Praise for Stewart’s Melvile’s Kiwi stand off Nick McCashin was quickly echoed as they celebrated becoming the first team to beat Boroughmuir in this season’s National Rugby League, 13-10 at Meggetand.
Boroughmuir coach Bruce Aitchison summed up a key difference between the teams, saying: “We would get so far then make a mistake or be turned over; after that Nick McCashin kicks it 50 yards down the pitch.
“McCashin’s forte is managing the game and putting pressure on and he did that very, very well. I’m aware there are a lot of teams looking at Nick McCashin for next year because he is a very talented lad.”
There is no doubt that Stewart’s Melville will fight tooth and nail to keep McCashin especially if – as current form suggests – they gain promotion back into the top flight.
“What a midfield we have and not just Nick because Dave Hampton is a quality centre who learned to play at the same school in Wales as (Lions captain) Sam Warburton and also footballer Gareth Bale even though he is a year older,” said Stew Mel coach Bruce Macnaughton in agreeing that the way abundant possession was used wisely in wet conditions proved crucial.
“Tactically we were spot on. Our kicking game was miles better than their’s and our kick chase was good. We also moved the ball well.”
It is probably an exaggeration to compare the Stew Mel pack to one from the late 1980s and early 1990s built around four Calder brothers and the Brewster twins because this latest combination are playing in the second tier, after all.
Nevertheless, if it was remarkable to see Boroughmuir forwards shunted off their own scrummage put-in, that was nothing to the decisive penalty try which came when Stew Mel were constructing a pushover.
“We don’t get too many of them,” grinned Macnaughton who was also delighted with the resolve shown when Boroughmuir staged a late fightback from 3-13 capped by a converted try from substitute Johnny Adams.
“We led 6-3 at half-time and I told the team that although we’d dominated (it took Boroughmuir 25 minutes to visit their opponents ‘22’) we had to expect them to come back at us.
“When they inevitably did we were unbelievable, outstanding.
“The last 20 minutes showed the hunger and desire we had.”
It must be said that at times Stew Mel played the midfield offside line and referee John McPhail, a 27-year-old New Zealander based in Holland, did brilliantly to keep a host side intent on overdoing the running game pinned down.
But Aitchison had no complaints about the result or the officiating. “Their forwards stood up to the mark and the way they reacted at the final whistle made it clear it had been a cup final for them.
“We had beaten them at their place and they had fire in their bellies. We did try to play too much rugby but that was because we couldn’t get hands on the ball. When we did have possession we tried to force it.
“I’ve told our team they were going to lose at some point but nothing is burst. It’s just one defeat from 11 and we have lots of players coming back from injury in the next couple of weeks.”
As for man-of-the match McCashin, he believes his side started building towards Saturday’s win when they went down at home to Boroughmuir even though two subsequent defeats followed.
Stew Mel have now won seven-in-a-row and McCashin said: “The last time we played Boroughmuir was our starting point because we ran them close and that gave us confidence. We were slow starters this season but kept working for each other and, as well as holding together when we were tired near the end, we had a game-plan and out-kicked Boroughmuir.”
McCashin also had a message for Edinburgh Rugby fans having played at Canterbury provincial level alongside new back-row signing Mike Comin who is expected to make his debut after the RaboDirect Pro 12 break in a fortnight.
“Mike went one way to Hawkes Bay and I moved on to Bay of Plenty but not before I’d seen him develop into a class player who’ll tackle for 90 minutes if necessary as well as being a strong leader. I didn’t play at Bay of Plenty with Sam Beard the new Edinburgh centre but I do know he has many of the same qualities at Mike.”
Boroughmuir: Try: Adams. Conversion: Reekie. Penalty: Reekie.
Stewart’s Melville: Try: Penalty try. Conversion: McCashin. Penalties: McCashin (2).
Boroughmuir: C Marshall, M Hare, A Cox, S Wilson, J Webster, D Reekie, S Johnson, R Wilson, C Davies, N Fraser, G Scott, T Sutton, T Docherty, J Hare, N Rodger. Subs: D Miller, S Laird, J Scott, J Adams, R Bradford.
Stewart’s/Melville: M Hanning, M Hannay, D Hampton, S Allan, M Morrell, N McCashin, F Strachan, W Aitken, N Hart, R Morgan, S Brewser, F Morrison, R Stewart, D Sangster, B Wilson. Subs: R Anderson, A Howie, D Pech, S Rowlands, N Bowie.
Referee: J McPhail.