1st XV - Report
Top of the Table Thriller but Livi Too Strong in the End
Second v First in East League Division 1 was widely regarded as one of the games of the day in Scotland on Saturday and it certainly lived up to that billing as the play ebbed back and forth and a total of nine tries being shared by two teams at the top o
This gave PL a huge confidence boost and for the next 15 minutes they appeared to be in complete control of the game without making any real threats to the try line. Chris Dixon and Andrew Archer were able to secure good ball on the floor and Jonathan Brash looked threatening going forward but the Livingston tacklers were able to keep things under control and clear their lines on each occasion. As the half hour mark approached, the visitors got into the PL 22 for the first time with any real meaning and they didn’t let the opportunity go to waste because after some sustained pressure wide out on the left, the PL defence was eventually breached and the resulting converted try tied the scores at 7-7.
Worse was to come from PL because despite the restart kick getting them back on the attack near the Livingston 22, a long, wayward pass which was intended to get the back line moving forward, was instead intercepted by Livi’s Ross Neil and the full back ran 60m unopposed to touch down under the posts. The easy conversion made it 7-14.
There was still plenty of excitement to come for the home fans, that included the vociferous PL Ladies who were sponsoring the game, as their side refused to let their heads go down to put together some great play which would see them back on level terms immediately. The forwards did a great job to win the ball and set it up but Clark and Patterson linked together brilliantly before passing to Paul Glynn and he was unstoppable as he charged towards the line to score a great try. Patterson converted it and things were all square again at 14-14 after 33 minutes.
Things just about got even better for the home fans just two minutes later as PL put together a fantastic series of passes that saw the ball carried nearly 60 metres downfield but the final one to Chris Dixon was judged to have gone forward by the referee and PL had to be content to go into the break with the scores still tied.
The intensity and high standard of play by both sides was evident and no quarter was being asked or given so it was no surprise that the coaches needed to call on some replacements at half time. For PL, this meant a reshuffle in the pack which resulted in some pressure at the first scrum. Livingston were able to get the ball away quickly on the blindside where PL were short of cover and once again a try was conceded from distance as scrum half John Bruton was able to sprint clear almost unopposed. This time the conversion was missed but the move had shown that the visitors were too good to give up even the slightest chance.
And yet again, PL showed that they would be up to the task of getting back on level terms. A couple of Patterson touchfinders got them back in the 22 and from there, the pack showed that they had regrouped from their earlier difficulties as they safely guarded the ball on its passage to the line. The referee was on hand to look for any misdemeanours from the Livi defence but after several phases, the outstretched arm of Paul Voy could clearly be seen as he touched down in the corner. The conversion was missed this time but it meant that things were all tied up again at 19-19.
There was still plenty of rugby to be played and a further 18 points to be scored in the final quarter but Livngston’s experience would begin to tell over the next 10 minutes. The league leaders are unbeaten this season and it’s easy to see why as they showed off their skills with the ball in hand while attacking the PL line at pace. A handling error by PL on their own 22 meant that they had put themselves under pressure and were forced to concede penalty which was converted easily to restore Livi’s lead at 19-22.
That lead could have been extended two minutes later when PL were caught offside on their own 22 but this time the kick was missed. Livingston seemed to be gaining in confidence at this time and despite this slight setback, they were soon back on the attack near PL’s try line. The pressure through several phases was eventually too much and Jamie Millar was able to break through for the try which Bolan converted to make the score 19-29.
This setback appeared to knock PL’s confidence and once again the front row came under pressure at the scrum and Livi’s experience was too great as they forced the penalty in front of the posts which Bolan converted to make it 19-32.
That completed the scoring for Livingston but not PL as once again, the pack showed their resilience to pick themselves up and set up a driving maul which would carry the ball at least 40 metres towards the line. The defence was good enough to hold them out on this occasion but in the final minute, from much closer range a similar move allowed Blair Cowan to touch down for a fourth try which gave his side a deserved consolation bonus point.
This was a fabulous game of club rugby with both sides showing a very high level of intensity and skill. Livingston’s experience and the way they took their chances ensured that they were deserved winners and will go on to win the league easily but PL will take much from the game as well.
By a strange coincidence, PL have an early opportunity to avenge their defeat as the sides will play against each other again next week - this time at Livingston in the Edinburgh Regional Shield semi final. Kick off 3pm (tbc)
Preston Lodge Team:
G Patterson, B Robertson, P Glynn, C Dixon, L King, A Clark, D Gordon,
S McLean, I MacIntosh, K Duncan, B Cowan, J Sked, A Archer, J Brash, P Voy
G Kinross, M Third, P Dixon, J Eales