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Wigtownshire 3, Lenzie 46

Wigtownshire took to the field on Saturday for their last home game of the season.

With only one more game to play in their league campaign, it was very important that they give a good account of themselves.

Their precarious position near the bottom of the table demanded maximum effort from those involved. Unfortunately, their opponents on the day were vying for honours at the top of the league and when they met at Lenzie four weeks previously, the home side showed their superiority in running out 55-5 winners.

It was a very much changed ’Shire side that took to the field at home, with 10 changes in personnel. This included four of the regular senior players being out due to other commitments, injury and a disciplinary ban. For those taking part, it was likely to be a hard day. This was further compounded when team stalwart and vice-captain Keith McNeil picked up an injury during the pre-match warm-up. He did make the starting line-up but how long he would be able to continue was the question in everyone’s mind.

Lenzie kicked off on a cold, wet afternoon with the wind blowing across the pitch from the north. They immediately went on the attack, recovering the ball and driving up the park. The home side scrabbled to defend from the off, tackling and disrupting the visitors’ flow.

The attack was halted short of the line, but Lenzie had the scrum feed in a great position. They used their bulk and power to capitalise on this, crossing the line with two minutes on the clock for an unconverted try.

This was an early wake-up call for the home side, if one was needed. They had to pull things together fast. With Adam Paxton playing his first game of the season, Micky Hastie and Scott Campbell only having played two and three games respectively, and a number of others playing out of their usual positions, they all need dig deep to give themselves any chance in the match.

From the restart ’Shire took the game to the visitors. They gathered the ball and set off, only to be halted illegally. Callum Austin stepped up to take the awarded penalty. The kick unfortunately slipped wide.

The foray,however, lifted the home side and a short time later Austin got another penalty chance following a McNeil run, similarly stopped by Lenzie. He did not miss this time, opening the ’Shire account.

The home side seemed to have found their shape and direction and were giving Lenzie a hard time. Runs by captain Andy Farquhar, John Dalrymple and Jason McKie all caused the visitors problems in defence. Lenzie, however, remained dangerous with ball in hand. When they did get possession they made great progress towards the ’Shire line. Only solid tackling from the local boys kept them at bay.

With 26 minutes on the clock, the fast hands and great support play saw the visitors manage to break down the home defence, scoring their second try out on the wing. The conversion kick missed.

At this time McNeil had to leave the park due to his injury, and this first substitution saw Andy Graham come on for his fourth game of the season.

Wigtownshire responded well once again, driving up the pitch. They pressed forward and intimated their intent by kicking penalties to touch to give themselves attacking positions.

McKie continued to impress with his powerful runs, breaking tackles and making ground. They just could not cross the last few yards for the score. Lenzie’s defence held and they were very dangerous on the counter. With half-time approaching they spun the ball wide and hammered up the wing. Good passing and support brought them right onto the line, and only great tackling by Dalrymple and Kieran Little prevented them from having a clear run in.

Despite being over the line, referee Graeme Filmer adjudged the ball held up by the battling defence. The Lenzie pack squared up for a five-metre scrum and used the platform to force their way over for their third try. This time the conversion was good and when the half-time whistle blew the score stood at 17-3.

’Shire, disappointed about the score just before the break, were more positive and felt that if they could capitalise when they got field position, they could turn the game around. Fortunes, however, were not to favour the home side.

Lenzie settled into their powerful running game and were especially good with ball in hand. Their players are difficult to stop and good at off-loading to support runners. It was very difficult to disrupt them when in full flow. The ’Shire players gave their all, but as the game progressed, the injury count on the home side began to take its toll. Lenzie scored five tries, converting two of them, during the second half.

Wigtownshire were unable to add to their score. The Wigtownshire boys did everything they could, putting their bodies on the line in an effort to stem the flow. All four ’Shire replacements took to the field as the count of cuts, knocks and strains rose. Some of those who came off went back on as the injuries continued to grow and ’Shire coach Alan McKie tried to shore up the creaking team.

Eventually near the end the home side were reduced to 14 players. They never gave up but were well beaten on the day by a strong side, well deserving of their position in the league.

On Saturday Wigtownshire travel to Clydebank for their last game of the season. They then face a long wait to establish their fate in the relegation stakes. One side in their league has seven games still to play after next weekend and most others four or five. Not to mention the possibility of further league reconstruction which might impact on the situation. Nevertheless with the summer break on the horizon, the side hope to finish on a high.

Looking to the future, it is also pleasing to note that Eddie Stevenson and a team of young coaches have restarted the mini rugby training at the club. It caters for Primary 4–7 children, boys and girls, at the club for an hour on Sunday mornings from 10am. It is hoped that, if there is enough interest, this will continue through the summer. Anyone interested in taking part, both as a participant or a coach, should get along and join in.

Team: K Little, C Hose, H McGeoch, J McKie, J Dalrymple, A Farquhar (captain), C Austin; M Hastie, S Campbell, R Drysdale, C McGregor, G Dunlop, C Stephens, A Paxton, K McNeil. Replacements: S Taggart, S Blain, A Graham, S Hannah.

Davie Hunter