A hint of Olympic legacy entered proceedings at Malleny Park, where Currie and Edinburgh Accies shared the spoils in a 10-10 rugby draw which was a fair outcome to a match stronger on commitment than quality at this early stage.
Making a Premiership debut on the opening day for Currie was winger Liam Draycott, fresh from a country-wide sevens circuit across the USA.
Contacts made during a year at the crack Natal Sharks academy before a spell at Musselburgh led Draycott across the Atlantic, where he gained an insight into how the reigning Olympic champions, the USA (Paris, 1924) are preparing for the re-introduction of rugby at the Rio Games in 2016.
“The 15-a-side game is not so strong in USA but sevens are massive,” said Draycott. “I joined the New York Old Blues club and we qualified for the national finals in San Francisco as well as playing other tournaments. I hate to think how many miles I travelled playing sevens this summer and don’t be in any doubt the USA are aware of their Olympic history and, in 2016, they want to start back where they left off.”
There has long been a feeling within rugby that re-entering the Olympics will open up funding streams to sleeping giants and this was confirmed by Scots-qualified Draycott whose priority now is assisting Currie having fulfilled a target of turning out in the Premiership.
“I only returned from the USA last week to fit into a completely new Currie back-line. Both teams cancelled each other out but there were also chances on either side. We’ll both get better,” said Draycott, who, ironically, had a stint at Accies as an 18-year-old.
That view was shared by the rival coaches – Simon Cross (Accies) and Ally Donaldson (Currie). Cross was left, though, to rue the fact that a try on the stroke of half-time to take Currie 10-0 ahead was a gift interception by Simeon James, even if the equaliser by Ruaridh Bonner was a much more creative effort, the stand-off pouncing on his grubber kick behind a flat defence.
Said Cross: “That was points lost and we came with such high hopes. We are in this league to have a real go and we suffered from an interception try and set-piece frailty in the second half. That was unlike us.”
With pace to burn out wide where the 37-times capped Simon Webster and teenage top try scorer in this summer’s world under-20s, Jamie Farndale, lurked, Currie had done their homework in stifling possession.
“In the collision round the breakdown we needed to get the ball away more quickly. We don’t want to play slow ball stuff,” admitted Cross.
For his part, Donaldson seemed slightly more accepting of the result. “It was early-season fare. Both teams were solid but we have lost our opening match in each of the past two years so that’s an improvement.
“Regardless of when injury victims such as John Cox, Mike Entwhistle, Jamie Forbes and Andy Binikos return, not to mention the availability of pros Dougie Fife, Gregor Hunter and Fergus Scott, we’ll get better. We lacked a bit of cohesion in attack but we’ve had backs either injured or training with Edinburgh and Glasgow. With Liam Draycott newly returned from a sevens circuit we were a bit thrown together. There has been a lot of disruption and Dougie Fife pulled out at 11.00am.”
Many would have expected another Edinburgh affiliate, John Houston, to be involved instead, especially as this A cap sat on the bench throughout Friday’s meeting with Northampton. However, word came through that Houston had sustained a dead leg during a Saturday morning weight training stint and Donaldson accepted the situation.
Both coaches also highlighted positives with Cross expressing satisfaction at the way centre Ewan Campbell had slotted in while Tom Hancock did well on the flank. However, the overall stand out performer was Currie No. 8 Ross Weston who gave a lead with some determined driving off the scrum base.
It was the Weston of old and among those to thrive on the possession was Simeon James, a kiwi who has plied his threequarter trade from Biggar to Rotherham to Cinderford.
James pulled off the interception try and that appears to be typical of his reading of the game.“Like a lot of New Zealander’s Simeon is very vocal, has a good rugby brain and is going to be very good for our younger guys,” said Donaldson.
Another Antipodean, Adam Hinds, had Currie’s other points with a penalty while Ruaridh Bonner was on the mark with the boot for Accies on a day when referee Iain Heard had his work cut out by spoiling tactics but dealt with that challenge efficiently and effectively.
Currie: Try – James. Conversion – Hinds. Penalty – Hinds.
Edinburgh Accies: Try – Bonner. Conversion – Bonner. Penalty – Bonner.
Currie: C Beattie, L Draycott, J Johnstone, S James, A Whittingham, A Hinds, R Snedden, A Hamilton, R Merrilees, F Watts, S Marcell, G Temple, M Cairns (c), R Weston, M Peacock. Subs: W Elmslie, M Erskine, S Burton, D Pech, M Johnstone.
Edinburgh Accies: G Douglas, J Farndale, E Campbell, I Berthinussen, S Webster, R Bonner, A Black, D Morrison, M Liness, A Allan, G Campbell, T Drennan, D Teague (c), C Reid, T Hancock. Subs: F Rawlinson, K Blyth, A Graham, J Adams, J Pecquer.
Referee: I Heard (Gala).