Cracking Game to Bring in New Year
Linlithgow 27 – 30 Royal High
Saturday 15 January 2022
Report by David Mitchell
The Reds were appearing in the league at home for only the 3rd time this season and faced the champions elect in the shape of a strong Royal High team in what is usually a close encounter. The last 2 home games against Royal High resulted in a 38-38 draw followed by a 24-24 draw so expectations were set for another nail biter. The home side were also defending an unbeaten home record stretching back to January 2019 so there was much to play for.
Royal High kicked off and immediately disrupted the first home lineout and subsequent scrum and gained possession. This led to a period of early pressure and it was no surprise when the Reds conceded a penalty under the posts which was kicked by the visiting number 10. The home team responded well and after some sustained pressure, Royal High were penalised and Jack Frame kicked a nice penalty from about 40 metres to level the scores.
Royal High quickly regained the lead after another penalty and further increased it with a clever pre-planned lineout move resulting in a try out wide on the right. The home side roared back and began to secure some better ball at the scrum and the lineout which occasionally continued to misfire. After taking 2 quick tapped penalties, the home side moved the ball sweetly to the right and good handling by Neil Lockhart and Gregor Stewart allowed the latter to send winger Ross Tulloch over in the corner for a fine team try to reduce the deficit to 8-11 with half time approaching. Frame had one opportunity to tie up the scores but knocked his penalty kick to the right of the posts.
Half time – 8-11
Stuart Cunningham replaced Kyle Edmond for the second half but the visitors began to play to the strength of their forward pack and in particular their lineout superiority. They scored a try from a lineout catch and drive which was converted to increase their lead to 8-18. However the Reds fought back and worked their way up the field and only desperate fly hack kick denied Ross Tulloch a second try of the day. Thankfully this only slightly delayed a score for the home side when after an excellent dominant scrum, number 8 Ross Martin controlled the ball with his feet and dotted down for a try that delighted the home support. Frame added the conversion to bring the score to 15-18.
With the game evenly balanced, the Reds failed to shut down the run of the Royal High full back and he linked well with his team mates to get close to the home goal line. Another penalty was conceded and the visitors carried out a virtual carbon copy of their earlier try with a lineout catch and drive to score. This try was not converted and the next score was going to be crucial in deciding the outcome. Unfortunately for the home supporters, it was Royal High whose forwards again barrelled their way over the line to give them a 15-30 lead with about 15 minutes remaining. Euan Gunn replaced Colin Devlin and Cammy Walker replaced Ross Plenderleith and Cal Thomson replaced Mark Caddle as the coaches tried to freshen up the team.
All credit to the home side for their response in the final part of the game. They threw caution to the wind and refused some kickable penalties in pursuit of tries and bonus points. This effort led to Royal High’s discipline breaking down and they had 2 players yellow carded in the last 10 minutes giving the home side numerical advantage which they exploited well. Cammy Walker made some excellent breaks and his elusive running style had the visiting defence scrambling.
Eventually the Reds scored 2 tries in the last few minutes and had another disallowed as the referee was unsighted. From a lineout close to the visitors’ line, Fraser Mochrie barged his way over for a fine try.
Then Lewis Wells powered his way to a try with a few defenders on his back. Jack Frame converted the Wells try and the referee blew the whistle to end the match with Royal High hanging on to win 27-30. This scored gave the Reds 2 bonus points, 1 for scoring 4 tries and the other for being within 7 points of the winner on the day.
It is difficult to sum up the game as, although the final score was close, Royal High had enough up their sleeve to manage the game well when building and then defending a lead. Their 2 centres were excellent at snuffing out Reds’ attacks and they looked an extremely good centre pairing. The home side tried right until the end but an old failing was present, i.e. allowing teams to build a lead and then reacting with a barnstorming finish but just not enough to win.
Next week the 1sts are at home v Broughton and the 2nds are at home to Lasswade. Today we had an excellent crowd at Mains Park and let us hope for the same again next week.
15 Jack Frame
14 Ross Tulloch
13 Lewis Wells
12 Gregor Stewart
11 Ross Plenderleith
10 Aidan Rennison
9 Came Murrie
8 Ross Martin
7 Mark Caddle
6 Euan Mochrie (capt)
5 Neil Lockhart
4 Fraser Mochrie
3 Colin Devlin
2 Kyle Ormond
1 Calum McKeown
Subs – Euan Gunn, Stuart Cunningham, Cal Thomson and Cammy Walker