After last weeks disappointing defeat away to Lasswade, the Boroughmuir Bears looked to bounce back to winning ways with a home match against Jed-Forest 2nds.
During the week the Bears received the welcome and long over due news, that they had new coaches. Gordon Laidlaw and Alan Sievewright have taken the reigns, and their presence seemed to lift the spirit and belief of the Bears squad from the off.
Unlike last week the Bears had a full squad to choose from. They were bolstered in the backs by Harry Fenton at scrum-half and Rab Cairns at centre, who were both returning from injuries. In the forwards, Aaron Iddins, Stu Clark and Fraser Hartop made their first appearances of the season for the Bears.
The game started very well for the Bears and they immediately put Jed under pressure deep in their own half. The additional height of Iddins in the second-row meant that the line-out was going to be a real asset for the home side and it was from an early line-out that the Bears claimed the first score of the afternoon. A well driven line-out from five metres out took the Bears forwards over the line and it was prop Ross Smith who claimed the try.
After a fine start, Jed came back into the game and like the previous week the Bears were guilty of giving away too many cheap penalties. Midway through the half Jed claimed a try of their own and took the lead with the conversion. Under the posts, captain Rod Hutchison let his players know that the discipline and defence was unacceptable. This spurred a positive reaction from the Bears and they were soon back in the Jed half. The scrum was also solid for the Bears and this proved a platform for the backs to claim the next try. Rab Cairns cut a nice line off a half break from stand-off Chris Evans and touched down for a try under the posts. The try was converted by Evans.
Shortly before half-time the Bears stretched the lead with a penalty kick from Evans and went into the break with a 14-7 lead. At half-time the coaches encouraged their team to continue playing positive rugby, reduce the error count and improve the discipline.
However, for the opening twenty minutes of the second-half, the Bears did not play well. The penalty count continued to stack up and this meant a lot of time was spent defending their try line. Evans did not help matters when he was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on. Soon after Jed grabbed a second converted try and were now only a single point behind.
Once again though the Bears were quick to respond. Cairns slotted in at ten while Evans was in the sin-bin and it was from his kick behind the Jed defence that the Bears claimed another try. A good chase from the backs led to Jed being turned over on their line and Harry Fenton grabbed the try. Cairns was unable to convert the try. The Bears consolidated their lead a few minutes later, with an Evans penalty.
In the last quarter of the match, the Bears shifted into top gear and played some really attractive rugby. The dominance at the set piece, in particular at the scrum where Stuart Clark was winning a number of hooks against the head, was proving telling, especially with Jed down to fourteen men due to an injury to their flanker and no replacement available.
In quick succession Rab Cairns grabbed two tries to claim his hat-trick. The first was a long range solo effort, which saw Cairns show great pace to round the Jed right wing and full-back and score under the posts. The second was from close-out with Cairns pouncing on a loose pass from a Jed back. Both tries were converted.
Not to be out done by his team-mate, Harry Fenton, sealed his own hat-trick with two late tries as well. Fenton had switched to the wing when the Bears brought on French scrum-half Gaultier Charpin midway through the second half and he came off his wing superbly to take a pop pass off Evans to run in a great try. His second came from a good support work after a sharp break by Charpin from the base of a scrum. Again both tries were converted and the Bears finished up with a winning score of 51-14.
Although the scoreline suggests it was an easy victory, for three quarters of the match the contest was very tight and Jed caused the Bears a number of problems. It was perhaps the superior fitness of the Bears and also some stand-out performances that was the difference in the end.
In the forwards, the Clark brothers both had strong games in the loose, flankers Fraser Hartop and Euan Rennie put in good shifts in defence and Aaron Iddins was a line-out lynchpin. In the front row, veteran prop Scott Anderson continued to roll back the years and completed another industrious eighty minute shift.
The backs improved on last weeks showing and it was good to see both Chris Young and Chris O’Neill making an impact on their return to the Bears squad. Chris Whitelock and Angus Buchan were also dangerous with ball in hand. The real match winners today were hat-trick heroes Fenton and Cairns. They provided the cutting edge for the Bears and in the last twenty minutes put the result in no doubt. It was a close call for the new coaches to make but their man-of-the match went to Rab Cairns.
The biggest plaudits of the day must go to the coaches, Laidlaw and Sievewright. They not only brought much needed organisation and structure to the Bears, but also were able to motivate and inspire the side after a difficult few weeks. There is a definite sense that the Bears have turned a corner now and can look forward to the rest of the season with renewed optimism. Next week sees the Bears take on Peebles 2nds at Meggetland, where hopefully they can build on this good performance.
15. Chris Whitelock, 14. Angus Buchan, 13. Chris Young 12. Rab Cairns, 11. Chris O’Neill 10. Chris Evans, 9. Harry Fenton, 8. Andy Clark, 7. Fraser Hartop, 6. Euan Rennie, 5. Aaron Iddins, 4. Rod Hutchison, 3. Ross Smith, 2. Stuart Clark, 1. Scott Anderson
Subs Used: Bastien Borelli, Gauthier Charpin, Luke Maidment, Kyle Mackinnon, Andrew Wildgoose, Andy Tweed
Player/Reporter Chris Evans