Boroughmuir took a massive step towards retaining their top-flight status with a 20-19 win at Glasgow Hawks on Saturday.
And stand-in skipper Mike Entwhistle insists he and his colleagues always retained faith in their ability to extricate themselves from the BT Premiership relegation mire, despite a campaign littered with injuries to key men.
Muir have used 49 players so far this season and it has been only recently that coach Bruce Aitchison has been able to field a settled side with his team offering a glimpse of the potential in the Meggetland squad.
That said, the late withdrawal of professional stand-off Carl Bezuidenhout and captain Andy Rose caused a further reshuffle ahead of Saturday’s clash. However, Muir shrugged off the loss of those key individuals to deliver a win that edged them closer to safety. Muir are now level with Hawks and just a point behind now Stirling County with one remaining league encounter at home to Hawick next month.
Entwhistle, who took on the leadership role in Rose’s absence, is not surprised by the recent upturn in fortunes.
“There has always been an inner belief amongst the team but sometimes in games things just haven’t gone our way. But we have always believed in ourselves and training has been good. We have been happy with ourselves within our changing room,” he said.
And it was that attitude that drove Muir on to post a victory against a Hawks outfit that was equally desperate for league points. Trailing by six entering the final quarter, Entwhistle and his colleagues hammered unsuccessfully at an unyielding Hawks defence.
And, just as it seemed that they would have to settle for a narrow-defeat bonus, a switch of tactics finally created the space for the temporary captain’s back-row colleague Iain Moody to claim his second try in as many weeks.
Chris Laidlaw, who started in place of Bezuidenhout, snatched the victory when he drilled over the touchline conversion.
“It was nip and tuck right to the end. To be honest I wasn’t really expecting the kick to go over but thankfully we got it and just scraped by,” added Entwhistle. “They were certainly very well organised in their defence. We had to move play a bit wider from the ruck and thankfully we were able to get in at the corner.”
Muir had won the home tie against Hawks by a single point so it was perhaps no surprise that the same slender margin separated the sides on this occasion. And the next meeting of the pair, on March 7 in their Scottish Cup semi-final, promises to be equally hard fought.
“We will train hard and come back ready to give it another good shot and hopefully we can repeat that result,” said Entwhistle who combined with his forward colleagues to battle gamely against a muscular pack that dominated the scrum.
However, despite finding it difficult to break down the home defence in the second half, Muir had the more imaginative runners and they won the try count 2-1. The first of those touchdowns came with 19 minutes played when, with the visitors trailing to a penalty by Jack Steele, Sep Visser sent Grant McConnell clear for a try which Laidlaw converted. The stand-off extended Muir’s advantage with a penalty before Hawks struck back to lead 13-10 at the interval after Steele booted a second penalty and converted a try by Andy Kirkland.
Benefiting from the wind at their backs in the second half, Hawks extended their lead with two further penalties by Steele. However, with their grip on a place in the Premiership looking increasingly shaky, Muir mounted a ferocious final quarter assault with Laidlaw adding a penalty, 19-13.
Despite a string of attacks that led to two Hawks players being yellow carded as desperation crept into the home defensive effort, Muir failed to find a way through. And the wisdom of spurning a series of penalty kicks was being called into question by the travelling supporters when Moody galloped up the right flank to touch down in the corner and Laidlaw kept his nerve to add the extras.
Glasgow Hawks: Try: Kirkland. Con: Steele. Pens: Steele (4).
Boroughmuir: Tries: McConnell, Moody. Cons: Laidlaw (2). Pens: Laidlaw (2)
Glasgow Hawks: A Fleming, T Steven, B McGroarty, D Milne, P Ramsay, J Steele, P Boyer, G Strain, J McFarlane, B Cullinane, A Linton, A Kirkland, S Leckie, F Gillies, T Spinks. Subs: G Stewart, S Findlay, A Davidson, M Bartoszek, S Yacoubian.
Boroughmuir: C Marshall, G McConnell, S Visser, D Reekie, J Edmunds, C Laidlaw, J Adams, R Wilson, C Davies, S Berghan, T Sutton, A Best, C Keddie, M Entwhistle, I Moody. Subs: S Bingham, J Latta, N Rodger, S Johnson, E Farquharson.
Referee: K Allen