EKRFC back to winning ways at home
East Kilbride 29 – Stewartry 22
Following on from a defeat at Irvine last week East Kilbride were looking to make amends by recording a home win against visitors from Castle Douglas. There were a few changes to the EK team, some enforced by injury or illness, others mainly positional. The absence of both regular locks, Alasdair Dalgleish and Paul Rosie, saw coach Allan Steel pressed into action where he was accompanied by Alex Irvine moving up from his traditional role on the flank. The front row too was subject to a late change. Eddie Beaton was unable to take up his usual position on the tight head, though he did come off the bench to join the back row towards the end of the game, and his place was taken by Chris Quinn. Finally, Rian Anderson’s place at hooker was taken by Scott Aitken; might this become a permanent situation? Changes in the back line were positional. Aiden Stott moved from scrum half to full back allowing Richie Murray to move into the scrum half berth and Mark Ellison moved on to the right wing.
This was a game in which East Kilbride stepped up a gear or two in the second half to claim a win which, 5 minutes into that half, seemed unlikely.
Anyone who thought that Stewartry would be travel weary after 1½ to 2 hours on the road was mistaken as it was they who took an early lead with a well executed try scored from a line out on the EK five metre line. The conversion made the score 0-7 and this was further extended when the visitors’ kicker converted a penalty after 13 minutes. Having conceded scores the home team began to show signs of strength with Robbie Greenfield and Gregor Haggerty making some telling runs to take the game into Stewartry territory. This pressure was rewarded eventually with a penalty after 27 minutes converted by Calum Blackwood and an unconverted try scored by Scott Aitken on the stroke of half-time to bring the home team to within 2 points of the visitors.
The first five minutes of the second half belonged to the visitors. It started with a strong surge from the Stewartry player who fielded the kick off and took the game well into the EK half of the field. EK were awarded a scrum but when Richie Murray was penalised for a crooked feed the men in black attacked with ball in hand, EK were penalised for a high tackle, Stewartry kicked to touch and scored a try from the ensuing line out. This sequence of events was not without controversy. First of all feeding the scrum, though illegal and penalisable by a free kick, happens at all levels of rugby and this was neither the first nor last occasion on which the scrum was fed during this game. Maybe it was just a little more obvious than at other times! When the try was awarded many EK players claimed that one of them had managed to get under the ball thus preventing it from being grounded. The referee was having none of it and without the benefit of a TMO (Television Match Official) stood by his decision. The conversion attempt failed and with the score standing at 15-8 EK knew that a converted try would bring them level but to do this they really needed to up their game.
Perhaps incensed by what they considered unfair decisions by the referee or maybe just because they realised that unless they upped their game they were going to be on the receiving end of another defeat the EK team provided the spectators with 20-25 minutes of rousing rugby that turned the game around. The first score came 20 minutes into the half from a line out on the Stewartry 5m line with Calum Aitken claiming the try and Calum Blackwood converting. Level at last. Four minutes later Calum A claimed his second of the afternoon and Calum B consolidated the lead with the conversion. The final EK score and bonus point try came after 75 minutes when Gregor Haggerty crossed near the left corner and Calum Blackwood converted.
With the score at 29-15 Stewartry knew that although they had made the early running there was a possibility that they would go home with nothing. This gave them the incentive to attack and for this they were rewarded. They were awarded a scrum five metres from the EK line, drove and disrupted the home pack and were awarded a penalty try. With less than 2 minutes of the game remaining EK still had to kick off to give Stewartry possession. They had not given up hope of pulling the game from the fire. Thankfully for EK the visitors did not manage to do this and when the ball was fumbled near the touchline the referee blew his whistle to call full time.
EK won this game by playing some great rugby for about 25 minutes of the second half so the first question to be asked is “why can’t they play this way for 60 or even 80 minutes?” The biggest problem at the moment would seem to be ball retention. In this game and the last the ball was turned over as a result of it being spilled in the contact areas or kicked indiscriminately to opposition players who were under no pressure at the point at which they gathered the kick. The second issue to be addressed is that of discipline. The team concedes far too many penalties and these give opposing teams opportunities to relieve pressure on their lines or put themselves into attacking positions. In this game Stewartry scored twice from line-outs resulting from Penalty kicks to touch close to the EK line. Maybe what the team needs to concentrate on is doing the basic, simple things well. Unlike professional teams the time to rehearse move is limited to an evening or two per week so attempting to do what they (professional teams) do is not necessarily the best way forward.
Man of the match? There were many contenders. Calum Aitken had a claim for his two tries and strong runs at the opposition and Gregor haggerty showed a good sense of purpose with some strong running and scoring his try but on the day Robbie Greenfield ran strongly, broke through tackles and set up the position from which EK scored two of their four tries and for this he is given the accolade of EK’s man of the match.
Team: A. Stott, M. Ellison, R. Greenfield, C. Simpson & G. Haggerty. C Blackwood & R. Murray. C. McLellan, S. Aitken, C. Quinn, A. Irvine, A. Steel, G. Blackwood, R. Beaton & C. Aitken.
Replacements (all used): E. Aitken, B. McLean & E. Beaton.