So then, after the travails of a bruising league encounter at Carrick last week, it was back to the BT Shield Competition earlier today in sunny yet curiously welcoming Clydebank.
Admittedly, our starting line-up for a variety of reasons (notably “hair-appointments”, shopping trips for soft-furnishings and “prom queens” demanding attention against the predictable threat of a “withdrawal of privileges”!) looked somewhat unfamiliar to an educated Accie eye. But as disappointing as this was to note in some Glasgow household’s this morning whilst the team sheet was being considered over a bowl of Rice Krispies, it meant that opportunities were there for the taking to those provided by Coups with the opportunity to start. And, pleasingly, those selected did indeed take those chances.
We were always going to be the bookie’s favourites to win this encounter – the key question at kick-off for the hardy band of travelling supporters was just in what manner would we do it? A half-hearted, intermittent display or could we (finally) this season play to something like our full potential?
Well, in truth, whilst we certainly came closer to the latter than the former throughout the 80, an honest look in the mirror by all players tomorrow morning will bring the realisation that we are genuinely capable of much, much more. But let’s not get too introspective and spoil the moment! Let’s get to the good stuff of what turned out to be one of our biggest wins in the last few seasons!
Ref Maclean started us off at 12.30pm sharp and with the wind at our backs and having received the ball from the kick-off, Kiran promptly took us 30m up field. A great start but a dubious decision against us from the ref – offiside? not releasing? not rolling away? – instantly painted him as the villain-of-the-peace in the eyes of the visiting support. A subsequent kick to touch from Clydebank gave us the opportunity to “nick” the subsequent line-out and, after a couple of phases, a wide ball from Loomsey to Jason and then Kiran, gave winger Chris J the opportunity to go over for our first on just 5 minutes. Loomsey then proceeded to close his eyes and squaffed the conversion! 0 – 5.
Just a minute later Bondi skipped and stumbled his way through a couple of despairing tackles after a great break to add the second – and Loomsey then added the extras having learned that successful kickers do it with their “Eyes Wide Open” (or so she said!) 0 – 12.
On 11mins the forwards won great turnover ball, Hemana Takuira Mitai – you’ve gotta admit folks, for a rugby player, that’s just such a brilliant “handle” – broke superbly, handed off two of the opposition and then laid off to Bondi who romped in for his second. Loomsey then added : 0 – 19 .
After just another 4 minutes, our next came along though somewhat unexpectedly. Clydebank were looking lively but their attack broke down as a result of some poor handling in their backs, giving Bryden Jnr the opportunity to hack clear. Hem was particularly lively in recovering the ball and after some interplay involving Richie, Jason and Sam, Loomsey went over after a 20m free-romp to the line. He then duly added the extras: 0 – 26.
Bondi went in once again on 21 mins after some superb manual dexterity from Loomsey, who then complimented the score with a great conversion from out wide: 0 – 33 .
And he did it once again on 28 mins – I mean Bondi did and for his 4th with the second quarter barely underway! Clydebank by this stage were resorting to a few cute “blocking” tactics both on and off the ball that had Bryden Snr quite incandescent with fury as he patrolled the touchline in his familiar manner. But the boys rose above all the shenanigans, recycled the ball and our Dubai-bound winger shot through a gap in the defence to add to his tally. Loomsey added the conversion and we were in control at 0 – 40.
Perhaps our foot was taken off the gas a bit for the rest of the half, but to argue that would be disingenuous to our hosts. If there’s one thing that Clydebank don’t do, it’s that they don’t give up. Their forwards came at us hard and so it was not until stoppage time at the end of the first 40 that via some quick thinking from the lively Josh that we secured our next. A quick tap penalty from the no.9 saw him take off down the far touchline, ghost past one and then crash through a despairing cover tackle a la Aaron Smith to go over at the corner. 0 – 45 then, and Loomsey was almost forgiven for closing his eyes and sending the extras wide – there wasn’t an unhappy Accie on the touchline as the half-time whistle subsequently blew.
With the stiff wind now in our faces, Loomsey got the second half underway. Some of those “My-Glass-Is-Half-Full” Accie types opined to any poor sap that’d listen to them that it’d be a totally different game now that we’d be playing “into” rather than “with” the wind. But Bryden Jnr showed on 43 mins with a break of such genuine class and subtlety that even Conrad (or do I mean Stu?) Smith would have been delighted with that such fears were just “pants”. Having created his own space, beaten two men and gained some serious yards, like all good centres he off-loaded with precision to his winger, the “try-whore” that Bondi was fast becoming! Though in fairness to him, the winger did run a great supporting line to skip in once again into the corner. And even if the conversion was missed, at 0 – 50 “normal” service seemed to have resumed.
Enterprising interplay from both forwards and backs on 52 mins resulted in us getting an unfamiliar penalty 5m out. Josh was that bit more “switched on” than the defence, sent a wide ball out to Loomsey, it went through the centres and Stu came in on a great angle to add to his season’s tally. Though he “butchered” the subsequent conversion – it WAS a very good score – nobody blamed him: 0 – 55.
Arguably one of the best and most enterprising phases of play (for us at least) then followed. With Sam and Kiran taken off for a bit of a rest, Gav & DC joined the fray. A couple of midfield rucks saw a break by (forgive me, someone I’ve yet to identify) – answers in the “Comments” section below please – and saw both the forwards and backs romp up the field in a positively “tidal” way. Had the final pass from Chris J on the right wing only been slightly lower, slightly less weighted, the try of the game was on for Ker who’d appeared as if from nowhere – but he couldn’t hold it. Exciting stuff then but the resultant line-out gave Clydebank the opportunity to clear.
And they did, only for us to win the next line and see “Wilson” secure his first of the season for the 1sts on 60 mins. There’ll be more from that young man too in games to come, of that there’s no doubt! 0 – 60 and the conversion was missed.
Undaunted by the scoreline, Clydebank came hammering back at us and genuinely pounded our line for what seemed like an uncomfortably long period of time. If it hadn’t been for some truly “gritty” and determined “D” from our forwards, theirs would have scored. Instead, after 9 or 10 attempts at our line, their 9 decided to give their backs a-go, they fluffed their lines in all the excitement that was being generated and that man Bondi pounced onto a loose pass, and intercepted for a 80m dash to the line: Loomsey did what was necessary and it was 0 – 67 .
Clearly though the Clydebank forwards hadn’t read the script and, perhaps, encouraged by their previous foray into our 22, rumbled and trundled down towards our line thereafter. Successfully recycling it, they produced the ball for their backs who, after a couple of pretty determined efforts to throw it away, managed to get it to their winger who went over into the far left hand corner. With the conversion added, it was 7 – 67.
That score gave the home side more than just a little heart and back they came at us with some real determination. In fairness, they had little to lose by this stage of the game but another loose pass was well read by Stu who promptly romped up the field, then got tired after 40m and so off-loaded to the supporting (and fitter!) Loomsey who went over to make it 7 – 72 .
Chris went over on 70 mins which, with the extras, made it 7 – 79 and then came what was, in this scribes opinion, the try of the match – a quite brilliant piece of interplay from the guys which latterly involved Richie and then Hem, saw the young prop deliver an exquisite and subtle pass to Ker who steamed through like a 100m runner to add to our tally more or less under the posts: 7 – 86. Pace, movement and lines being run all over the place – it was a great thing to see!
Stu added another (I’m sorry, I can’t honestly remember quite what happened) to make it 7 – 91 and even if the conversion was charged down, thoughts on the touchline were turning to the “Magical 100”. We didn’t reach that landmark as it happened and, in the dying moments it was in fact Clydebank who nailed the final score to make it 12 – 91 .
Were those of us on the touchline a tad disappointed? Well, “Yes” we were just a bit, but as our own antipodean version of the “Cheeky Girls”, ably supported by physio Yvonne, pointed out afterwards “nobody got busted!”, and for that we do indeed have alot to be thankful for!
MOTM – take your pick. Seriously, there wasn’t a guy on our teamsheet who didn’t put in a seriously good shift for the “Blue & Whites” today. So Bondi, the answer’s “No”, you didn’t get MOTM for this one – you’ll just have to score more next week!
Ref Watch – have you ever tried to referee a senior match? It’s not a walk on the park, let me tell you. It’s a task that takes presence of mind, a thick-skin, the physiological impossibility of having eyes in the back of your head. I was crap at it. And I mean “C-R-A-P”. So, believe me, I don’t undervalue the role those who turn up week-in-week-out to officiate so that we can all watch our glorious game: in fact, I doff my hat to them. And I say that in all humility. But, for the love of the”Wee Man”, can the West of Scotland Referees Society not get it’s “sh*t” together, communicate with the Clubs and develop a consistent policy to be adopted by all refs, especially when it comes to the breakdown? Today, Mr MacLean took those of us on both touchlines to quite new and bewildering levels of incomprehension. Consequentially, our game today suffered not just for both sets of supporters, but (more importantly) for both sets of players – they just didn’t understand what was being asked of them. And so, Mr Stewart MacLean, it’s not a “10 from Len” for today’s performance, but a pretty lukewarm 6 out of 10 from (the bas*&rd) that is Craig Revel-Horwood.
And finally – a short and brief word about todays hosts, Clydebank RFC. A cracking wee club that, both on and off the park, exhibit all that’s good about rugby in the West. A positive attitude that saw them keep “having-a-go” right to the end despite the scoreline and rewarded their guys with points when countless others would have given up the fight. And that spirit was matched only by the hospitality and “bon-homie” that was to be found after the game in their Clubhouse. Have a good season boys!