Match Report for Saturday 5th January 2019
Accies RFC v Howe of Fife at Duffus Park
“A game of action and incident”
This was the rearranged fixture from December the 15th and I am sure both sets of players and coaches were regretting the lack of recovery time from the festive celebrations. There had only been one training session available since before Christmas. So, with no real preparation and several players unavailable for the Accies coaches they were faced with some difficult selection decisions to make, in particular within the structure of the back division where the two regular centres were unavailable. With Josh Waldin returning for his first game of the season after a serious shoulder injury, Adam Lowry moved to 10 and Cameron Wray took one step out to 12. Gordon McGuire fitted into his more accustomed position of outside centre and we were set to go!
It was clear from the start that Howe saw this as a must win game, with Accies just 5 points ahead and one place in the league above them. They had run Accies close in the first encounter at New Annieslnad when they just missed out on a losing bonus point with a 40 – 31 defeat. Therefore it was not a surprise that their forwards were running into contact with determination and their backs looked lively and quick. Early Accies defence looked good and the line speed was excellent, so the game remained very much in the middle of the pitch. The first score came somewhat unexpectedly when from a loose pass by Howe, Kane Greggain, who was all over Duffus Park today, saw the chance and intercepted the pass to romp home from 45 metres out. A good conversion by Gordon McGuire saw Accies 7 – 0 up, slightly against the run of play, it has to be said.
Howe were quickly back on the attack and some quick ball transference and hard running saw their centre pick up a chip through to score a well-deserved try and with the conversion from wide out being missed the game was balanced at 7 – 5.
At this point in the game the Accies pack started to dominate the set piece, they were pushing their opponents all over the ground at scrum time. This was clearly causing Howe some trouble and over the next 20 minutes they managed to get two pushover tries. These are credited to the superb number 8, Ryan Sweeney, but were a real credit to the whole pack. One conversion and Accies were looking confident and 17 points clear at 19 – 5.
The Howe supporters were clearly concerned that with the dominance of the Accies pack their forwards would tire and their ability to pick and go with energy would be diminished. However a momentary lack of concentration, with the first half nearly over, by the Accies defence saw the Howe fullback clear with 20 metres to the line and nobody was going to stop him. A good conversion and suddenly Howe were within 7 points. The whistle was blown and the first half had come to an end. The Accies supporters were disappointed but still feeling confident that their pack would continue to dominate the game.
Half-time 19 – 12
A side that scores just at half time is usually given a real confidence boost and so it proved as Howe started the second half with real determination and their forwards were in confident form but after 5 or so minutes Accies pack were reasserting their authority. Howe of Fife had changed their prop at half time and the first scrum saw no changes as the Howe pack were driven back. Accies were now on the front foot again and working their way into the Howe 22. Another scrum 15 metres out saw the pressure being once again applied and the referee decided that a yellow card was required. The new prop left the pitch but Howe appeared to be unable to replace him so the referee had to make the decision to go to uncontested scrums. However from the scrum at the penalty point Accies produced a beautiful backs move which saw Kris Mathie cross in the corner. Difficult conversion missed but Accies now ahead 24 – 12
However the fact that the Howe forwards were now not under pressure at scrum time seemed to give them a lift and cause Accies to have to readdress how they were to replace their major advantage. Howe’s confidence was restored very quickly when after some hard running and carrying by their forwards and then quick transference saw their fullback cross for another try. Good conversion saw the gap down to 5 points again. 24 – 19
The Howe prop was now returned to the fray and Accies supporters were feeling that the advantage of superior scrummaging was back in place. However at the next scrummage, signals from the Howe coach to their Captain saw him address the referee and whatever was said the referee informed Chris Johnstone, Accies Captain, that scrums would remain uncontested.
This clearly raised the Howe spirits and after some hard running by the refreshed Howe forwards and it has to be said some weak tackling from Accies a simple ball out to their strong running hooker saw him cross for a simple try. The successful conversion saw Howe take the lead for the first time in the game. 24 – 26
The home crowd were now clearly looking for their team to tie up the game in the final 5 minutes and get the 5 points that could have been such a season changer. Accies supporters were all talking about the issue of uncontested scrums and why Howe were breaking through our defence and taking the lead. Despite all this it was only the Accies players who were still thinking they could win.
Howe’s stand-off was clearly under instruction to keep Accies inside their own half and by kicking and strong follow ups keep Accies under pressure. However from one of these kick and chases, Kris Mathie, who had worked tirelessly all afternoon, broke the first up tackle and went on one of his maize runs, but it looked as if his break was covered by the determined cover defence. Well Kris had other ideas and after getting past the first cover defender he continued his run. The Accies supporters were now on their feet and getting excited. Kris was now clear and heading for the 22 and the Accies supporters were shouting encouragement and the Howe supporters crying for someone to stop him. There were only seconds on the clock left and Howe’s scrum half was bearing down on Kris with a clear determination to save the game for his team. His tackle was made with Kris 2 metres short of the try line, had the number 9 saved the day? Well no, because Kris saw his teammate Gordon McGuire, running up inside him and with a superb offload, Gordon ran in the final metres to fall over the line and score the winning try, and give the Accies supporters a happy journey home, but a sad Howe team and supporters who clearly thought they had done it… 29 – 26!
Full-time 29 – 26
This game was full of incident, and in many ways full of quality handling rugby. Howe had good hard running forwards and a back division that had pace and superb players in their number 13 and 15, who clearly controlled how their back division worked and caused Accies a great deal of problems. Whilst Accies were dominating the set piece they had a clear advantage over their opponents and were giving the back line some really good quality ball. It was clear that as the game progressed the Howe forwards influence in the loose was being reduced and they were finding it harder to be effective as they had to work so hard in the tight. The move to uncontested scrums, after the yellow card, clearly gave them an advantage and removed Accies main influence on the game. It released their forwards to work harder in open play. The only concern and confusion for Accies supporters was as to why, when they started the second half with contested scrums and when the yellow carded prop returned to the game, at the first scrum, the Howe Captain spoke to the referee and we continued with uncontested scrums? It clearly altered the whole structure of the game in the second half. Accies defence and confidence seemed to suffer and the Howe’s forwards were running with renewed energy. However despite the concerns in the stand, Accies players showed a real determination to play to the final whistle and ended up with 5 points instead of 2, which could be very important come March!