Reds Win Under the Lights Against Welsh Visitors
Linlithgow 12 – 5 Furnace United
Friday 24 February 2017
Linlithgow Rugby Club has had a link with south-west Wales for many years now. The link, formerly with Pontyates RFC, has now passed on to Furnace United RFC and it was from this Club, on the outskirts of Llanelli, that over 50 Welsh rugby players and supporters made the journey north. Last year, the Reds had travelled down to play Furnace United for the first time, with the home team emerging as the winning team in a close match. The fixture was reversed this year, coinciding with the weekend of the Scotland v Wales international.
Without several hours hard work from Neil Dori-Muir and John Smith, this match would never have happened. Braving the heights in a cherry-picker, they got the floodlights working sufficiently for the match to go ahead on Lower Mains Park. Big thanks to both of them!
The rain had relented enough on Friday to enable a rather soggy pitch to dry out a bit and, although a drizzle started during the match, it didn’t rain fully again till after the final whistle.
At 6-45pm on Friday night, referee Paul Cyphus blew his whistle to start the match. Both teams had strong squads and over the course of the match, most players got a good run-out. Not surprisingly, with conditions not favouring champagne rugby, most of the match was played amongst the forwards and, judging by the amount of mud on the players at full-time, there would have been plenty healthy complexions the following day!
Territorially, the match was fairly even with Linlithgow having the upper hand in the first half, while Furnace United had the best of the second half. Both sides made commendable efforts to open the game out, however the conditions were difficult and the ball was spilt on a number of occasions. Tackling was strong from both sides and there was little to separate the sides over most of the match.
The one moment of magic in the first half resulted in a try for the home side. Winning possession near their opponents 10m line the Reds backs swung left. Stand-off Chris Ronalson, realising that the outside backs were covered, checked and put in a beautifully weighted kick ahead. Jack Frame, who looked the fastest player on the field, was playing outside centre and raced through to touch the ball down over the Furnace United line for a well-worked try, which he then converted himself to give the Reds a 7-0 half-time lead.
The second half saw Furnace United gain territorial ascendancy but the Reds defence was robust and their set piece was solid. From a Furnace attack deep into the Reds 22, the Reds turned the ball over. A long pass found man-of-the-match Sean Hagerty in space under his own posts. Realising the space out to his right, Sean put a lovely long pass out to Jack Frame. The young centre spotted a gap in the Furnace defence and turned on the afterburners. This took him up to the halfway line where he momentarily slowed slightly as the cover defence came across, before slipping into hyperdrive to run round the cover defence and score a 95 metre try. The run obviously took a lot out of Jack, as this reliable kicker was wayward with his attempted conversion.
The game’s most amusing moment came when after a superb piece of covering defending to clear up a loose ball deep in his own half, Reds hooker Euan Mochrie, blowing heavily, lined up on the wrong side at the ensuing line-out. It took him a few moments to realise what he had done, but by then all the players and spectators had spotted his error, which won him a special award at the end of the match!
There was just time near the end for visiting former Red Simon MacLennan to make a try saving intervention on his own line to highlight a cameo performance as a sub.
Hats off to Furnace United who never gave up. Indeed they finished the match with a try in the final play of the game, forcing their way over in a crowd of bodies in the mud after a period of sustained pressure. They continued their fine form into the after-match festivities which featured musical entertainment from the Christies and the Linlithgow Rugby Club Male Voice Choir, as well as singing from both teams. The tourists were a credit to their country and hopefully this will secure a long and fruitful link between the two clubs.
Russell Murdoch; Fraser Mochrie, Jack Frame, Stuart Cunningham; Chris Ronalson, Jamie March; Calum McKeown, Euan Mochrie, Steven Grant; Mark Caddle, Sean Hagerty; Patrick Bennie, Cameron Dori-Muir, Stuart Bell (capt).
Lewis McKie, Colin McMorrin, Jeff Martin, Ally McLean, James Timlin, Drew Sommerville, Simon MacLennan, Graeme Birrell and Bradley Lewis.