WatsonianS rugby coach Marcus di Rollo is refusing to press the panic button after hopes of a play-off place offering access to the Premiership were dented by a 13-26 home defeat at the hands of Kelso.
The result gave city rivals Boroughmuir the title and automatic promotion on a day when they were inactive.
It also left ’Sonians having to win both their remaining fixtures to have a chance of a winner-take-all clash against the second bottom Premiership team. However, since the first of these fixtures is away to struggling GHA and the finale at home to fellow challengers Stewart’s/Melville, Di Rollo is justified in believing that however inept this Watsonians performance was, particular at scrum time, all is not yet lost.
“Firstly, we are focusing on beating GHA, but if we do that then it could come down to requiring a try bonus point win against Stew/Mel,” he said. “Remember, though, that Stew/Mel’s next game is against a Kelso side who have just demonstrated to us what a powerful scrum they have.”
Indeed, Watsonians were put through the mill to the extent that only 32 minutes had elapsed when the coaches had little option but to start re-jigging by introducing alternative forwards from the bench.
Freezing conditions meant plenty of errors all-round and this played into Kelso hands, with a total of 31 scrums, including seven re-sets, prescribed by referee Iain Heard.
Ironically on one occasion Watsonians, who conceded a penalty try at a scrum, managed to resist another fierce onslaught, but the ball was whipped wide where their outside backs were found lacking as Gregg Minto shrugged off tentative tacklers to go in at the corner. Di Rollo said: “It was one of those games where, if you are an outside back, your concentration can go because you are not getting much of the ball, but you make your own luck and, to be honest, on the day we got what we deserved.”
One example of luck deserting the hosts came, though, when Matt Page knocked on under the posts as he chased a kick through by Ben di Rollo as he was being taken out. Ref Iain Heard, rightly, played advantage, but had no option but to recall play for a three-point penalty kicked by Ben di Rollo.
“We were unlucky not to get a try then, but scrums were the big area of the game and we were second best,” said coach Di Rollo, the older brother of captain, Ben.
Marcus added: “All these scrums took away our momentum; in fact all I can remember about the game is scrummaging.
“We tried all we could by changing a prop and second row. We then changed again, but Kelso are such a strong scrummaging side.”
Kelso lie fifth with a negative scoring ratio, but this performance will cause alarm at Stew/Mel ahead of their March 1 visit.
It was not all about set-piece dominance either and some shrewd homework was undertaken, as revealed by coach Gerry McGuinness.
Former prop McGuinness said: “We checked out the 20 metre deep Myreside in-goal area and used it to advantage with a chip over the top of a scrum for one of our tries [by Richard Minto].”
Once again the ’Sonians defence was caught sleeping – Kelso’s attack had actually been created by a woeful tackle attempt – and the opportunism underlined a hungrier Border team’s all-round superiority on a ground where they won 36-14 in the league a year earlier.
Kelso’s other try came from prop Ally Marsh as they reached the interval 19-6 in front and Watsonians had to wait until the hour mark before crossing the whitewash through substitute front row James Forrester.
“If they had got another try soon after that we might have been worried, but as it was we were always comfortable, even turning round to face the wind,” concluded McGuinness.
Watsonians: Try – Forrester. Conversion – Di Rollo. Penalties – Di Rollo (2).
Kelso: Tries – Marsh, R MInto, G Minto, Penalty try. Conversions – Douglas (3).
Watsonians: A Ledingham; C Berkery, S McKean, R Aitken J Ferguson; B Di Rollo (c), M Page; M Christie, M Brierley, D Moussa, M Poole, C Smith, N Irvine-Hess, M Rennie, C Abram. Subs: A Ross, J Forrester, C Scott, J Leiataua, T Hart.
Kelso: M Hastie; M Wilson, R Minto, F Robson, G Minto; M Douglas, A Tait; K Cooney, C Riddell, captain, A Marsh, A Common, D Seed,I Wallace, M Robertson, L Tait. Subs: G Harkins, G Millar, A Johnstone, T Skeet.
Referee: I Heard (Galashiels).