Murrayfield brought their 2011/12 season to an end on Saturday with a resounding 49-8 victory over Ellon in a game which saw the home team collect the maximum 5 points leapfrogging Dunfermline to take 3rd place in RBS National League One.
Wandies hosted Ellon Rugby in their last game of the current season with the potential prize of a 3rd place finish well and truly in their sights. A bonus point win against the northerners would see Murrayfield collect 5 points and leapfrog Dunfermline into the bronze medal position at the chequered flag due to their vastly superior points difference.
Ellon got things under way kicking off towards the ice rink. Due to a mix up in Ellon resulting in the strips not making the bus down, the visitors donned the navy blue change strip of Murrayfield Wanderers. Some of the skills and determination normally shown by the home team whilst wearing those jerseys must have rubbed off on the visitors as it was they who showed that they could produce some brilliant rugby of their own. The early pressure though was soaked up by the defence which held fast and prevented an early score to the visitors. Niall Watson, playing on the wing, used his ever reliable giant boot to clear the danger on numerous occasions. The sizeable crowd which had turned out to watch their teams final game in the glorious sunshine, were kept waiting a good fifteen minutes before any points were registered on the board. A penalty to the home team in front of the sticks (3-0) was followed up two minutes later with a try from Alex Cox who steamed through a gap in the defence 8-0.
Murrayfield could have been accused of trying to force this game in an effort to get the bonus point win with too many errors in the first half resulting in the home team not getting things their own way in attack. Changes in the normal forward pack compounded the lack of cohesion in attack with the line out misfiring at critical times. However when it came to scrummaging, the visitors were in for a torrid time with the front row of Roger Hastings, Nick Hart and Nick Barron tormenting their opponents for the full 80 minutes. Ellon were given the opportunity to get their first points for the afternoon when the referee deemed Wandies to have been in an offside position within their own 22 metre line 8-3.
Further frustrations in attack resulted in a bleak and error strewn 2nd quarter which only produced one more try. Fully aware of their advantage up front, Murrayfield opted to take the scrum 10 metres out from the try line. A superb 8 man shove obliterated the Ellon pack which left the ref with no option to blow his whistle against the flankers for breaking their bind. Choosing to take the scrum again, this time on the five metre line, Murrayfield seized this opportunity and kept the drive on allowing Niall Dennis to dot down over the line before the ref blew for half time.
Half Time Score: 13-3
Knowing that the lack of points in the first half was completely their own shortcoming, Murrayfield began the 2nd half of this game going back to basics and keeping things simple. It wasn't long before this tactic reaped reward with Alex Cox again cutting through the defence like a hot knife through butter after some great forwards play to tie in the defence 18-3. Four minutes later it was the turn of man of the moment Chris Dove to cross the whitewash in his last match before retiring from 1st XV rugby next season 23-3. With the forwards continuing in their dominance over the Ellon pack, it wasn't long before the referee reached for his pocket after one too many infringements by the visitors. The reduction of numbers in the scrum only worsened Ellons woes and after a short drive within metres of the line, Niall Dennis decided to pick and go himself crossing between the sticks for the first converted try of the afternoon 30-3.
With a lack of communication between the forwards when fielding the restart, the ball was knocked on by Wandies within their own ten metre line. The resultant scrum on the left hand side of the pitch was taken well by Ellon and allowed their forwards to attack the line with short bursts around the fringes of the rucks. When Murrayfield failed to match up the defenders on the far side, quick hands out to the big centre allowed him to use his size to barge over for Ellons first and only try of the afternoon 30-8. Whilst the forwards were enjoying their advantage over the Ellon pack, the backs too were beginning to fire on all cylinders finding gaps in the defence and really putting the visitors' scramble defence to the test. In one particular move starting from deep within the Murrayfield half, Stuart Young battered through 3 defenders offloading to Adam McFarlane running in support. With more pace running in support, the ball was dished up to Chris Dove who found Barry Turnbull outside him. With Barry drawing the last two defenders, the defence opened up allowing this season's top try scorer, Alex Cox, to saunter in to complete his hatrick of hatricks this season 35-8.
Debutant Matt Stevens notched up another try when he was the beneficiary of a neat offload 10 metres out. The army boy playing his first game for the 1st XV found himself with ball in hand and not a single defender nearby when Stuart Young was grappled and brought down close to the line. Andrew Baikie found his target this time to add the extras to the lead 42-8. With the final whistle looming, Ellon were again reduced to 14 men as a result of an infringement at the ruck. The boot of Iain Harper this time dispatched the ball into touch on the half way line where the forwards managed to tie up the visitors with a rolling maul. The ball was worked to the far side where the defence kept the backs from making it over the gain line. With the ball spun back towards the stadium, Barry Turnbull's earlier assist was rewarded when the winger burst through some weak tackling to bring an end to the game.
Final Score 49-8 – Man of the Match: Andrew Baikie.
So there you have it, this season has come to a close and it's been one which I'm sure you will agree has kept all concerned on the edge of their seats. Maybe we did deserve a position higher up the league; maybe we did deserve a spot in the National Shield final, what we can all be proud of however is that we turned the ship around. At the end of the 2010/11 season we were 3rd bottom and teetering on the edge of the relegation zone after a late push for wins. This season though has brought promotion into the new RBS Championship, the first time in 11 years that this club has tasted promotion, or so I'm led to believe.
See you next season………………………