Reds Reclaim West Lothian Cup with Stirring Performance
Linlithgow 26 – 21 Livingston
Monday 02 January 2017
This was a cracking game, played in glorious sunshine on a cold winter’s afternoon. A good few spectators had made the trip across the Bathgate Hills to cheer on Livi for this traditional New Year local derby match and they were welcomed by a sizeable home support who were looking to see if the Reds could continue their recent run of good form.
What they got was a full-on and very open match with both sides looking to run the ball at every opportunity. Livingston, who’ve had a tough season to date struggling in BT National 3, were bolstered by a few former regulars who added a physicality and pace to the visitors’ game. The Reds fielded a strong young team, albeit missing a few regulars, and welcomed the return from long-term injury of Jamie Chapman, who started at stand-off, and vice captain Stuart Bell, who came off the bench at half-time.
Livingston started very strongly and rocked the home team with two well taken tries within the first fifteen minutes to take a deserved 14-0 lead. The tries came from a combination of pace and power, with the scorers being two of their best players – the number 8 and the inside centre. The home spectators certainly feared the worst at this stage as Livingston looked to add to their two fine scores and take the game away from the home side. However, the Reds picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and began to put together some fine passages of attacking play.
The next twenty minutes saw the Reds take the ascendency, but they managed to squander a number of good openings and potential overlaps. It was from a period of sustained pressure that the Reds finally got the try that they deserved. Driving hard at the heart of the visitors’ defence they threatened the try line before spinning the ball out wide to Andrew “Paws” Whitelaw, who took at excellent angle at pace to shred the visitors’ defence and go in under the posts for a fine try, which he converted himself.
The visitors were stung into action and came close at the end of the first half, with a knock on just short of the Reds’ line.
Half-time: Linlithgow 7 – 14 Livingston
The second half had barely started when the Reds scored to level the match. An attempted touch clearance was fielded on the Livingston 10m line and a long inside pass from scrum-half Jamie March found Andrew Whitelaw in space in the middle of the field. Seeing that the defence was out of position he burst through the first line and stepped past the cover defenders, with an outrageous dummy to go in under the posts for his second try of the match, which he again converted himself.
Back on the attack, the Reds won a penalty just inside the Livingston 22. Ever alert, scrum-half Jamie March took a quick tap and shot through a gap in the visitors’ defence for a fine try, which Andrew Whitelaw converted.
The Reds were now playing at high tempo and with Michael Robertson on at tight head prop, the pack were destroying their opponents in the tight. It was from a series of attacking scrums near the Livingston line, that the Reds scored again to take the lead. A pushover try looked certain, but just eluded the home team. However the visitors had committed an offence in trying to defend their line and from the resultant scrum penalty, Jamie March darted over for his second try to extend the Reds lead to 26-14, with the conversion going just wide.
The Reds looked to be cruising to a fine win, but as the game entered the final quarter they lost their shape and started to make silly mistakes. It was from a series of errors that Livingston gained good field position and one of their big forwards blasted over for a try from short range. The successful conversion brought the visitors to within 5 points of the Reds.
The last five minutes were spent deep in the Reds half, but Livingston’s discipline let them down and already down to 14 men, with a player yellow carded, they had a player sent off for pushing the referee to the ground – an unfortunate end to a good game of rugby.
The young Linlithgow side emerged from this encounter with much credit, with strong performances all over the field. Two thunderous runs in the first half from Sean Hagerty helped swing the match to the Reds, but it was the sharpness and pace of Whitelaw and man-of-the-match March that delivered the victory.
Ross Plenderleith; Euan Murray, Andrew Whitelaw, Chris Ronalson, Bruno Mochrie; Jamie Chapman, Jamie March; Steven Grant, Stuart Cunningham, Calum McKeown; Sean Hagerty, Mark Caddle; Cal Thomson, Euan Mochrie, Ross Martin.
Subs (all used) – Michael Robertson, Ally McLean, Neil Lockhart, Stuart Bell, Euan Conlan.