Welcome back! It’s been a long 4 months off and in the time away we’ve had to endure a crap England in the World Cup, many a debate on whether Scotland should go its own way and that bastion of sporting events ... transfer deadline day.
We conducted our own transfer deadline day business, re-signing Kier from the scrapheap together with Louis who signed just in time as he was whisked into the walker ground car park at 10:30pm to complete his medical and sign on the dotted line. Simon, hanging out of his unwound car window (ala ‘Arry Redknapp) said, “Their both t’riffic lads and we really hope they can do a job for us. Top, top, players”.
We’ve come a long way in the last 2 years ... at the beginning of the 2012/13 fixture we were unable to field a team because about 8 players were either away or injured. For the match against the Black Horse, we were unable to call upon 16 players, yet, we still managed to take 17 players to fulfil the fixture. Whatever the result and eventual position in the league this season, we’re going from strength to strength.
The first half kicked off and we spent the first 15 minutes camped firmly in the Black Horse half. We were sometimes a little off the pace and not always there to support runners, but as a first game of the season we were looking good, dominant in the set piece and the backs were getting over the gain line.
The Black Horse couldn’t cope with the constant pressure and eventually Kieran broke through a number of tackles to score underneath the posts. The re-start didn’t quite go to plan as within 5 minutes the Black Horse had worked it well down the wing and were able to squeeze through the fringes at a ruck to equalise.
Nevertheless, our heads didn’t drop as we continued to apply pressure and the first half continued in a sea-saw fashion as further tries were scored by Taff and Tom, with another reply from the Black Horse sandwiched in between. The Southgate physicality was there as always, leading to an unfortunate injury to the Black Horse 9, seeing him carried away in an ambulance. Rather strangely, the Black Horse prop, pulled his hamstring and had to go off – I don’t think it was anything to do with the domination in the scrum though, honest. Craig, stepping out of semi-retirement to help us out, made his first start of the season ... for the Black Horse, so that we could continue with contested scrums.
Move of the half saw Luke take the ball and break through a couple of tackles before bearing down on the Black Horse full back. Just as I thought he would run over him, he passed the ball out to Brian who was smothered by retreating Black Horse players. Half time 21:14.
The second half saw Kier, returning from a lengthy injury, replaced by Scotty. He had an immense first half and will be his usual force to be reckoned with once his match fitness returns. Brad came on for debutant Louis on the wing, who had an excellent game in a position unfamiliar to him. More Southgate dominance saw another “unusual” hamstring injury, this time from the Black Horse hooker, who went off and finally resulted in the uncontested scrums we really didn’t want.
The Black Horse were able to use this to their advantage and scored another try under the posts, before we came back in true Southgate style to score another try, this time Taff adding to his first. After some excellent work by Justin to break through a number of tackles, within a couple of phases Taff was on the receiving end to score. This was becoming a sea-saw match, each time we edged in front, the Black Horse would come straight back.
As the match entered the last 15 minutes, we were 10 points ahead, (29:19), but in a typical style of the game, the Black Horse wouldn’t lie down. Wish someone would have shot that horse and boiled him down into glue! Unfortunately, the match was beginning to take its toll on us and with the scrums still uncontested, it wasn’t playing to our strengths. That being said, our defending should probably have been better as once again the Black Horse were able to break through the fringes and score 2 tries, without reply from us and were in the lead 31:29 for the first time in the game.
The last 5 minutes saw us come very close to almost repeating last year’s opening day miracle last minute win but we just couldn’t get ourselves the length of the field and over the line. Nevertheless, we have a lot to be pleased with in our performance, we have taken a strong team (on their home pitch) to the wire and if the scrums had stayed contested, I think we would have had enough. Not to mention that Brad had a perfectly good try disallowed, despite being about a metre from the touchline after some, shall we say, dubious touch judge decision. As the season progresses, our tackling, fitness and decision making will no doubt improve, but this season looks as if it can be as promising as the last 2.
Many thanks again to all that came to play, some purely just to help out and those that continue to support from the sidelines. Finally, many thanks to the Black Horse for a good, fair game and being excellent hosts.
Scorers: Taff (2 tries, 3 conversions, 1 penalty), Kieran (1 try), Tom (1 try)
Team: Luke, Jack (Craig), Stav, Nick, Justin, Sam H, Peter, Kier (Scotty), Brian, Taff, Mike, Kieran (capt), Tom, Louis (Brad), Shane