Reds at Livingston (March 18)

Sunshine Rugby from Both Sides in Cracking Derby Double-Header

Livingston  39 – 49  Linlithgow

Saturday 24th March 2018

The Reds travelled through to Livingston for this double-header league and West Lothian Cup match on the back of two consecutive bonus point wins, albeit it was four weeks since they’d last played owing to a combination of bad weather and the 6 Nations’ championship.

The Reds had to dig deep into their squad, with long-term injuries and non-availability impacting on selection, however they were able to call on eight 2nd XV regulars to boost their matchday squad for this big double-header.

On a beautiful sunny spring day, Livingston kicked off with the wind at their backs, however Linlithgow had most of the opening 10 minutes play in a bright start that came to nothing as Livingston scored an unconverted try with their first foray into Reds’ territory (5-0). During the next 25 minutes, play was fairly evenly matched, Linlithgow kicking two penalties through John Strachan to Livingston’s one, taking the score to 8-6 in favour of the home team.

Then in the final two minutes of the half, the game burst into life as first Livingston scored a converted try out wide, before Rab Cairns pounced on a wayward pass on halfway to claim his own kick ahead and run 40 metres to score a try under the posts that was converted by John Strachan to leave the half-time score at 15-13 in favour of the home team.

It turned out that this late flurry of scoring was a sign of things to come as both sides traded scores in an open and thoroughly entertaining second half, that contrasted the styles of play – Livingston playing to the strengths of their big pack, while the Reds played a blend of fast and open rugby with their backs making the most of chances that came their way.

First up, Livingston extended their lead with a penalty in front of the posts, before a great break and run from his own half by winger Lewis Mayo Herdman put in centre John Chapman looping round Mayo before running in from 30 metres. John Strachan converted to give the Reds the lead for the first time at 18-20. This just spurred the home side into action and their big no 8 took advantage of a mismatch out wide, running round a Reds’ prop to score a converted try, restoring Livingston’s lead at 25-20.

The Reds replacement prop, Adam Scott, then had a barnstorming run from deep in his own half, a move that was carried on by Rab Cairns, whose clever kick ahead forced the Livi full back to scramble the ball into touch in his own 22, under pressure from Cairns and Herdman. From the resultant lineout, stolen by Livi, the stand-off’s attempted clearance kick was charged down by Sean Hagerty and John Strachan was first to react to score a try which he himself converted to restore the Reds lead at 25-27.

The Reds then made an unusual, but planned substitution, which saw Andrew Whitelaw come on at centre, replacing Mark Caddle who moved to the back row, in turn replacing Euan Mochrie who moved to hooker, with debutant hooker Colin Devlin coming off after a fine game. This move by the Reds’ coaching team was shown to be inspired as within 7 minutes, Andrew ‘Paws’ Whitelaw had claimed a fine brace of tries, the first after fellow centre John Chapman had pounced on a dropped pass on halfway to hack through, with the supporting Whitelaw claiming the touchdown after Chapman had been taken out after kicking ahead near the Livi line.

His second came after Livingston had scored a converted try through one of their big forwards, as he made a fine outside break from his own half, as the ball was spun out along the Reds’ threequarters. As he crossed halfway, he stepped outside a covering player before standing up and stepping the full back for one of the tries of the match. Both Whitelaw’s tries were converted by John Strachan and, after the flurry of scoring from both sides, the Reds now held the lead at 32-41.

Back came Livingston though and another of their big forwards crashed over from 5 metres after several phases of excellent build up play, bringing the score back to 39-41, with still 10 minutes to play. By now the Walker brothers were on for Linlithgow and, it was a high tackle on Ally Walker that resulted in a penalty for the Reds which John Strachan stroked over to extend the Reds lead to 39-44. The hanging Livingston restart was once again excellently fielded by Neil Lockhart and, this time, the Reds executed a perfect ‘exit’ with a fine Strachan kick.

With 5 minutes to go, the Reds back spotted an opportunity out wide left and, from the halfway, the ball was spun out to John Chapman who gave a beautifully timed pass to ‘Mayo’ Herdman, which the wing converted into a fine and deserved try in the corner, extending the Reds lead to 39-49.

Livingston came back strongly in the last 5 minutes, plus at least a further 5 minutes injury time, however the Reds defence was more than a match and resolute and committed tackling kept the home team at bay until referee Ronnie Innes blew the final whistle.

This was an excellent performance by a committed Reds’ team, with every single member of the squad playing their part. John Strachan, at stand-off had his best game of the season and his personal haul of 24 points would normally be enough to claim a man-of-the-match award, but such was the contribution of others that it would be wrong to single out any individual in this regard.

It was a proud Reds’ captain, Jamie March, who stepped forward to claim the West Lothian Cup from the Livingston President in the clubhouse after the match. For the spectators, this had been a pulsating match from which both sides could take great credit.

Next week the Reds are at home to Broughton in BT East 1 (kick off at 3pm) and, depending on availability, it is hoped to arrange a match for the 2s.

Linlithgow

Rab Cairns; Ross Tulloch, Mark Caddle, John Chapman, Lewis Herdman; John Strachan, Jamie March (captain); Calum McKeown, Colin Devlin, Matt Sommerville; Steven Grant, Neil Lockhart, Euan Mochrie, Sean Hagerty and Kieran Cochrane.

Subs (all used) – Adam Scott, Ally Walker, Andrew Whitelaw, Cammy Walker.

Match photos courtesy of Graham Black