Reds v Berwick (Sept 17)

Reds Again Let Slip a Winning Position

Linlithgow  21 – 26  Berwick

Saturday 16 September 2017

Berwick were the visitors to Mains Park on Saturday for the third rugby match in this season’s BT East 1 league. The Reds had come close in their opening two matches, claiming losing bonus points in both games. Playing on a lush and verdant pitch under good conditions, they were looking to claim their first win of the season.

The Reds, missing a few players, gave a debut to last season’s u18 stand-off Gregor Stewart at centre alongside Mark Green, while veteran and former captain Stuart Jamieson returned to the line-up after an absence of a couple of years.

Led out by mascot and Wee Reds player Joe Withnell and cheered on by the Ladies, who had sponsored the match, the Reds were straight on to the attack and within 5 minutes had the lead courtesy of a Jack Frame penalty. The Reds were back on the attack soon after, taking play deep into the Berwick half. Mark Caddle, playing at number 8 after his run out at centre the previous week, was to the fore with one run in particular gaining significant ground. One of his breaks drew in cover defenders and after a couple of additional phases of play the ball came out to stand-off John Chapman. With the defence stretched he slotted through a beautiful grubber kick which centre Mark Green recovered with not inconsiderable skill before diving over the line near the posts for a try which Jack Frame converted.

Ten points to nil up after only 10 minutes and playing all the rugby, it looked good for the Reds to kick on and run in a few more tries. However, Berwick had other thoughts and recovering the kick-off, after uncertainty amongst the Reds’ ranks, they set up attack after attack either round the fringes of the ruck or with a crash-ball inside centre move. The Reds’ defence held up well for a while, a couple of Jamie March tackles standing out, however the pressure finally told and from a ruck near the Linlithgow line, they crashed over for a converted try to pull the score back to 10-7 in favour of the Reds.

The Reds bounced back straight from the kick off as Berwick were penalised for offside after a knock-on at the restart, Jack Frame coolly slotting a long-range kick to stretch the Reds’ lead back out to 13-7. At this stage Neil Lockhart came on for Stuart Jamieson, who had to leave the pitch with a knock, and he soon featured as the Reds went back on to the attack.

The first wave of attacks was spoilt when the Reds guddled and lost the ball at a ruck close to the Berwick line. They were soon back on the attack again and this time the final pass went to a Berwick player. Third time lucky though, as close to half-time the Reds ran back ball from the halfway line, down the left side of the pitch. The move was started by winger Cammie Murrie and was continued through several pairs of hands, involving John Chapman, Gregor Stewart, then Andrew Archer whose switch in play and offload put Lewis Herdman away before a final pass to Neil Lockhart who dived over near the corner for the try of the match.

The halftime whistle sounded shortly afterwards with the Reds 18-7 up and looking to build on their lead in the second half.

Once again this resilient Berwick team had other ideas and were back in the game after only 2 minutes of the second half with a converted try after a forwards’ rumble. This brought the score back to 18-14, with Berwick breathing down the neck of the Reds’ team.

There were no scores over the next 20 minutes, but it was apparent to the spectators that Berwick had gained the ascendancy, playing a simple pressure and territorial game. The Reds defence was resolute, but too often they kicked away possession giving Berwick back the ball to relaunch their attacks.

On 25 minutes, the Reds looked to have broken up another Berwick attack and turn over the ball. However an ill-judged attempted fly-hack by a Reds player, who had an opportunity to fall on and recover the ball, went straight to a Berwick player and led to a converted try which gave the visitors the lead for the first time in the match.

The Reds seemed to have switched off and on the half-hour mark conceded a further unconverted try and nearly gave away another after a bizarre restart gone wrong. Now 29-18 down, having led 18-7 at halftime, the Reds finally clicked into gear and, although a little frantic at times began to put the Berwick defence through the mill. It was only a combination of heroic defence and wasteful scorning of overlaps that stopped the wave of Reds attacks. After a couple of penalties close to the line, which they tapped and ran, the Reds finally elected to take the 3 points – Jack Frame duly obliging – from a third penalty.

Now within a score of Berwick the Reds were back on the attack as the game went into injury time, however Berwick remained resolute for the closing plays of the match.

Final Score: Linlithgow 21 –  26 Berwick

Berwick will be pleased with their performance having made the most of their chances, while the Reds will be disappointed that they failed to capitalise on their early pressure, with a number of scoring opportunities not taken. However, as they say about football strikers, “as long as the chances are being created, the goals will come”. The Reds just need to be patient, stick to their game plan and the results will follow.

Linlithgow

Jack Frame; Cammy Murrie, Gregor Stewart, Mark Green, Lewis Herdman; John Chapman, Jamie March; Ally McLean, Chris Archer, Michael Robertson; Stuart Jamieson, Sean Hagerty; Andrew Archer, Craig Scott (captain), Mark Caddle.

Subs (all played): Euan Mochrie, Neil Lockhart, Ross Martin and Chris Ronalson.