Good Defence But PL Just Fail to Take the Pees
Ring rusty PL just come up short against lively Peebles
A chilly day but otherwise perfect conditions for rugby welcomed Peebles to The Pennypit on Saturday for what proved to be yet another cracking encounter between two sides currently in mid table but eager to show that they were ready to mount a challenge higher up the league.
The early exchanges showed that Peebles looked a bit sharper due to them having played over the past few international weekends while PL have been idle over the period but it was the home side who would get themselves on the scoreboard first when new scrum half, the experienced Brian Walls showed his class by a piece of clever play that saw him dart through a half gap before passing on to his half back partner Robbie Griffin. There was still plenty of work for the stand off to do but two steps inside from within the 22 saw him beat the defence with ease and he was through to score near the posts. Walls has assumed the kicking duties since his arrival and he converted the try to put PL 7-0 up after six minutes.
Peebles got themselves on the attack right away when they cleverly stole the ball from the restart kick and then kicked a penalty to touch on 10 metres after the retreating PL defence had been caught offside. It then looked like their catch and drive from the line-out would lead to a try but the ball was lost forward as they approached the line and the PL scrum was solid enough to allow the ball to come back to Walls and he booted the ball downfield to clear the danger. This brought only temporary respite though because the Peebles back division again showed their class with some good passing at pace that got them back inside the home 22. PL's defensive cause wasn't helped when hooker Thomas Johnson got himself sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes and when Peebles launched another attack through the backs, they looked set to score with a one man overlap but the final pass went awry and PL once again got the ball clear.
Despite the pressure in defence, PL were able to control the ball for long periods as the pack stuck to basics using Jonny Sked and Scott MacColl to drive forward and set the ball back to Pete Johnstone, Chris Dixon or Alan Whittingham who would drive on again through the next phase. In the 22nd minute, Peebles' frustration got the better of them and they were penalised right on the centre spot but the distance from the posts didn't phase Brian Walls as he stepped up and bashed the ball straight through the middle to extend PL's lead to 10-0.
It was now time for Peebles to cut out some of their errors and get themselves on the scoreboard and they were able to do this immediately after the restart when once again a penalty was sent to touch on 10 metres and this time they were able to control things through three phases before flanker Dalton Hall took responsibility for getting the ball over the line. Greg Raeburn added the conversion and the visitors were back in the game at 10-7.
Raeburn then went on to level things up at 10-10 with a penalty five minutes later after his side had dominated possession and carried the ball right to the line before the referee brought play back to award the kick 18 metres out.
Despite these setbacks, PL were beginning to show signs that they were getting over their three week lay off as the back three of Nathan Ross, Cameron Pallister and Paul Glynn each gathered high balls in their own half before setting off to mount attacks deep inside the visitors' 22. Peebles always looked dangerous with ball in hand but Ewan Runciman and Dale Gordon managed some good tackles in midfield defence but as half-time approached it was Pees' scrum half Donald Anderson who would create an opening all on his own. He broke through from a scrum near half way before sending a clever chip over the heads of the PL defence and the ball bounced kindly into the hands of Cal Anderson who was up in support and the centre was clear to score from just inside the 22. The conversion from in front of the posts was easy enough for Raeburn, allowing his side to take a 10-17 lead into half time.
The first 10 minutes of the second half followed much the same pattern as most of the first with Peebles dominating possession and looking very lively with quick passes to get the ball through the hands and out to the wings and although this presented danger, there were too many errors in their play and PL continued to show good defensive skills to prevent any real threats to their try line. PL preferred a tighter game as Cameron MacLean, Thomas Johnson and Luke Reynolds provided a solid platform against bigger opposition in the front row and this helped provide good ball for the rest of the pack to maul forward before Walls would boot the ball downfield to ensure that plenty of the play took place inside the Peebles half. Despite the good play from both sides, there were few scoring opportunities during the first 30 minutes of the half but both sides had to readjust their strategies when both scrum halves – each of whom had a great influence in the way the game was being played – were sent to the bin after a something and nothing spat near PL's 22.
There was plenty of excitement still to come in the final 10 minutes though and Peebles had the first chance with a clear, two on one overlap but the final, scoring pass was way behind winger Scott Stoddart and the chance was lost as the loose ball was cleared into touch.
PL's Nathan Ross was next to catch the eye as he made a good break into to Peebles half before the ball was recycled to Jonny Sked who linked with Alan Whittingham but this time it was the Peebles defence who would come to the rescue and stop the move. PL now looked the better side with plenty of possession near the Peebles' try line and although they they had several attempts to stretch for the line, the visitors' defence was too good. PL had plenty of patience though and continued to recycle the ball through phase after phase until the opening presented itself and prop Cammy MacLean was unstoppable from close range. The score was 15-17 with the crucial conversion to come and with Walls still off the field, the responsibility for the kick was handed back to Robbie Griffin. His task was made no easier with the on-rushing charge of the Peebles defenders and to their credit, they did just enough to force the kick to be rushed and it drifted agonisingly just wide of the left hand post.
There was still time for the game to be restarted and with both sides restored to 15 men, PL were hoping to force a penalty that would allow Walls the chance to kick for goal. Peebles were too good though and PL barely touched the ball again as Peebles looked to close out the game before being awarded a final penalty that Raeburn kicked to extend the lead to 15-20 and despite PL's best efforts, they could do nothing to change things in the short time remaining and had to make to with a well earned losing bonus point.
Peebles were worthy winners on the day but PL took their chances well and played to their strengths with some excellent play in defence. This may stand them in good stead when league leaders Kelso are the visitors to The Pennypit next Saturday. Kick off 2pm.
Preston Lodge Team:
P. Glynn, N Ross, D Gordon, E Runciman, C Pallister, R Griffin, B Walls
L Reynolds, T Johnson, C Baikie, J Sked, S MacColl, C Dixon, P Johnstone, A Whittingham
C MacLean, J Clipston, A Vince, J Brash