Today Accies were facing the team who had taken down the league leaders last Saturday with a 10 – 7 victory away at Biggar and Accies were trying to come to terms with last Friday night’s defeat away to GHK. So the scene was set for Peebles to continue their climb up the league table. As one supporter said to me before the match – “well what do you think will happen today; after all they thumped us when we played them at the start of the season?” my response of “let’s wait and see” was greeted with a serious look of incredulity!
So with the sun dropping in the sky and shinning in Accies eyes, Peebles kicked off. The early encounters were, as usual, were aimed at trying to establish some weakness in their opponents. Probably due to early nerves, both sides were making some minor handling errors. It was however clear that this Accies team, once again showing several enforced changes, were all up for this encounter. Their tackling was aggressive and fast and unlike some previous performances they were working in numbers rather than individually.
The scrums were relatively even despite the fact that we were missing two hookers and a prop. We were fielding a front row with our open side flanker at hooker and another back row player in the second row where we were also missing two locks, but to be honest every one of the 19 stepped up and made a difference. The coaches and players are working hard to perfect their game plan and it is beginning to show benefits.
Gradually the Accies pack were making inroads into the opposition 22 and then putting real pressure on the Peebles line, and after several pick and goes the ball was moved quickly across the back division and the left winger, Andy Brown, appeared outside the centres on the right and scampered over for a very well worked try. Kicking this season has been a real problem for Accies but today up stepped Chris Goodfellow, our strong prop, who has apparently been demonstrating his kicking skills at training , and converted the difficult kick with great aplomb and in the process putting Acciess 7 – 0 in front.
Accies were demonstrating some real skill and despite not dominating the scrum and lineout areas they were working hard to keep their opponents on the back foot. Again they worked themselves back inside Peebles half and were eventually awarded a penalty 35 metres out, but in front of the posts, well up stepped Chris, or has his teammates call him ‘Boris’ and again converted to put Accies 10 – 0 ahead and the crowd chanting his name. Accies have at long last found a kicker!
Peebles are sitting fifth in the league because they are a good team and play some very good rugby and from the kick off put Accies under real pressure. Accies defence was coping well but an offence at a breakdown gave Peebles stand off a relatively simple kick to bring the score back to 10 – 3
This clearly gave Peebles a boost and they now put together their best passage of 15 man rugby in the first half. They have a good well drilled pack and a stand-off that can clearly run and deploy their fast and elusive backs. They were pressing and looking very capable of scoring more points but for some determined defence. However from a scrum just 5 metres out as a result of a Peebles knock on, Accies looked as if they had a chance to clear the danger with a clearance kick, however Ross Cowan had a different idea and instead of kicking to touch he ran, straight between two attackers and broke free. Running faster than any other player on the park, he reached the last defender, slowed to look for support, but decided he could beat him and did so. However having slowed slightly he had allowed two more defenders to reach him but he brushed both aside and scampered over the line. A brilliant individual try and Ross back to his best and getting the stand to its feet. Tough conversion missed but Accies were now ahead 15 – 3.
42 minutes gone but the referee decide to continue the game and from the kick off Peebles worked themselves into Accies 22. Surely Accies could keep them out for the final moments? But Peebles are a good team, and by keeping the ball live they manged to create a gap which their number 8 took full advantage of and crossed the line.. The conversion was missed, but Peebles were back to within 7 points at 15 – 8, and Peebles had scored that all important try just before half-time. The whistle goes and the first half is over.
Half – time 15 – 8
It is always felt to be an advantage to score just before half-time and could this be the key to Peebles revival? They were clearly gaining in confidence and worked the ball into Accies danger zone. Up to this point there had been little to choose between the scrums but as can happen, Peebles drove Accies off their own put in and swivelled the scrum clockwise. This created the perfect opportunity and with an easy 3 on 2 their quick footed winger crossed in the corner. Difficult conversion was missed but Peebles were now within 2 points and looking capable of scoring again. 15 - 13
Well to the delight of the Accie supporters, that had joined Mike Belch and his 4th XV team for lunch and gin tasting (very good it proved to be) this Accies side had different ideas and were still driving at the Peebles defence. They worked themselves back into the Peebles danger zone and had several lineout drives and some close calls however Peebles managed to survive and eventually clear their line. However the clearance kick was collected by Kris Mathie who moved it inside to Ross Cowan who drew the first defender and passed it back to Kris who then carried the ball well into Peebles half. There was an infringement at the tackle and who else but Ross was on hand to take a quick penalty, he then ran into the middle of the pitch, 35 metres out he was tackled, but managed to offload the ball to, the supporting debutant second row, Greg Connelly who, working his feet like a winger, beat two defenders and raced home for the try under the posts. Up steps Gordon McGuire, to convert and put Accies 9 points clear at 22 – 13.
Accies were defending with commitment and aggression and this was making life difficult for their opponents. Then from turnover ball inside their own half, Scott Simmons broke clear and he released our flying winger, Kris Mathie, who raced clear only to be stopped 10 metres short by a desperate last minute tackle. There followed a period of serious pressure by Accies but they could not convert it into points. Would they regret this as Peebles are an 80 minute side? Well as expected Peebles broke free of this defensive effort and their forwards started running hard at Accies close defence and with some good drives and a couple of good back moves Accies found themselves defending in their 22. With a matter of minutes to go their nippy winger scampered over again. This time, probably driven with adrenalin their stand-off kicked the conversion from wide out. Score was now 22 – 20.
Accies were still confident and worked hard and the crowd were all hoping that they could control the ball for the remainder of the match and keep Peebles out of the danger zone, whilst not giving away any penalties.
So it was with a great sigh of relief that the crowd heard the final whistle.
Full – time 22 – 20
A great result for a totally committed effort from Accies and if they can reproduce this performance they will collect some more scalps. Today was great reward for all the players and coaches, who have worked very hard to turn this season around, but also for the enthusiastic and loyal supporters who came out today at New Anniesland. This was a game where every one of the 19 players gave 100% and demonstrated what they can do. Bigger challenges ahead but this squad is showing great signs of development