Match Report - 22 Jan 2011, Ross High Rugby Football Club 1st XV lost to Preston Lodge RFC
ROSS HIGH - 10
PRESTON LODGE - 15
PL made the short trip to Tranent to play old rivals Ross High on Saturday and as is often typical for a derby, the match didn’t turn out to be the cracker that everyone hoped. PL eventually held on to win but Ross High put together some spells of good rugby that belied their lowly league position.
PL had the advantage of the slope in the first half so it was important to get some points on the board and a lively start from both sides bode well for the rest of the match. PL however, conceded two silly penalties in midfield which prevented them from sustaining any amount of pressure and Ross High took advantage to give themselves good field position in PL’s 22. The first good break for the visitors came in the seventh minute when a loose kick out of defence by Ross High was fielded by Andrew Archer in his own half and he fed on to Chris Guiney. The full back burst through the first line of defence before being brought down near the home 22. From there, PL were able to control possession for a short while and when the home side were penalised for closing the gaps at a line out, Greg Leitch kicked the ball to touch on 5 metres. Without any fuss, the ball was taken cleanly at the line out by Blair Cowan and he completed the move by diving over for the first try of the game. The simplicity of the move stunned the home crowd into silence but the setback seemed to give added impetus to their team as they picked up the pace of the game and they looked very dangerous when their backs had the ball in hand. Captain Bruce Stoddart led from the front and he started a decent move by breaking out of defence before passing to Ryan MacDonald on the wing and he sped upfield before being tackled on the 10 metre line. Eventually though, Ross High were rewarded for their good play with a penalty in front of the posts and Paul Davis made no mistake with the kick at goal to narrow the score to 3-5.
PL tried to settle into the game and find some rhythm in their play to put together some phases that might unlock the tight defence. In fact, their second try, scored on the half hour, also came out of virtually nothing. The pack carried the ball to the home 22 and when the move was stopped, Paul Voy and Euan Thayne kept their composure to deliver quick ball to scrum half Warner Easton. Then, centre Fraser Harris, returning to 1st XV action for the first time in over a year, received the ball and his pace caught the Ross defence on the hop as he charged through a huge gap. Despite his inexperience, he kept a cool head before passing to Chris Guiney who just had to take it for the final two yards before touching down near the corner. Leitch had suffered a leg injury and was unable to perform his usual kicking duties but Dougie Thomson made a good attempt at the conversion but the long kick just came off the outside of the post.
Despite some better play, including Voy breaking through before he passed on to Leitch to gain 50 metres, PL were unable to add to the score and the travelling support were left wondering if the 3-10 lead at the break would be enough for their team when they played the second half up the hill.
Sure enough, it was Ross High who had their tails up with some lively play at the start of the half but PL’s defensive back line held firm under pressure even though all of the play was taking place in their own 22. Easton’s wise old head was always on the lookout for an opening though and he needed no second invitation to run through a gap at the back of the scrum to leave his opposite number stranded. He made 30 metres of ground before passing out to Nick Marsh and he in turn found Jonathan Brash. The winger cut inside near the 22 and kept a cool head before passing to Dougie Thomson who had pace to burn as he sped over to finish off a great move that had come almost the length of the field. Crucially, the conversion was missed which meant that Ross High still had plenty to play for with scoreboard reading 3-15.
And they set about their task with some conviction as nearly the whole of the rest of the match was played inside the PL 22 and it took some courageous defence to prevent them from scoring. As in the first half, the Ross backs, especially in midfield, looked very dangerous going forward with the ball in hand and it’s difficult to see why they have not scored more often this season to bring about a much needed victory. They had plenty of possession to work with as an over fussy referee frequently penalised PL, although to be fair, on too many occasions they deserved to be penalised. Ross did get the ball over the line on the hour mark but it was adjudged to have been held up following some great defence by the PL backs, but with the advantage of the slope, it was always easy for them to get back into dangerous territory. However, try as they might, the PL pack was just too strong for them on most occasions and the defence held firm. With 10 minutes to go, the ball went loose as the Ross High backs mounted another attack and Thomson was first to get there and hack it upfield. Blair Cowan also aided its progression with another kick and this time, it was Ross High who conceded a penalty as their defence scrambled back. Looking for a fourth try that would bring a valuable bonus point, Leitch kicked to touch on 5 metres and it looked to be a formality that the try would be scored when the ball was safely gathered and driven to the line. The referee had other ideas though and penalised PL for holding on when it looked as though they were over.
This frustrated the visitors and some backchat gave away yet another penalty and valuable territory. With growing confidence, it was the home side’s turn to kick to touch on 5 metres and they easily won the ball on their own throw. Working together, once more they got the ball over the line but excellent defence again held it up. The pressure was too persistent though and from the five metre scrum they were deservedly rewarded for their efforts with a good try that would earn them a losing bonus point. The added conversion made the score 10-15 and it would set up a very nervous final five minutes for the visitors but they were able to hold their composure to retain possession for most of the remaining time before the referee eventually blew the final whistle.
The aggregate score over the two matches between the sides this season meant that it was Preston Lodge who regained the Billy McNeil Trophy which is played for annually between the sides and PL Captain Blair Cowan, was fulsome in his praise for his opponents when he collected the trophy from PL’s former President, Robert Dickson.
Ross High Rugby Football Club 1st XV 10 - 15 Preston Lodge RFC