1st XV - Report
Oh So Close at the Top as Livi Just Manage to Hold On
With both sides unbeaten so far this season, this East League 1 top of the table clash at Almond Park certainly lived up to its billing as ‘Game of the Day’ in Scotland with the result in doubt right up until the final whistle.
This gave PL the lift they needed and from the kick off they were back on the offensive as Greg Kinross effortlessly slipped through the defence and with good support from Blair Robertson and Paul Glynn it looked like they might get through to score. On this occasion though, the Livingston defence managed to scramble back to secure the ball and clear their lines but it gave an early indication that PL could be dangerous with ball in hand. This was a signal for Livingston to up their game and over the following 15 minutes they showed that playing at a higher level over the past few seasons gave them an edge that PL couldn’t quite match. Firstly, they were quick to recycle the ball after a lineout move broke down and when it was passed out to the blindside, the PL defence was posted missing allowing King to score unopposed in the corner. Edwards added the conversion and Livi had a 7-3 lead after 10 minutes. Edwards added another three points just two minutes later after Blair Cowan had put in what looked like a great tackle but the referee wasn’t of the same opinion and penalised the PL skipper right in front of the posts. PL probably conceded too many penalties throughout the match and this was evident after Paul Voy had secured good ball on the ground but again the ref had seen a hand in the ruck and Edwards wasn’t going to miss from close range to make it 13-3 after 18 minutes.
PL needed to steady their ship quickly as the game was rapidly drifting away from them so it was welcome relief when they awarded a penalty and Kinross put it into touch in the corner. From here, normal service could resume as Mackie’s throw was safely gathered and the pack powered their way to the line. Livi could do nothing to stop them and when the arms went up in celebration, all 400+ people in the ground thought a try had been scored – except one! Despite the obvious move, the referee had inexplicably got himself into the wrong position and failed to see the touchdown so no try was awarded.
PL were obviously disappointed with this and frustration crept into their play for the remainder of the half allowing Livingston to control the majority of possession and territory. Chris Dixon was as tenacious as ever though and did his best to disrupt in the loose and despite plenty of chances, Livingston were unable to penetrate the PL defence. Just before half time, both sides had a player sent to the sin bin following a minor skirmish but this only emphasised the importance that both sides had placed on the game.
The second half started as the first had ended with Livingston playing at fast pace and PL doing their best to keep them out. Edwards had an early chance to extend his side’s lead but he missed the long range penalty from 45 metres however he was on target with a much easier effort in the 52nd minute after PL were penalised for lying offside. At 16-3 down, PL needed to up their game quickly and from the restart, Cowan and Mackie showed that they meant business and chased down the ball to set Voy off on one of his charges. The front row of Keith Duncan, Mackie and Stuart McLean were solid in the scrum but the introduction of Lee Inglis added some extra dynamics and he had a great break, storming past five defenders to get deep into the home 22. Livi tried too hard to win the ball back and were penalised but Clark’s kick was just wide. All of the momentum now lay with PL and they were the only side who looked likely to score as the danger that Livingston had showed in the first half was now being stopped with some great tackles by Brash, Monks and then Lewis King after he had been introduced to the action to give some added pace to the attack. The breakthrough came after Mackie had picked up the ball deep in his own half and he had a neat step inside before passing behind his tackler to Kinross who was supporting at pace. The experienced centre gained 40 metres with defenders trailing in his wake and with only the full back to beat, his pass to Jonathan Brash was perfect and he had enough pace and space to get over and score a well deserved try in the corner.
Now it was Livingston who were becoming frustrated as they struggled to win the ball and on the half hour, they were penalised for being offside. Some ill advised backchat to the referee cost them another 10 metres allowing Clark a much easier 25 metre shot at goal and from there he didn’t miss. The score was now 16-11 and PL were in losing bonus point range but they sensed they could take much more than that from the game. The last 10 minutes were spent almost entirely in the home 22 and much of it very near the try line as the pack tried their best to get the try that would tie the score. Livi conceded several penalties although their defence was pretty solid but despite their best efforts, PL just couldn’t get over the line. The final whistle came as welcome relief for the vociferous home support but everyone present, including a representative from the SRU knew that they had seen a fantastic game of Club rugby with no quarter asked or given by either side.
This was PL’s first league defeat since November 2010 but by securing the losing bonus point there is still plenty to play for this season with Livingston now four points clear at the top.
They will hope to get back to winning ways at The Pennypit next Saturday when Linlithgow are the visitors. Kick off 3pm.
Preston Lodge Team:
R Monks, J Brash, G Kinross, B Robertson, P Glynn, A Clark, W Easton
S McLean, R Mackie, K Duncan, B Cowan, I MacIntosh, C Quigley, C Dixon, P Voy
L Inglis, L King, A Hay