After all the wind and rain of the past weeks we all had Robert Cheape and his staff to thank for producing another great surface to play on: perhaps he even had a hand in the weather too for we kicked off under a blue sky with the sun shining – a very nice change indeed for the players and the healthy crowd of supporters that had turned out to be entertained.
And as if to compliment the conditions, the game itself got underway positively with Helensburgh tackling everything that was thrown at them as Accies drove and drove again up the pitch. In truth however, neither side actually threatened the others try-line throughout the first quarter and perhaps the most exciting moment of the period was seeing Ref Eddie Crozier positively sprint toward the ‘Burgh technical area to advise Coach Bill that if he didn’t tone things down a bit, he’d be up before the Beak first thing on Monday morning!
Shortly thereafter, just as the second quarter was getting underway a penalty to Accies gave young Jamie Loomes the opportunity he’d been practicing to take all week, and he calmly slotted a good effort between the uprights to give us the lead. 3-0
This seemed to spur both sets of players on and the pace of the game was duly stepped up, and we were entertained to some good rugby from both sides. But it was Accies however who found the way forward and after some positive phase play by the forwards, young Loomes released the backs, and some slick handling created space for veteran winger Mike Hermes to pop over into the corner. Once again Jamie Loomes took the conversion and despite it being practically on the touchline, it sailed through the posts with gas to spare. 10-0
Though half time was nearly upon us, Accies kept up the pressure and a second try soon followed: a strike against the head on the halfway, was sharply moved down the narrow side and a superbly timed pass saw debutant winger Chris Jubb belt-up the stand-side, hand-off the covering No8 and sprint 25 meters to cross the whitewash more or less under the posts. Loomes nailed the conversion once again and at half-time, Accies were in control. 17-0
In fairness to Helensburgh their half-time team talk must have got them fired up because they opened up the second half with real determination and within two minutes got themselves into Accies 22. Several penalty chances to take a kick at goal were spurned by the very lively ‘Burgh no.9 who tapped and went, driving his forwards on towards our line. But the Accies “D” remained resolute and we held them out with some ferocious tackling for a good 10 minutes. Eventually, an award almost in front of the posts from the ever-charitable Ref Crozier was just too good an opportunity to pass up and, if only to reward the ‘Burgh pack for all their efforts, their captain opted for “3”: young Sterry stepped up to oblige. 17-3
Notwithstanding all that pressure, Accies raised the pace from the re-start and seriously upped the tempo. Recycled ball from the forwards on the “Burgh 22 was quickly fired out to Loomes who popped the ball to Kiran running a line that any No. 12 would have been proud of: the midfield defence obligingly (and for the first time in the afternoon) parted for him and over the gain line he strided, stretching his legs to take his score without a hand being laid upon him. Once again Loomes marched up with his T in hand and duly did the needful to keep his 100% record for the day going: suddenly it was 24 – 3.
Almost inevitably then and with Accies by this time in control of the game with some 20 minutes or so to go, whispers suggesting that a bonus point win might be on the cards started to circulate amongst the Accies Loyal. But such talk was always misplaced – Helensburgh are a good outfit, with talented players and one thing that they never do is “give up”. Up the pitch they processed and, once again, after a series of penalties were awarded against us in our half by Ref “Santa” Crozier, the ever positive Jonny Drake stole over for their first try. Uncharacteristically (for he is normally a very accurate place-kicker), full back Sterry missed the conversion: 24 – 8 then.
Helensburgh again crossed our line and, in truth, we let them for our decision-making in defence for once let us down: we simply weren’t organised enough and their No.13 bundled himself over with his back-row partners steaming in behind him to drive him over. Again the conversion was missed and, at 24 – 13, it turned out that the last points had been scored for what little remained of this match.
The loss of this second try did seem to shake us from our collective slumber for the dying embers of the game and we did make a couple of attempts to secure a fourth and bonus point try. But the truth was, the match was over as a contest, we knew it, they knew it and so did the Ref who brought things to a close sharp-ish as darkness started to envelope NA and the temperature dropped markedly: final score Accies 24 Helensburgh 13.
All-in-all this was a positive performance from us, reversing the loss down at Ardencaple that we’d suffered earlier in the season at the hands of a physical and highly competitive outfit – and they were no less so in this encounter. Possibly the real difference this time out was that we got our collective “s**t” together better than “Burgh did, for once we were quite clinical in taking our chances and, for the majority of the game, played well as a unit. Strong performances from all of our “back 5” laid the foundation for how we tried to play, the midfield were resolute against everything that was thrown at them and our back 3, particularly Nifty “Chris” Wright, posed a threat all afternoon. There’s still work to be done on the training pitch, particularly with Irvine next up, but Coach Coups and his team have gotta be pleased that 2014 got off to such a positive start.
MOTM – Loomsey, and not just for his performance with the boot, was a genuine contender and doubtless his future will be littered with this particular accolade in reports to come. But for his all-round effort, a sparkling bit of technical skill in taking that crucial one against the head that led to our second try and the fact that he didn’t take a backward step all afternoon, our MOTM this week goes to the smallest guy on the pitch, Westy: the boy done good, really good!
Ref Watch – Clubhouse banter differed significantly on this matter, and that difference didn’t just depend on whether your team won or lost! But the bottom-line at our level has gotta be: a) did things descend into chaos? – no they didn’t. Did the game flow? – by and large, it did. Were there any real “howlers”? – no there weren’t, though the Ref really, REALLY needs to work on his “crouch, touch, set” procedure. How was the breakdown refereed? – well, we undoubtedly came off worst on the penalty count there, but over the piece he was reasonably consistent, at least according to the majority of the players who mused on the subject over a shandy or 2 in the bar afterwards. So for these reasons, and not least because he chose the fluro-orange shirt yesterday rather than subject us all to the particularly nasty “Barbie Pink” number that seems to be so “de rigueur” amongst the refs in West 1 this season, Eddie C gets a solid 7 / 10 from us this week.