Reds Outclassed in Shield Final;
Murrayfield Wanderers Claim Trophy
BT Edinburgh Shield Final
Linlithgow 10 – 66 Murrayfield Wanderers
Saturday 18 February 2017
Last Saturday, Mains Park staged the Final of the BT Edinburgh Shield with the winners of the regional trophy going on to the semi-final of the National Shield Competition. Linlithgow RFC were playing host to Murrayfield Wanderers who are running away with the BT East League One title and had already defeated the hosts comfortably home and away this season.
Home team mascots, cousins Cameron and Craig McCallum, led the Reds out with captain Craig Scott. The home side were under the cosh straight from kick off and Wanderers notched an early score under the posts which was converted. At this stage, the only Reds player who had managed to handle the ball was centre, Andrew Whitelaw. After twelve minutes the Reds had their first spell of possession and worked their way upfield through a sequence of penalties but Wanderers hit back and their forwards punched their way through the midfield. As they drove towards the home side try line, the Reds defence tried to hold Wanderers out but the attacking player managed to stretch out and score again under the posts. Linlithgow were 14-0 with only fourteen minutes played.
When Wanderers played Linlithgow at home before Christmas, they had played a fast-paced backs game but this time they were relying on a more conservative approach with their bigger forwards dominating the exchanges. This was proving as effective, however, and, in the 22nd minute, Wanderers drove a line-out forward from outside Linlithgow’s 22 metre area. This had gathered considerable momentum before the Reds managed to halt it. Their defence was fully stretched, however, which meant that when the Wanderers burly front row player burst forward he was able to score under the posts.
Three minutes later, the Reds were trying to mount an attack from midfield when Wanderers turned the ball over and raced forward to score another converted try. At this point Wanderers were rampant and it was only two minutes later that they scored the best try so far with a move that took them three-quarters of the length of the field. With half an hour on the clock, Linlithgow were now 35-0 down.
The Reds stepped their game up and had a spell of possession with, first, Cameron Dori-Muir and then Jack Frame making good ground into the visitors 22. Linlithgow stayed in the Wanderers half and then Andrew Whitelaw showed good rugby nous. The clock was nearly on half time and the referee had signalled last play so Whitelaw, knowing a penalty was coming, had a pop at a drop goal from far out. His kick sailed through the posts to put the Reds on the scoreboard at half time, 35-3.
Steven Grant had replaced Michael Robertson before half time and, at the interval, Cal Thomson and John Chapman came on for the Linlithgow. Nevertheless, the Wanderers riposte to Linlithgow’s score on half time was immediate, with a converted score in the first minute of the second half to stretch their lead. Ten minutes into the half, Whitelaw limped off, with Chris Ronalson coming back on for him.
To their credit, Linlithgow were plugging away and they had their best spell of the match. Three times in quick succession, they threatened the visitors’ try line. Calum McKeown and then Mark Caddle broke forward before Sean Hagerty was stopped short. The ball was recycled and sped along the Reds back division. Unfortunately, although they had an overlap on the wing, the ball was spilled.
Almost inevitably, Wanderers hit back from this spell of pressure and ran the ball the length to score in the left corner. This resulted in the first missed conversion of the day. As the game neared the hour mark, Stuart Cunningham fed the ball to Jack Frame who burst forward and was there to supported him before the Reds spilled the ball, as an attack was looking promising.
The pattern of the game was re-established, however, and in the 67th minute a Wanderers try was chalked off. A minute later the visitors’ winger put a foot in touch before touching down. The score was not long delayed and in the 69th minute Wanderers scored again. This try was converted, although when they scored again, with five minutes to go, the kick was missed.
Linlithgow had not given up as the clock was winding down. Their young players had been knocked back in the tackle time and time again but picked themselves up to have another go. In a final spell of Reds pressure, Wanderers had a player sent to the sin bin. Immediately Linlithgow surged forward and Sean Hagerty capped a personal fine performance with a burst though the defence to stretch and score a well-deserved try. Jack Frame added the conversion.
Wanderers were not going to allow a fairy-tale ending, however, and they finished off their own performance with a converted try in the last minute to bring up the final score 66-10. As is clear from the scoreline, this was a convincing win for the Edinburgh side, although the Reds can take considerable credit for the spirit in which, although outmuscled, they played right to the end.
There is now another break in competitive action to allow Six Nations rugby before the Firsts travel to Ross High on 4 March, although Linlithgow will play host this Friday evening to visiting Welsh side, Furnace, on the eve of the Scotland – Wales game.
Jack Frame; Euan Murray, Andrew Whitelaw, Scott Watson , and Cammie Murrie; Chris Ronalson and Jamie March; Calum McKeown, Stuart Cunningham and Michael Robertson; Mark Caddle and Sean Hagerty; Euan Mochrie, Craig Scott (c) and Cameron Dori-Muir.
Substitutes: Cal Thomson, Steven Grant, Graeme McCallum and John Chapman
The final scoreline doesn’t make good reading for any Linlithgow supporter, however hats off to Murrayfield Wanderers who played some excellent rugby – “best we’ve played this season” said their President David Young.
Murrayfield Wanderers have only been beaten once this season, in a close match at North Berwick, and stand poised to win BT East 1 and gain promotion to BT National 3 next season where, on the evidence of Saturday, they should be challenging for promotion again.