Straight-talking Stewart’s Melville assistant coach Donald Snodgrass was typically forthright after seeing his side suffer a second successive RBS Regional Cup defeat.
The Inverleith men made a lacklustre start to their encounter at home to Biggar and trailed 17-0 after 28 minutes. And, despite subsequently battling back into the contest, the hosts were unable to overturn that deficit, eventually going down 27-19.
Reflecting on Stew-Mel’s first home defeat in more than a year, Snodgrass said: “We were embarrassing in the first 20 minutes or so. After that we were alright, but we just weren’t physical enough. We have a lot of injuries and we had a lot of young guys in the team, but there are absolutely no excuses.”
However, despite the outcome, there were glimmers of light, among them the contributions of stand-off Mike Hanning and hooker George Turner. Hanning, a raw talent who was a late convert from football, has made a big impression since moving from RHC Cougars and again imposed himself on the match with his elusive running and change of pace.
However, it was Turner – returning from injury – who was the game’s outstanding contributor. Introduced to the fray shortly before the interval, the 19-year-old brought an urgency to the home side that had been lacking, carrying the ball to good effect and even appearing on the wing to offer himself as a target for a cross-kick from Hanning. “He was superb”, enthused Snodgrass in reference to the youngster, who is a member of Edinburgh’s elite development squad. “He just looked like he wanted to play rugby. He was outstanding when he came on and he made a big impact.”
Biggar, who were keen to deliver a win for their coach Gary Parker, who will be leaving the club in January to take up a job in Australia, made a stunning start to the match, with Andrew Peacock bagging the first of his side’s five tires inside the first minute. He was joined on the score sheet by Joe Scheres and Hata Wilbore, whose converted score ensured the visitors had a comfortable advantage at the break, although a solo effort by Andrew Hughes, who displayed perseverance and pace to touch down, trimmed the deficit to 12 points at the turnaround.
A no-holds barred half-time address by Stew-Mel coach Bruce MacNaughton fuelled a livelier start to the second period that yielded a try for Matt Hannay, converted by Hanning. However, an opportunist score by the alert Craig Parker quelled any notion of a fightback by the hosts, and he turned creator to send Wilbore spring over for the clinching score. Stew-Mel finished with a flourish but it came too late to take anything from the match. And, an injury-time score by full back Richard Borthwick – at 27, a relative veteran in a home back division that had no other player aged above 22 – crossed the whitewash for a consolation score, which was converted by Hanning.
With their involvement in the cup competition over, Stew-Mel will now have a break from competitive action, allowing them to nurse several key individuals back to fitness in time for the resumption of their battle for promotion from Premiership B. “Everything we do now is about preparing to go to Hawick on January 14”, insisted Snodgrass, who knows that improvements will be needed to mount a challenge for one of the two promotion slots.
Stewart’s Melville: Tries – Hughes, Hannay, Borthwick. Cons – Hanning (2).
Biggar: Tries – H Wilbore (2), Peacock, Scheres, Parker. Cons – A Wilbore
Stewart’s Melville: R Borthwick, J Pavin, M Hannay, N Bowie, A Hughes, M Hanning, K Whiting, A Dixon, R MacKenzie, R O’Leary, S Brewster, F Morrison, B Tweedie, D Sangster, P Hendry. Subs: A Staham, G Turner, A Howie, R Patterson.
Biggar: A Wilbore, H Wilbore, C Thomson, J Gardiner, C Parker, C Lavery, I Renwick, A Peacock, K Anderson, S Faamausili, J Harvey, G Owens, C Cochrane, J Scheres, L McLachlan. Subs: E McAlpine.
Referee: C Brett.