Rugby: Di Rollo feels Watsonians have tools for top flight

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Watsonians coach Marcus Di Rollo believes his squad’s combination of emerging Scottish talent and international brawn can be the platform to challenge for a return to the top flight.

Di Rollo saw two of the club’s rising stars combine to produce a sparkling try that snatched a 16-12 RBS National League victory over Stewart’s Melville at Inverleith on Saturday. And, while conceding that it was not ‘Sonians’ best performance, the coach saw it as further evidence of progress.

A typically tense Capital derby was finely poised at 12-11 with two of the regulation 80 minutes to play when full back Rory Steele – a close-season signing from Hamilton – burst from deep and raced into the home 22 where he offloaded to Scott McKean, who displayed impressive pace to sprint in at the corner.

Di Rollo was relieved to see that clinching score, but is not surprised that his team is beginning to perform well, saying: “We had a good pre-season and we’ve got a lot of good young guys coming through.

“Most of the team is from Edinburgh, although we have a couple of South African props, who give us a good platform up front, and exciting players right through the team. That was a great score at the end which 
ultimately won it.”

And, referring to the scorer, he added: “Scott McKean has been excellent for us. He is an ex-Watson’s schoolboy who did well at sevens and he is growing every week. He is a natural winger, but we have asked him to play 13 and he has really 
risen to it.”

It was a much tougher contest than ‘Sonians had faced a week earlier when sweeping aside Jed-Forest, but the outcome was every bit as satisfying for the coach.

“You have to come back down to earth a bit after a win like that. We had the upper hand in the first half in the scrum and the lineout, but we never turned it into points. It was good to scrape a win in the end.

“Everyone talks about winning being a habit. If you can win without playing particularly well, it doesn’t matter, as long as you are winning.

“We are showing a lot of team spirit. I’m happy with the way the guys are coming together. That spirit was evident.”

By contrast, the home side were left ruing a missed opportunity to post a first win of the campaign.

Their coach, Bruce MacNaughton, was in no doubt where the match had been lost: “We couldn’t win the lineout ball. If we had done that we would have won the game because everything else was fine.

“The scrum was great. Defence was outstanding – we’ve leaked more than 70 points against Hawick and Hillhead, but you wouldn’t think it looking at that performance. But we didn’t win and we are very disappointed we didn’t win.”

In George Turner, the home side had the outstanding player on view – the 19-year-old 
Edinburgh development player produced a string of thumping tackles and rampaging runs.

There were also useful debuts for Phil Cringle and Ben Manning, while Liam Steele and Mike Crawley posed the greatest threat among the backs.

The sides reached the break locked at 3-3, after Seb Trotter and Ben Di Rollo exchanged penalties. Trotter nudged the hosts in front with a second penalty shortly after the restart and he responded to a try by Di Rollo – who was later red carded – with two more successful kicks. ‘Sonians substitute Brian Walls booted a penalty to cut the deficit to a single point before the stunning try by McKean secured the result that leaves ‘Sonians third in the league table.

Di Rollo’s dismissal came after he had left the field because of a facial injury. A comment to the assistant referee led to the intervention of the man in the middle, who flashed the red card for abuse of an official.

And, as tensions mounted in the closing minutes, the match appeared to have taken one last twist when the hosts responded with a try. However, it was chalked off for a forward pass leaving Stew-Mel with only a narrow defeat bonus point for their efforts.

Scorers: Stewart’s Melville: Pens: Trotter (4). Watsonians: Tries: Di Rollo, McKean. Pens: Di Rollo, Walls.

Stewart’s Melville: L Steele, R Borthwick, M Crawley, H Lingard, M Hannay, S Trotter, G Porteous, W Aitken, G Turner, P Cringle, C Damsteegt, F Morrison, A Lean, P Henry, B Manning. Subs used: G Black, M Hanning.

Watsonians: R Steele, J Ferguson, S McKean, T Hart, A Rowe, B Di Rollo, C Martin, D Rutherford, T Wright, D Moussa, N Dennis, M Rennie, J Jones, D Dunnett, A Joseph. Subs used: R Basson, J Duthie, H Grant, B Walls, C Berkery.

Referee: C Sampson (RFU)