EK 1sts got off to the best possible start away to newly promoted Helensburgh with a hard fought but deserved 22-12 win. It got better as EK scored a try bonus point for 4 tries. And yet there is much to work on by next week.
EK’s winning start to the season continued, this time in the first league match. There was an uncertainty what to expect after last week’s cup victory, given enforced positional and personnel changes. EK were particularly light in the second row.
So coach Allan Steel would have been delighted to be ahead 15-9 at the halfway point, through three cracking tries. The stand out Man of the Match was centre Ian Brown, who played a key part in all three tries with his pace, power and awareness of when to pass. He could so easily have been MoM last week.
EK could have been further ahead had Robbie Greenfield had his kicking boots on. He was striking the ball well but none of the conversion attempts went through. Admittedly his first came back off the bar.
Helensburgh had a good deal of possession, but were slow at the breakdown and hesitant and careless in their passing. EK’s line had a few narrow escapes but once more EK proved themselves strong and determined in the tackle, and particularly adept at holding up the opposition if they did get over the try line.
After 5 minutes, Ian Brown made a break off loose scrum ball. He blasted some 40 metres, linking with lock Lannon. Good interpassing kept it going and EK drove over for a try by Ferguson. Score: 0-5.
Helensburgh backs were lively and only poor passing stopped them responding in the eight minute.
EK replied with a kick chase, with Brown and MacDonald pressuring the home team in to a turnover. Good passing took EK to the try line through Less Fat Craig Ferguson, and an inside pass allowed Mark (Sparky) Ellison to dart over from about 3 metres.
Just the right distance for a man with dodgy hamstrings making a long overdue reappearance in the first team – since the first game of last season. And, no, I am not “stringing” you along! Greenfield’s conversion went close but it stayed 0-10 for EK.
Helensburgh missed a penalty after 18 minutes, for EK side entry. Five minutes later, EK did well to withstand a lineout drive over the EK line. Helensburgh worked it back and, rather surprisingly, took three points from a drop goal rather than seeking a five pointer. Score: 3-10.
Another Brown break saw a real opportunity disappear when Lannon was unable to seize his inside pass. But soon after, EK had their third try following a poor Helensburgh clearance kick.
Ellison and the youthful MacDonald (only youthful when compared to the author) linked, and Brown (who else) shot away up the left wing on the switch back. MacDonald took the return pass and zipped over for the try from long distance – 3 metres. Score: 3-15.
Worringly, EK then gave away two soft, kickable penalties to make the half time score 9-15, with the home side feeling confident they were back in the match despite EK’s scintillating back play.
Six minutes in to the second half, EK conceded another penalty so the lead was down to three points, 12-15. But four minutes later, poor Helensburgh handling and passing somehow allowed the ball to be transferred to EK wing, Less Fat Craig Ferguson.
He made for the try line and somehow managed to get across – it seemed like some fifteen minutes after he started his 40 metre run! There was no need for a slow motion replay – it happened live! Craig’s second try gave EK the all important try bonus for 4 tries; it also saw Fergie go off for oxygen some 5 minutes later. Greenfield got his only conversion of the day to make it 12-22.
Thereafter, it was all Helensburgh. The hosts missed a couple of penalty kicks, got held up over the try line again and conspired to waste a number of scoring opportunities.
EK defended vigourously, although the penalty count was mounting against them (8-3 in the 2nd half, 13-5 overall). Fortunately few of them were near the EK line, but they can still count themselves lucky not to have incurred a yellow card. Both sides did however lose a lock each to yellow cards, for scrapping. Craig Ferguson Junior said he was just happy to have another rest!
EK lost a try at the death, when defending desperately, so both teams collected a bonus point, the hosts for being a close loser (within 7 points). EK lost their shape and threat in the 2nd half, as they played most of the period without any possession.
Some decent sized 2nd rows and some line out possession are a priority. To be fair, the lightweight pack scrummaged pretty well. And given the quality of the team watching injured on the sidelines, EK can feel satisfied with the result.
Lots to work on. Let’s hope they celebrate in good style tonight. A well deserved win.
Next week they are home to Irvine, kick off 3pm.
Team: 15 Andy MacDonald, 14. Mark Ellison, 13. Ian Brown, 12. Calum Simpson, 11. Less Fat Ferguson, 10. Robbie Greenfield, 9. Fraser Little, 8. Craig Ferguson Junior, 7. Gareth Jones (Captain), 6. Stephen Miller, 5. Stevie Lannon, 4. John (Zippy) Watson, 3. Jason Currie, 2. Rian Anderson, 1. Chris Mclellan. Subs (all used): Dan Trampenau, David Rosie (who played very well) and Scott Johnston.