EK fortunate to escape with victory at the death
EK get league campaign off to best possible start – just!
If Coach Allan Steel had anyone to thank for the narrow victory on Saturday, it could be one of three persons: (1) the Cambuslang captain who turned down a very kickable penalty with about three minutes of the match left and only one point between the sides; (2) the Cambuslang kicker who missed a subsequent penalty, with the last kick of the match; or himself for scoring two tries and making a general nuisance of himself!
Having lost in the Shield last week, with an understrength side, and losing several players to concussion and one to suspension, coach Steel needed to bolster the team. He selected two first XV debutants – winger Lewis Brown and lock cum flanker on the day matthew fletcher, two more examples of the talent production line of EKRFC. And for experience (and some bulk), he chose himself.
All three did well, but going in to the final minutes, it did not look as if EK would hang on. The match did not start well – Cambuslang kicked off, we knocked on; Cambus kicked an early penalty for 0-3 and in our first attack we knocked on. But a Cambus offside allowed EK to draw level at 3-3 after seven minutes, kicked by young Grant Dryburgh.
Early on the EK scrum was under pressure, Cambus had all the ball and possession and EK looked a tad disjointed. Bright spots – young Lewis Brown was tackling strongly. Cambus scored a try in the 31st minute following a line out and after a few phases of play, EK had no cover out wide. Cambus deservedly in the lead 3-8.
EK backs did not try to pass the little ball they had out the backs until the 36th minute, but unfortunately, we knocked on. Turnovers were undermining any prospect of continuity. When some continuity arrived at the end of the half, EK knocked on when crossing the try line.
Crucially, the forwards stuck at it, pressurised a Cambus scrum put in and the old warrior Steel was well placed to seize the loose ball and pounce for the try. Dryburgh’s conversion made it a rather fortunate 10-8 lead for EK.
EK started the second half more brightly and added to their lead after 48 minutes. A penalty gave them position in the Cambus 22. Initially held up over the Cambuslang try line, good forward pressure through a series of drives gave coach Steel the challenging task of falling over the lines form about 18 inches. Dryburgh’s conversion made it 17-8.
Might EK pull away…….? Well, we knocked on at the restart and took some odd decisions on what to do with the ball. But the defence was solid, withstanding a series of Cambus drives. Replacement prop Lloyd Mcclinton made some positive contributions in defence but prop Eddie Beaton collected a yellow card for using his feet to clear a ruck.
Cambus continued to dominate positionally, kicked a penalty after 62 minutes to make it 17-11 but missed other opportunities as EK proceeded to cough up a number of silly penalties. But the visitors scored their second try after moving the ball right from a scrum and then left when all the EK cover had been drawn in to score in the left corner. They narrowly missed the conversion. 17-16.
Cambus continued to press and only stout tackling kept them out, allied to one or two handling errors by the visitors. EK made it harder for themselves when they knocked on from a five metre scrum in their own half, when it looked as if we should have just thumped it up the field.
Nervous times for the home support as Cambus threw everything at EK – a loop move in their backs almost worked, but they should have kicked the relatively straightforward penalty they had been offered. And so the final tension of the day came when EK conceded a late penalty only for the Cambus full back to make his worst strike of the day, allowing EK to sneak over the finish line with four precious league points.
Despite the various difficulties, mistakes and some layers of rust, EK should be happy with the victory. They tackled well, had some good forward drives, the scrum improved as the match wore on, young Dryburgh kicked well with two conversions and a penalty and they never gave up. And importantly, snaffler Steel was on hand when it counted.
Lots of decent camoes form a range of players – often in defence – Eddie Beaton, Ally Dal in the second half, Steely, Chris O’Neill (good to see you back, Tophie) and Lewis Brown. But still lots of room for improvement.
Man of the Match – well, my usual favourites (Shankie and Paul Rosie) were not playing, so for key contributions at critical moments while often knackered (well, he is the coach), I pick Allan Steel. Who cares what anyone else thinks. Offer to write next week’s report f you have a different view!!
Next week: EK travel to Stewartry, 3pm kick off. Stewartry did not have a great experience on Saturday, going down 59-7 away to Strathendrick, last week’s victors over EK. Playing Stewartry has always been difficult in the past but let’s hope EK can kick on from this weekend’s win.
Team: 1. Chris Mclellan; 2 Rian Anderson; 3. Eddie Beaton; 4. Ally Dalgleish; 5. Ben Mclean; 6. matthew fletcher; 7. Chris O’Neill; 8. Allan Steel; 9. AIDAN STOTT; 10. Richard Murray; 11. Craig Ferguson; 12. Robbie Greenfield; 13. Calum Simpson; 14. Lewis Brown; 15. Grant Dryburgh. Replacements (all used): Robbie Jaap; Gregor Hagerty; Ian Brown; Lloyd Mcclinton.