In weather more suited to sunbathing than playing rugby, Glenrothes long season at last reached its conclusion on Saturday.
Visitors Alloa were vying with the home team for third spot in the league and got off to a flying start with two early tries giving them a 10 point lead. Glenrothes woke from their slumbers with a scintillating 60m sprint up the left wing from Callum Mitchell before the full back touched down under the posts. Kyle McIntiosh converted.
Neither side tackled well in the first period and when they did put in a hit, it often led to a penalty for being too high. From one of these penalties Ryan Venters put the ball into touch on the Alloa 22m line and Chris Docherty won the resulting lineout. The ball flashed along the line to the centre where a Tommy Walker break was halted close to the line. Walker offloaded to the supporting Derek Mitchell to cross for an easy 5 pointer to give the Glens a two point lead.
This lead was extended as Ross Anderson scored a very similar try to Mitchell’s earlier effort with another long sprint up the left wing rounded off behind the posts. McIntiosh added a second conversion.
Back came Alloa as they pounced on a Docherty knock on and waltzed through a disorganised defence. The conversion narrowed the difference to two points but from the restart Docherty immediately made amends as Gavin Emerson burst through his opponents, taking the ball to Alloa’s 22m line and when he was stopped Docherty took the ball the remaining distance to the line for the bonus point try.
At the end of the half, Alloa tied the scores at 24-24 with their own bonus point try as yet more slack tackling allowed them in at the left hand corner followed by an excellent conversion.
The second half opened promisingly for the Reds as Rhys Bryce showed Alloa a clean pair of heels with an arcing run to the right corner from 40m out.
A sequence of penalties awarded to Alloa by referee, Duncan Campbell, allowed the visitors to take the lead with a converted try but this was to be their final flourish as the Glens took control of the remaining 30 minutes.
A stolen lineout ball led to the Glens taking the lead. Scott Morrison pounced on it and made ground down the left wing. He passed inside to Emersonand when his progress was halted he passed back to the wing where captain Ross Hutchison was loitering. The big man is not used to playing on the wing but he took off for the corner, swatting aside would be tacklers before touching down.
Docherty grabbed his second try of the contest, again backing up an Emerson rampage and McIntosh’s conversion stretched the lead to 10 points.
Alloa seemed to either run out of steam after this and Emerson himself scored try number eight as he shrugged off would be tacklers running in from the 22m line. McIntosh converted.
Playing for most of the game at flanker gave Hutchison more freedom than he usually enjoys at lock and another solo run and stunning hand off gave him his second try and all but killed the game as a contest.
Emerson delivered the coup de grace with the final two tries of the game, and of the season. Firstly the Glens won a heel against the head and replacement, Duncan Robertson, raced down the left wing only to be caught by the visiting scrum half. The player coach was on hand to finish off the move and shortly afterwards completed his hat trick, picking up from the base of a scrum close to the line and crashing over the line. McIntosh completed the game with his fifth conversion, helped by a nudge off the left hand upright.
While Mitchell and Walker displayed mazy footwork and Emerson, Hutchison and Docherty were multiple try scorers it was decided not to select a man of the match as, at the end of the day, the game was won by a solid team performance in the second half rather than any one individual effort.
This season has seen a number of players from the second XV force their way into contention for a first XV jersey and that can only be good for the future, as will the stability of having the same coach in successive seasons for the first time since 2014-15.
Glenrothes lost six games this season but in four of those they took a losing bonus point, so Gavin Emerson’s target for next year will be to turn these narrow defeats into victories. To do this he will need to retain this year’s squad and build on it if possible, but above all the players themselves must try to match the commitment of coach and captain from the start of preseason training to the end of next season.
Updated 15:21 - 15 May 2018 by Richard Thomson