock no. 9 was yellow carded for preventing fair release when EK were in an attacking position. With Ethan Aitken resting on the sidelines, his place having been taken by the now recovered Mark Ellison, the kicking duties fell to Roddy Beaton. Though normally very reliable Roddy sliced this attempt, a big let off for the visitors. It might have been 14 visitors against 15 but as EK had done early in the half when a man down Garnock put up a determined fight with their no. 1 in particular making some lung busting breaks to take the game well into the EK half. With time running out it was Garnock that had the final say in the outcome when they scored from close range. The conversion made the score EK 17 – Garnock 25 and with the referee bringing the game to a close once the ball had cleared the cross bar this was the final score.
With one game to play, against Irvine on May 19th, and with their position in the league confirmed EK can now look back on what has been a season of mixed fortunes. Recent games against Allan Glen’s and Garnock were both close contests which they could have won. They were, however, well beaten by Carrick who are best placed to progress to the national leagues. In all three games EK started well and in two of them held the upper hand well into the second half. Indiscipline and lapses in concentration have cost the team dear and this is something that must be addressed not just when looking forward to next season but also when preparing for the final game of this one.
Back to yesterday. In a hard fought contest many players made significant contributions. The defence was generally sound and the centre partnership of Robbie Greenfield and Calum Simpson were effective in both attack and defence. Richie Murray looks very comfortable in the no. 10 shirt and Mark Ellison’s try saving tackle towards the end of the first half was outstanding. The forwards were under more pressure than they have been accustomed but once they found their feet coped well. In Connor Wilson we have a back row forward who is developing well – one for the future who we hope to see in an EK jersey for years to come.
Man of the match – for excellent work in clearing up the ball at the base of the scrum when under pressure and his hard running this week’s “man of the match” goes to Calum Aitken.
Updated 12:45 - 16 May 2018 by Christopher Mclellan