EK’s strong 2nd half brings try bonus win
EK win well away, after a slow start, following dominant second half. Signs of growing maturity in young side.
EK gained a measure of revenge for defeat at Strathendrick in the Shield earlier in the season, by withstanding a strong first half by the hosts. Strong defence was the key to victory and flanker Chris O’Neill was the stand out EK player.
It was the proverbial game of two halves (Editor query – do all games not have two halves?). It was all Strathendrick at the start, with their forwards dominating and running hard with the ball. EK conceded penalties like confetti (the count was 6-1 against in the first quarter).
A soft offside penalty by EK allowed the stand off to kick the home side in to an early lead, 3-0. Prop McLinton was replaced by Eddie Beaton after 14 minutes. EK were slow to respond to the spirit and physicality of Strathendrick, falling off or going too high with several tackles.
No 8 & coach Allan Steel was replaced after 27 minutes by 17 year old debutant, Ryan Mason, who made an immediate impression with a strong run with ball in hand. He played well throughout.
A rare EK break by Mark Ellison up the right wing, led to EK pressure on the home line. Following a couple of forward breenges, the ball was moved left and Roddy Beaton darted over for a try which Grant Dryburgh converted. Score: 3-7.
EK were slowly waking up and looking more interested and as the half wore on, the penalty count evened up. But just as the half was ending, EK were penalised for holding on to the ball, and Strathendrick kicked it to make it 6-7 at half time.
The hosts started the second half strongly, kicking another penalty in front of the EK posts for a high tackle, but Roddy Beaton cancelled it out shortly after with one of his own, so 9-10 after 48 minutes.
A reckless tackle by the Strathendrick tight head around the neck of Mark Ellison when he was on the ground seemed to act as the spur for EK to up their performance. They kicked a penalty down the line when they might have gone for goal, and deservedly got a penalty try after the line out drive was held up then Mark Ellison took a quick tap penalty. Score: 9-17. Strathendrick support quiet now.
EK looked the fitter team now, as Strathendrick looked tired and devoid of ideas how to break through the EK defence. AIDAN STOTT made a good break up the left which led to further pressure on the home line, but EK just could not get the ball over the line. Ross Stewart came on for Gregor Hagerty.
Another penalty saw EK kick up the left touchline and this time hooker for the day, Chris (Thunders) Mclellan claimed the touchline. Thunders looks a good prospect at hooker, not least as he can regularly throw the ball in straight at the lineout. Rian Anderson to note lol! Score – 12-22 after 61 minutes.
EK were now dominant. The final bonus point try followed shortly after, when EK should have had another penalty try from a line out drive but when the ball was moved right, full back Grant Dryburgh scored in the corner. Strathendrick went through the motions for the last 10 minutes without really threatening the EK line. Final score: 12-17.
This was a very satisfying and impressive result. While not many of the EK support would have predicted it at half time, clearly the wise words of Coach Steel helped them find their mojo. There was much more aggression, spirit and belief in the second half, accompanied by the continuing strong defence.
It was a hard match, and the key figures were in the pack. Chris O’Neill, as noted earlier, was the standout player but he was strongly supported by Ally Dalgleish who had one of his welcome, more rousing and rumbustious days, the ever-present Paul Rosie and Roddy Beaton. And Thunders for his consistent line out throws. In the backs, AIDAN STOTT and Mark Ellison did well.
This result, allied to Garnock’s home win over leaders Greenock Wanderers, sees EK resume at the top of the league, one point ahead of Allan Glens and Greenock.
Man of Match: Chris O’Neill.
Next week: EK are away next week to their nemesis, Irvine. This will be a good opportunity for EK to rid themselves of some baggage, and hopefully display their continuing maturity.