1st XV - Report
|EU Blues||17||vs||12||Preston Lodge Rugby|
PL Get The Night Time Blues but Still Secure Top Spot
This match should have been the Edinburgh District Shield Pool 3 decider but earlier in the week, the beaks at Murrayfield had already decided to dock the students two points for failing to fulfil the fixture back in early January
It was still a match worth playing though because it gave PL the chance to measure themselves against a side who had been a division higher in the Scottish leagues but this season decided to withdraw from that competition so that they could concentrate on the British Universities Championships. It was also an opportunity to play a fairly competitive game under floodlights and on an artificial ‘3G’ surface that some see as a possible future for rugby in Scotland.
Unfortunately, a cold, dreich February night was perhaps not the best conditions for either side to show off their best skills but it was a close game nonetheless and once again a bunch of PL youngsters got their chance to play in the top team and gain valuable game time at a very high level.
From the kick off. the Blues seemed the livelier of the sides as PL seemed to be a bit dazzled under the lights and it only took three minutes for them to show that they were completely at home on the surface as they put together a move that saw the ball quickly passed along the three-quarter line, stretching the PL defence out wide before it reached the left winger who had a clear run to the line. The conversion was missed but an early 5-0 lead to the home side showed PL that a tough evening was in store and they would have to be at their best to contain the fast running students.
It definitely can’t be said that PL were playing at the top of their game and most of the good work was being done in a defensive capacity as the Blues used their pace to set up darting runs to the line. Many of these opportunities stemmed from PL errors as too often they gave up possession too easily but good cover tackles by Brash, Archer and Voy in the back row meant that the try line wasn’t threatened too closely. Poor clearance kicks also did nothing to relieve the pressure and often gave the Blues’ back line easy chances to set up even more attacking opportunities. Chris Dixon and Paul Glynn remained alert to thwart the attacking dangers and it wasn’t until the 30th minute that Andrew Clark managed to send a decent kick deep into the home 22 to set up an attacking line out opportunity. PL captain Blair Cowan knew that this would be a rare chance to score and took no chances as he called to keep the ball tucked up and safe in hand. From close range, his pack took control and drove Ian MacIntosh and the ball towards the line and the hooker was too strong to be held up from there and suddenly the scores were level. The conversion would be difficult in the conditions but Graeme Patterson stroked it perfectly so that somewhat against the run of play, PL had a 5-7 lead which they would hold until half time.
Possession in the second half would be much more evenly shared between the sides but the pattern of the game remained the same. The enterprise and speed of the Blues’ backs matched against stout PL defence and good old fashioned ‘up the jumper’ protection of the ball. PL were first to profit from their choice of game plan when MacIntosh bagged a second try which was almost an exact replica of his first, the only difference this time was that the conversion was missed. Still, at 5-12 it could have been possible for PL to kick on and consolidate their lead. Unfortunately, it took only two minutes before the students struck back after an error in the PL 22 gave them useful free ball and their passing skills and pace were too much for the defence to cope with as they went on to score a fine try. The difficult conversion tied the scores at 12-12 with 20 minutes to go.
PL coach Craig McGeary made sure that every player in the squad would get game time which allowed Finlay Hughes to come on and make his debut in the 1st XV and along with Robertson, Glynn, Sked, Jordan Eales, Paul Dixon and Jordan Garrity it meant that at some stages of the game, nearly half of the PL team were far younger than their student opponents. Another newcomer (or oldcomer) was scrum half Dale Gordon who was returning to the side after a few seasons away and he definitely showed some promise with a few drtin runs despite the slippery surface.
The home side had a couple of chances to take the lead with penalties, one of which clattered off the post but despite their best efforts, the PL defence looked like they would hold out until the end. However, one error too many would prove costly as another clearance kick was poorly executed and a skilful return from nearly halfway got the ball to the Blues’ winger once more and he was too quick to be stopped. The conversion was missed but despite a great deal of pressure in the home 22 for the final 10 minutes, PL could not get the vital try required to tie the score and so it ended 17-12.
The losing bonus point would have been enough to secure top spot in the group anyway and the reward for winning it is an away tie to Livingston in the semi finals.
Coincidentally, Livingston are the visitors to The Pennypit next Saturday for what is one of the top club games in Scotland. The corresponding league game earlier in the season was a cracker and PL will be going all out for revenge. Livingston are currently unbeaten in the league and have a couple of games in hand but a win would put PL in top spot and keep up the pressure for the single promotion place.
All supporters please note that kick off times have now returned to 3pm.
Preston Lodge Team:
G Patterson, J Eales, P Glynn, C Dixon, B Robertson, A Clark, D Gordon
S McLean, I MacIntosh K Duncan, B Cowan, J Sked, A Archer, J Brash, P Voy
B Stoddart, J Garrity, P Dixon, F Hughes