1st XV - Report
EK steal a victory, with three late penalties
EK snatched as victory at the death against a plucky Garnock side. EK dominated territory and possession but poor option taking and passing made it look as if Garnock might just hang on for victory. “Fortunately”, it was not to be.
EK welcomed back last year’s captain, lock Paul Rosie, back from his naval wanderings. It was his first match of the season and he played a stormer, winning line out ball galore, tackling hard and taking the ball on the charge repeatedly to the opposition. Just a pity he has lost a stone or two in weight. The overwhelming Man of the Match.
Alan (Hendo) Henderson also made a welcome return to EK colours, adding extra depth to the EK back pool. He played well, while not being given any real chance to show his skills.
One could argue the signs of a difficult day emerged early when EK got driven off their ball in the first scrum. Or perhaps it was simply the shock of a rugby match, their first since 3 November. But the forwards buckled down and asserted themselves to steady that set piece.
EK narrowly escaped an early Garnock score through a casual response to a Garnock kick and only survived because the referee was unable to judge the outcome.
Garnock took the lead through a silly EK penalty concession after 12 minutes when two EK forwards drove senselessly over a ruck and off their feet. Score: 3-0. Garnock missed another penalty shortly after, when an EK attempt to take a quick line out saw their backs go offside. The early penalty count was 5-1 against EK.
EK slowly began to assert themselves, playing up the “slope”. Garnock kicked sensibly to harness the elements in the half (which EK did not do at any stage!). EK had periods of forward pressure but without any great cohesion or depth in their attacks. Their two month lay off had obviously seen the onset of a good deal of rust. Regular, unpunished, offsides by Garnock did not help either.
A glimmer of hope arrived late on when the home tight head prop was yellow carded for handling on the ground but EK continued to huff and puff to no effect, albeit Scott Shankie did tie the score with the penalty that prompted the prop’s departure.
But a lethargic attempt at a clearance kick gave Garnock position in the EK 22 and non-existent tackling allowed the Garnock No 10 to glide past three or four players for a converted try – their only real attack of the day. Half time:10-3.
Playing with the “elements” in the second half, and given their overall domination of possession, EK must have felt confident of asserting themselves. But while dominating position and possession – Garnock probably only got in to the EK about 6 times in the half, 3 times while chasing restarts – they never looked capable of producing any cohesive play to reduce or overcome the Garnock lead.
And Garnock almost snatched a score right at the start of the 2nd half when EK’s backs were asleep and only just scrambled the ball away after a crossfield kick almost caught them out.
Most of EK’s ineptitude was due to poor option taking, poor passing, lack of composure, kicking when they should have passed and vice versa and, most worrying of all, a persistent refusal to kick penalties to help build momentum (the latter fault applied in both halves).
Unusually there was a lack of leadership on the field, and uncertainty how to prise open the home defence. EK, when releasing any ball to the backs, repeatedly took it back in to the forwards, but could not create any openings.
It should also be noted that Garnock played no small part in frustrating EK. The home team tackled and foraged like demons, and with a bit more composure and discipline in the final minutes would have hung on for a much needed victory.
EK overlaps were blown, passes scuttled, breaks unsupported by colleagues. The EK support were sitting on the edge of their metaphorical seats, wondering how their heroes might ever score as they continued not to kick penalties; the home support were up to their elbows urging their side to hold on. Frustrating/tense does not do it justice.
With about 5 minutes to go, Garnock conceded a penalty midfield, about 30 metres out, which – miraculously – EK opted to kick. Shankie struck it superbly and the score was now 10-6 for Garnock.
EK ran back the restart kick – while their support urged them to kick for position! – but somehow won another penalty in the Garnock half. Shankie also kicked that one. Did we have a “get out of jail free” card?
Unexpectedly, we did, despite conjuring up a knock on from the restart. Garnock, however, infringed at the scrum giving EK a final chance. They worked it forward and, almost to order, Garnock infringed again, providing Shankie with his most difficult and longest penalty kick of the day. But with a wind having appeared in the last quarter, blowing towards the Garnock line, maestro Shankie coolly slotted the kick to give EK the lead, and the match, 12-10.
There is certainly a case to award the Man of the Match to Scott Shankie for his place kicking but Paul Rosie deserved it for his all action display.
It was not pretty but, importantly, it was a win. EK can enjoy the victory, and reflect on the many areas for improvement. With undefeated league leaders Marr visiting the Torrance House Arena next week (2 pm kick off), considerable improvement is required. But EK will be all the better for having a match under their belts and coach Steel may be able to relax a little more on the touchline. I wonder what his New Year rugby resolutions were?
Team: 15: Scott Shankie; 14. Alan Henderson; 13. Ian Brown; 12. Grant Seymour; 11. Craig (Fat but now slimmer) Ferguson; 10. Robbie Greenfield; 9. Fraser Little; 8. Gareth Jones (Captain); 7. Chris O’Neill; 6. Calum Aitken; 5. Paul Rosie; 4. Craig Fergusion Junior; 3. Scott Aitken; 2. Rian Anderson; 1. Chris Mclellan. Replacements (all used): Alex Irvine; Stewart Kampman; Jason Currie; Alastair Dalgleish