Having crashed out of the West District Shield at Strathendrick and scrapped home by a single point against Cambuslang in their first league encounter East Kilbride travelled to Castle Douglas looking to restore pride and confidence and put the 2018-2019 league campaign back on track. This they did with a 40-12 victory comprised of 6 tries and 5 conversions.
The East Kilbride side that travelled to Greenlaw, home of Stewartry RFC showed some changes, some positional, from the teams that had taken the field in previous weeks. The main changes were the inclusion of Mark Ellison at scrum half with Aiden Stott moving into the centre, Robbie Greenfield donning the no. 10 jersey for the first time in many years, the introduction of Lewis Brown on the right wing and the return of Gregor Haggerty on the left. To complete the shuffle Grant Dryburgh had moved from his preferred position on the wing to full back.
The game did not start well for EK. Stewartry’s kick off was not dealt with well, the ball was turned over and when EK were penalised for an offence at an ensuing ruck Stewartry were given an opportunity to open the scoring. The kick drifted wide allowing EK to regroup and launch an attack on the Stewartry line. Following the 22 drop out East Kilbride moved steadily towards the Stewartry line and following a penalty gained after some excellent play by Chris (Tophie) O’Neill Mark Ellison found the gap round the edge of the ruck to score at the posts after 15 minutes. The conversion attempt, probably the easiest of the afternoon, attempt went wide giving EK an early lead. 10 minutes later the EK lead increased when following slick passing Lewis Brown broke a couple of tackles to score in the right corner. Lewis’ finishing was of the highest order demonstrating skills that would normally be expected of captain, Ian Brown, who watched admiringly from the touchline. Grant Dryburgh converted from the touchline, the first of his five successful attempts. During the remaining 15 minutes of the half the host team scored a converted try which threatened EK’s lead and Scott Shankie coming on as a substitute scored to maintain space between the teams as half-time approached.
EK kicked off to start the second half and wasted no time at all in claiming the try bonus point. Alex Irvine claimed the ball on 10 metres, the scrum rumbled forward and Eddie Beaton emerged about 10 metres from the line to claim the five points converted to 7 by Grant Dryburgh. EK were, by this time dominating the game and it was for many spectators surprising that a further 16 minutes had passed before Scott Schankie added a further 5 points made 7 by Grant Dryburgh. 12 minutes later Grant got a try of his own from a superb break made by Aiden Stott. The home side, however, were not finished and with time running out they fielded Scott Shankie’s failed touch-line penalty kick and took the ball back to EK to score their second try, unconverted this time.
As illustrated by the score line East Kilbride’s overall performance was much improved on that of previous Saturdays. By all accounts Stewartry were not as strong as Strathendrick but probably the equals of Cambuslang. What was heartening was the performance of young players brought up through the academy system. Lewis Brown’s try has already been mentioned but it should be said that this was one of many good things that he did during the match in which his play in both attack and defence was most praiseworthy. Matthew Fletcher came on early in the game as a replacement and never looked out of place. He handled well, carried the ball and was sound in defence. Grant Dryburgh kicked well after an early miss and slotted neatly into the full back position. The packs domination of close quarters play made a key contribution to the final result while strong running in the back division helped keep the game in opposition territory. There were, this week, quite a few contenders for man of the match some of whom have already been mentioned in this summary. Of those that haven’t Chris O’Neill, Scott Shankie and Mark Ellison are all worthy of consideration but for me this week’s man of the match is Aiden Stott who’s attacking play with ball in hand created opportunities for others but, most significantly, for his defensive play that ensured that the opposition were unable to close the gap.
Allan Glen’s visit Torrance House next Saturday when EK can be assured of a sterner test. The key to success in this game will be ball retention. In the two games I have watched this season ball has been lost too often, either spilled in contact or as a result of loose passing. The pack is functioning well and when at their best the back division has demonstrated an ability to threaten most defences but occasional carelessness or loss of concentration has been costly.
The Team – Chris McLellan, Ryan Anderson, Eddie Beaton, Alasdair Dalgleish, Christopher O’Neill, Alex Irvine and Alan Steel. Mark Ellison & Robbie Greenfield. Lewis Brown, Aiden Stott, Calum Simpson, Gregor Haggerty and Grant Dryburgh.
Replacements, all used - Craig Ferguson, Matthew Fletcher, Lloyd McLintock and Scott Shankie
Updated 13:22 - 16 Sep 2018 by Malcolm MacDonald