Tough weekend for Highlands senior teams
Watsonians 27-17 Highland
Highlands title challenge took a blow on Saturday when they went down 27-17 to Watsonian FC at Myreside in Edinburgh.
There was fantastic weather in Edinburgh, with the pitch in perfect shape.
Up front Stephen Murray returned at loose head, Grant Jamieson and Svend Pedersen replaced the unavailable Euan Milton and Rory Mighton in the engine room. Ritchie Dinnes came in to replace Gordon Gregor who was also unavailable. The rest of the pack being made up by Kev Brown & Asaeli Saumake in the front row. Calum MacPherson & Callum Carson in the back row as usual.
The backs were the same as last week with Hugo Crush at 9, Scott Fraser 10, Magnus Henry 11, Callum Boyd 12, Timoci Waqanibau Jr 13, Dan Corr 14, and Ardriu Muritoki at 15.
As injuries and other factors forced changes to the squad there was a much changed bench. James Blair covering the midfield backs, recent debutant Paul Fraser covering prop. Three players, 2nd row Freddie Tablot-Heigh, Back Row Ryan Appleby, and Winger Saiyasi Kurewaka all in line to make their 1st XV debuts.
Highland were to receive the kick off, the ball was fielded by Callum Carson the ruck set up and the ball sent down the middle of the park by Hugo Crush. Watsons showed their attacking intent immediately, making a break in mid-field and moving the ball left. Highland can count themselves lucky that Watsons sent out a high pass to the winger who knocked on when the try looked on.
Highland were under pressure for most of the next 5 minutes with inaccuracies thwarting Highland occasional possessions.
A penalty just inside Watsonian half led to an attacking lineout on the Highland 22. A series of forward pick and goes saw Watsons right up under the shadow of Highlands posts. They moved the ball back left and the Watsonian’s stand off Lewis Burns made a break being held up just short of the line. The ball was recycled and I believe the Watson’s scrum half Finlay Broomfield sneaked over the line on the blind side of the ruck. A good conversion made the score Watsonians 7-0 Highland.
HIghland were trying to come back into the game – but were finding making ground with the ball in hand difficult in the face of a well organised and aggressive Watsonian’s defence.
Around the 16 minute mark – Callum Carson picked up an knee injury and left the field to be replaced by the first of our debutants – Ryan Appleby. Though Carson was to return to the field slightly later.
Highland defensive line speed and chop tackles were missing, and this was allowing Watsonians ball carriers to make ground more easily than they should have. Keeping the home team on the front foot. However Watsonian’s errors and Highlands efforts at the ruck meant the score remained the same for almost all of the half.
When Highland did make headway it was usually by getting the ball wide to Magnus Henry, who was going around the field looking for work, and making his trademark strong runs.
Highland’s usually strong scrum was under pressure – and had fallen foul of the referee on several occasions in the first half.
At 29 mins on one of Highlands occasional attacks into the Watsonians half, home team tight head Tom Gracie, got a yellow card for an off the ball tackle on Junior Waqanibau. Perhaps an opportunity to call a scrum to force Watsonians to bring on another prop, and probably being forced to sacrifice a back row creating more space around the scrum fringes and reducing their effectiveness at the ruck?
Instead Highland chose to kick for the corner and went for the line out. Highland hammered away at the Watsonian line without making any real headway for 6 minutes. An error at a defensive Watsons line out in their 22 conceded a scrum to Highland forcing the change in personnel.
Highland won the scrum and carried a few times before knocking on allowing Watsonian’s to finally clear their lines to relieve the pressure. We also saw Callum Carson come off due to an injury to be permanently replaced by Ryan Appleby.
38min Highland attacked off the line out, and made ground up to just outside the Watsonians 22. The defence were set again waiting for Highland to move the ball wide, when Hugo Crush caught them cold making the break from the ruck and off loading to Ritchie Dinnes who was tackled just short of the line.
The team thought Junior Waqanibau had scored off the ensuing ruck when taking a short ball from Crush. The ball was short, but recycled and moved left to find Kev Brown near the wing. There seemed to be plenty of Watsonians defenders to deal with the situation. Grant Jamieson took the ball off Kev before the maul was properly formed and spun out to the left and carried a defender over the line in the act of scoring his try.
Scott Fraser couldn’t land the touchline conversion. Watsonians 7-5 Highland.
We’re into time added on for injuries etc and half time is only a minute or so away.
Highland were undoubtedly enjoying their best spell in the game. After the restart Wastonians secured their own kick off and worked into midfield outside the Highland 22, where they were penalised for holding on. Hugo Crush, clearly wanting to up the tempo, took a quick tap making great ground up the middle to the Watsons 10m line, offloading to Junior Waqanibau. At the tackle Watsons were penalised, and Scott Fraser kicked to the corner.
Highland set up a maul off the 5m line out, it was moving rapidly but more sideways than forward. Hugo Crush took the ball and found Callum Boyd coming in near the posts. The defence hesitated due to the run of Junior Waqanibau outside Boyd. Callum found Magnus Henry, who had tracked the a ball all the way from his left wing, to insert himself into the line to score despite the attentions of 3 separate tacklers. Scott Landed the conversion to give Highland the lead. Watsonians 7-12 Highland.
There was still time to restart, whilst Highland fielded the ball it was knocked on in the carry, and Watsonians were awarded a pen at the resulting scrum. They landed the kick to close the half, and will have found it difficult to understand why they were behind at this stage.
HALF TIME: Watsonians 10-12 Highland
Into the 2nd half James Blair had come on for Callum Boyd, and Watsonians were definitely having as field day at the scrum.
44mins they clearing up the park from another scrum pen. They went on the attack and a mistake in midfield led to a Highland scrum on their own 22. Our scrum was in trouble and the ball lost, but Hugo Crush was alert to where the ball was reacting quickly to get the ball, only to be caught offside, and presenting an easy 3 points to Watsonians to retake the lead. Watsonians 13-12 Highland
From the restart Watsonians conceded a pen just outside their 22, anbout 15m in from the side line. Opt to go for the corner, forgoing a opportunity to retake the lead from the tee. The lineout is disrupted by Watsonians who have been competing in the line out all day, and they cleared upfield.
Highland went on the attack, but the fluency we have come to expect wasn’t there and the offloads were not coming off in the face of a relentless Watsonian defence.
Unfortunately Highland were not showing the same tenacity in defence with the line speed and first up tacking poor, meaning that we conceded ground all to easily.
9 mins into the 2nd half Watsonians worked their way all the way to the Highland posts through a series of pick and goes. With a ruck at the base of the left hand post, Watsonian’s no 8 Stuart Allison has a quick look, and dives over to score thier 2nd Try. The conversion was a formality, bring the score to Watsonians 20-12 Highland.
23mins into the 2nd half we had our 2nd 1XV debutant of the day as Freddie Talbot-Heigh came on to replace Svend dale Pedersen in the 2nd row. Followed on the 34th minute by out 3rd debutant Saiyasi Kurewaka Jr who came onto the wing to replace Dan Corr.
At this point whilst still on the back foot Highland always has a chance to break and get back into the game.
However around the the 36th minute Watsons burst up through the middle of the park and moved the ball between the forwards and the backs to take the ball right up to the try line to the posts. They moved the ball right, unfortunately the Highland defence hadn’t folded to cover their flank, and we were left with four defenders dealing with 7 attackers. Watsonian’s scored with men to spare, landing a touch line conversion to rub salt into the wound. Watsonians 27-12 Highland.
Three minute later, Highland won a pen on their own 22, Scuba Murray chose to tap and go. Watsons were penalised again, and again Highland went quickly this time through Kurewaka. The ball was recycled and went through hands to prop Asaeli Saumaka, who made a great break through the middle of the defence to the Watsons 10m line.
Highland went coast to coast, without really making any ground. When the ball was been moved left to right the 2nd time, Scott Fraser found James Blair in midfield who floated a pass over a defender to Kurewaka coming at pace with Adriu Muritoki on his outside he move the ball on. Mujritoki tried to skin the full back on the outside, but passed the ball to the supporting Ritchie Dinnes out of the tackle at the 22. Ritchie couldn’t hold the pass but knocked it backwards, effectively straight at a chasing Watsonians defender who couldn’t catch the ball. Instead they knocked it towards and over their own tryline allowing the chasing Grant Jamieson to dot down for his 2nd try of the day. Scott Fraser rushed his kick and missed the conversion. Watsonian 27-17 Highland.
The game had turned fast and loose, and whilst the game was gone Highland were looking to see if they could secure a 4th try to give them a try bonus and a losing bonus point.
Unfortunately, play broke down but not before the referee awarded Highland a penalty in front of the posts between half way and the Watsonians 10m line.
With the referee indicating that time was up Highland had another decision to make. They chose to have a kick at goal through James Blair to try to secure the losing bonus point. Unfortunately whilst James’s kick had all the length needed it went wide right. Watsonian’s cleared the ball off the park to end the game and secure their much deserved win.
FULL TIME: Watsonians 27-17 Highland.