Reds Leave it Too Late
Hawick Harlequins 18 – 17 Linlithgow
Saturday 17 January 2015
On a very cold winter’s day, with much of the rugby in Scotland postponed, including Linlithgow 2nds home game, the Reds travelled to play Hawick Harlequins in their latest BT East League 1 game. Although there was some snow still lying on the pitch (the Home Committee had cleared the lines to allow the game to go ahead), the ground was actually soft and very playable. As has been the story of the season so far, injury and unavailability resulted in six changes from the squad who played at North Berwick last week. The lack of consistency, cohesion and the failure of everyone to be following the same game plan, unfortunately, were to cost Linlithgow dear in the end.
The Reds started brightly with some excellent kicking from stand-off, Dougie Thomson, gaining Linlithgow some good field position. They were unable to capitalise and allowed the home team to clear their lines. Linlithgow continued to have the better of the early exchanges and it was no surprise when some excellent driving and support play by Stuart Cunningham, Ally Wood and Chris Archer tied-in the home defence and created space for the ball to be passed along to Euan Murray to dive over, unopposed, in the corner. The conversion was wide.
This early score was no more than Linlithgow deserved and the small group of visiting supporters now expected them to push on and score more points. However, instead they conceded a soft penalty from the restart and the home team converted it to pull the score back to 5-3.
The Reds then again pressed the self-destruct button when a speculative kick from the Quins’ full back was fielded in Linlithgow’s 22, only for the clearance kick to be charged down by the home side winger, who followed up to score in the corner. The conversion was missed but this gave the Quins an 8-5 lead. The rest of the half was a scrappy affair with both sides making several mistakes although Dougie Thomson was unlucky when an attempted penalty just shaved the wrong side of the post. This left the half time score at 8-5 to Hawick.
The Reds started the second half well and Captain Stuart Cunningham showed his intent when turning down a kickable penalty to go for a lineout in the corner. However unfortunately, his team mates were unable to match his intent as, first, the lineout was fumbled and then a penalty conceded. This was to be the story of the next twenty minutes as Linlithgow managed to build pressure to gain good field position and then either have the ball turned over or concede a penalty. Even when the home team had a player sin-binned for ten minutes for petulance, Linlithgow were unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage. In fact, it took one great try-saving tackle from fullback, Fraser Rankine, to avoid the home team scoring points while down to fourteen men.
Linlithgow continued to make too many errors and one was to cost them another try. A pressured clearance resulted in a Hawick lineout fifteen metres out from the Linlithgow line. Ally Wood managed to get up in front of the Quins’ jumper and palmed the ball back. However, while the Reds hesitated, the big Quins’ second row picked up the ball and carried two players over the line for a try near the posts, which was easily converted. Shortly thereafter the Reds conceded another penalty and Hawick extended their lead to 18-5.
Finally, the penny seemed to drop with the Linlithgow players that they were in a game and needed to increase the intensity. Unfortunately, however, there were only ten minutes of the match remaining. The Reds stepped up a gear and some excellent interlinking play between forwards and backs built the pressure and forced the home team to concede a number of penalties.
As the clock ticked down, the breakthrough finally came when Dougie Thomson managed to dive in at the corner. The referee indicated there were just two minutes left. The Reds needed to convert this try and then score another one. Unfortunately, John Strachan’s conversion attempt fell just short. Immediately from the restart the ball, was caught and moved to Tom Sneddon who broke through the Quins’ defence on half way and then outstripped the home defenders to score a magnificent solo try under the posts. John Strachan drop-kicked the conversion as quickly as possible,
However unfortunately, the two minutes had expired and the referee blew the final whistle, with the final score agonisingly close at Hawick Harlequins 18 Linlithgow 17. The Reds were left devastated but will ask themselves why it was only in the last ten minutes that they increased their intensity and followed their game plan because, when they did, they dominated the game..
Fraser Rankine; James Timlin, Euan Murray, Andrew Wood and Ross Plenderleith; Dougie Thomson and Russell Murdoch; Calum McKeown, Stuart Cunningham and Chris Archer; Garry Anderson and David Syme; Pat Bennie, Tom Sneddon and Alastair Wood.
Replacements (all used): Scott Herdman, Lewis Herdman and John Strachan.