Reds Sunk by Stewartry after Titanic Struggle
National Shield Quarter-Final
Linlithgow 40 – 47 Stewartry
Saturday 04 March 2023
Report by David Mitchell
Last Saturday saw Linlithgow host a Quarter Final tie in the National Shield against high flying Stewartry from Castle Douglas. A close encounter was envisaged with both sides riding high in their respective leagues, East 1 and West 1, and the large crowd were treated to an entertaining, open and high scoring match and a close finish.
Conditions for the game were virtually perfect with the well prepared pitch and the fine weather both being ideal for rugby and with both sides being virtually at full strength. An exchange referee from the North West of England was in charge of the game and he allowed the game to flow but also exerted control when required with good communication / signalling around his decisions and limited use of cards although the Reds did play a crucial 10 minutes in the middle of the 2nd half with only 14 men which coincided with maximum pressure being applied by the visitors to telling effect.
The Reds were obviously pumped up for the start of the game as they established an early lead of 14-0 in the first 10 minutes with the visitors being stunned by the speed and accuracy of the home side’s play. The first try came after a slick handling move was stopped short of the line but fine drives by Ross Martin and Mark Caddle allowed the ball to be shipped to centre Mike Doneghan who used his power and good footwork to spin through the defence and touch down by the posts.
Jack Frame added the extra points and within 5 minutes the Reds had Stewartry pinned deep in their own 22 metre area again. Hooker Kyle Ormond found Mark Caddle who took a fine catch and transferred the ball to flanker Jamie Tulloch as the forward pack then proceeded to march to the Stewartry line and Kyle Ormond touched down for an excellent forwards’ try. Jack Frame added the conversion from near the touchline to give the team a healthy lead after 10 minutes.
However the visitors showed their intent when running the ball at every opportunity to stretch the home defence, even refusing a few kickable penalty opportunities to keep the pressure on the Reds and attempting to score tries. In fact they rarely kicked the ball in open play at all during the game and it soon became clear why. They passed the ball slickly from side to side looking for gaps and then sent their heavy brigade of forwards running hard at the goal line and they added their 1st unconverted try on the 20 minute mark before adding a penalty from straight in front of the posts to bring the score back to 14-8.
The Reds continued to compete well in midfield and made ground into the visitors’ 22 metre area and were rewarded with 2 penalties both of which were kicked by Jack Frame to keep the score board ticking over and take the hosts out to a 20-8 lead.
Unfortunately during this period of play, home centre Mike Doneghan received a bad leg injury and had to be replaced by Aidan Rennison. As expected, Stewartry responded strongly and they a scored converted try, similar in style to their first try, from close range to reduce the deficit to 5 points. The half ended with the best try of the day by centre Freddie Adcock who was 40 metres out from the line when his neat footwork saw him step inside his opposite number and then accelerate into the 22 where his determined running saw him evade the remaining defenders and he crashed over for an excellent individual effort. Jack Frame again added the extra points to give the Reds a 27-15 lead at half time.
Although the crowd were pleased with the 12 point lead at half time, it was obvious that the visitors were a very good side and capable of providing a real test in the 2nd half and so it proved. The half began with an exchange of penalties with both sides kicking 2 penalties to move the score to 33-21 with 25 minutes still to play. Replacements arrived for both sides and also the referee yellow carded players from both sides which had some disruptive effect on the game. The game changed dramatically in a 10 minute spell in the middle of the half when Stewartry scored 3 converted tries to go from 33-21 down to 42-33 ahead. The Reds had defended heroically throughout but began to tire and the tackling dropped off a bit and this allowed the visitors to burst through and secure a healthy 9 point lead. Stewartry maintained their excellent passing game, made good use of changes of direction and strong direct running tactics for the whole 80 minutes. However the brave Reds team did fight their way back upfield and were rewarded with the award of a penalty try with 5 minutes to go to bring the score back to 40-42. The referee also yellow carded the back row player who had illegally prevented the legitimate touchdown.
Unfortunately the Reds could not get back upfield in the last 5 minutes and in fact Stewartry recorded their 6th try of the day in the final minute of play with another close range score to make the final score Linlithgow 40 Stewartry 47.
Overall a great spectacle for the crowd to watch with both teams keen to keep the ball in hand as the 10 tries scored on the day suggests. After a whirlwind start by the home side and the scoreboard pressure applied by the Reds, with Jack Frame being 100% from the tee with 7 out of 7 and 18 points, Stewartry always remained dangerously close and their purple patch in the middle of the second half made the decisive difference. Both teams put in maximum effort throughout but the visitors just edged the contest with their 6 tries to 4 from the Reds being the key factor and also their ability to deny good field position to Linlithgow especially in the 2nd half. Although disappointed, the Reds should be proud of their Shield campaign and realise that they were only 7 points down against the best team that they have played this season. Good luck to Stewartry in the next round of the competition and it will take a very good team to beat them.
Next week it is back to East 1 League business for the Reds with a visit to Wardie to play Broughton at 3pm. The Reds 2nds are scheduled to be at Kelso next Saturday for an East Reserve League 2 fixture after the disappointment of missing out on another game last Saturday when Jedforest failed to fulfil the scheduled fixture.
Andrew Graham, Kyle Ormond, Colin Devlin, Fraser Mochrie, Neil Lockhart, Ross Martin, Jamie Tulloch, Mark Caddle, Cammy Murrie, Jack Frame (c), Ross Plenderleith, Freddie Adcock, Mike Doneghan, Ruaridh Stewart and Ross Tulloch.
Replacements: Ally McLean, Stuart Cunningham, Kieran Cochrane, Euan Mochrie, Joe McKillion, Aidan Rennison and Gregor McLean.