Match Report for Saturday 23rd March 2019

Accies RFC v Preston Lodge RFC

“Accies sparkle in the spring sunshine”

When Accies left Preston Lodge after the first encounter of the season they were licking their wounds and had been trounced 45 – 19. So the question that was being asked before kick-off as the supporters were enjoying a good lunch and watching this big Preston Lodge team warming up, was could Accies get something out of today’s encounter’? Well within the first 5 minutes Accies had shown how far they have developed over the ensuing weeks. Their forwards were dominating the set piece and their backs were proving to be a real handful to their opposite numbers. It would be fair to say that some of our loyal supporters will not have seen this group of players playing with such skill, commitment and accuracy this season but I am sure will have left New Anniesland with a smile on their faces.

Accies forwards dominated their heavier opponents in all aspects of the game. At the first scrum they pushed Preston Lodge off their put-in and at the first lineout they pinched their throw in. They were dominant in defence with quick line speed with some hard tackling; their ball carrying was strong, determined and accurate, all in all a really great performance by the Accies pack. The Accie backs made good use of this quality ball with some great running, in particular from the back 3. Their passing was accurate and they looked dangerous throughout the game no matter where in the field they had the ball.

The first points came early on when they forced a scrum just outside their opponents 22. It was a Preston Lodge scrum, but was, as I have said; driven back and Accies were awarded the first of many penalties at scrum time. Captain Chris Johnstone decided that points were important so he asked Gregor Macewan to take a shot at goal. Success     3 – 0

This scribe was wondering was this just the result of the bus journey and it’s after effects? Well clearly not as Accies continued to dominate the game and territory and when they were rewarded another penalty Gregor Macewan had a chance to extend the lead but the ball hit the post and bounced away for a 22 drop out.

Preston Lodge are a well drilled side and have not won over half of their matches this season without skill and determination, so it was not a surprise that they came back at Accies with their usual forward drives. However when one of the drives was stopped and the ball turned over that Josh Waldin saw the chance to scamper down the far touch line from his own 10 metre line. Having beaten two cover defenders he drew the winger and with a perfectly timed inside pass he released the supporting Hugh Lindsay who raced to the try line to score in the corner. A great try and just reward for the dominance that Accies had exerted so far in the game. A difficult conversion just shaved the posts.      Accies now ahead      8 – 0

Preston restarted the game with a long kick into Accies 22, which was the first time they had been in Accies 22 during the first 20 minutes, but good work by the forwards and the ball was back to Ross Cowan to put in a superb clearance kick, against the wind. This was another pleasing feature of Accies performance on Saturday as any time they were inside their own 22 they were able to exit with real control and the line kicking of Ross Cowan was superb.

However good teams will always come back at you and Preston did just that but despite all their attempts to gain some momentum in this encounter the Accies defence was up to the task and their tackling was superb. The centre partnership of Simmons and Macewan could not be faulted all afternoon.  Accies were demonstrating that they can turn defence into attack by strong tackling and support. It was the forwards who helped create the next scoring opportunity. From a lineout steal just inside their own half, Accies forwards produced good ball which Ross Cowan pounced on and with a demonstration of quick and determined running, evaded all the efforts of the Preston Lodge defenders to halt his run and crossed for Accies 2nd try.  The conversion attempt by Macewan just shaved the post on the left but Accies were now ahead      13 – 0

After the restart Preston eventually worked their way into Accies 22 and put together some effective forward drives by their heavy forwards. Eventually they found a way between two tacklers and crossed for an unconverted try.          13 – 5

Was this the start of a fightback by Preston Lodge or could Accies regroup and dominate once again? Well it was clear to everyone in the stand that today Accies had decided to take no prisoners and raised their tempo and when their opponents decided to try and clear their lines with a big clearance kick into Accies territory the kick was collected by Chris Woods who drew the first up defender and released Ross Cowan who needed no second invitation and he once again raced past several confused defenders to score in the corner. It was brilliant for all the supporters to watch the skills and exciting rugby on display. The wide out conversion was missed but Accies went into their huddle as the try had brought the first half to an end.   18 – 5

Half – time   18 – 0

What would the coaches be saying as they collected their players together? I am sure the Preston Lodge coaches must have been wondering how to overcome the effect that Accies defence was having on their forward strength and Accies coaches were saying keep up this tempo and keep concentrating on doing the basics well’. Well it was obvious that Preston Lodge were not going to give up and were still trying to put more pressure on Accies by using their impressive large pack. But Accies were still dominating the set piece and from a scrum just inside Accies half, Ryan Sweeney picked up and drew the first defender, his pass to Josh Waldin was perfect and Josh found Ross Cowan with another superbly timed pass and broke the next line of defence and when he looked inside him he saw Greg Valentine, who had joined the fray at half-time for the injured Hugh Lindsay, who scampered across the line for the first try of the second half. A simple conversion by Macewan put Accies 20 points ahead.       25 – 5

Preston Lodge now tried to move the ball wider but Accies defence was just as dominant in the centre as it was at close quarters. Accies defensive work today was as good as at any time this season and it was a combination of great line speed and accurate tackling that was frustrating their opponents. In fact it was from some of this positive defensive work that Accies scored their final try. Preston Lodge had worked their way into Accies half but when they tried to move the ball down the blind side from a lineout Accies forwards worked really hard to pressurise their ball carriers and this resulted in them knocking the ball on. Surprise, surprise, up stepped Ross Cowan to hack the ball forward, chase after his kick, collect the bouncing ball and race the 50 plus metres to cross for his 3rd try of the day. What a performance today and clearly back to his best form. Difficult conversion missed.    30 – 5

It was a credit to both sides that they kept up the tempo of this game to the end and it was Preston Lodge who were awarded a try in the last minute of the game and from the touchline their kicker added the two points.

Full – time     30 – 12

This was a brilliant performance by Accies on a lovely spring afternoon and on a superb pitch. We should never take the quality of the pitch for granted as we are lucky to play on a surface made for open rugby. On Saturday the players made the most of it and thanks must go to Robert Cheape and his staff.

This was probably the best performance of the season so far and it was great to see so many of our supporters there to enjoy it. This season there have been days when our loyal supporters have not had as enjoyable afternoon as they might have expected, but today they were treated to a display that I think any side in the National 2 league would have been proud off.

As a small addition to my report I was lucky enough to be invited, along with Mark Walker, to the Warriors game against the Cheetahs on Saturday night and we were lucky enough to get very close (although no touching!!!!) to the Calcutta Cup and what a cup up close it is!