By Chris Evans
Boroughmuir Bears 44, Haddington 2nds 17
Coming off two emphatic back-to-back defeats against Peebles ‘A’, Boroughmuir Bears were hungry to make amends and restore pride with a home match against a Haddington 2nd XV. Coach Gordon Laidlaw was far from happy with the club room banter that he had been receiving lately, especially his new nickname of “33% Goggs” on account of his wins percentage as Bears head honcho. With his words ringing in the ears of the Bears players, they took to the field full of grit and determination.
The Bears had three debutants in the starting line-up. In the back-row Kiwi’s, Richie Batson and Jackson Achilles added bulk to the pack, and youngster Jordan Angus lined up at outside centre. With Harry Fenton out injured and Gauthier Charpin AWOL, coach Alan Sievewright filled in at scrum-half, adding his considerable experience and demonstrating his versatility. Ross Smith returned to the front-row, looking to lay down the law against his opposite number.
With the number of new faces and combinations in the team, it took a while for the Bears to get into the game. Haddington on the other hand looked dangerous from the off and their elusive full-back caused the Bears problems. Disarray in the Bears defence soon led to Haddington opening the scoring with a converted try. A penalty soon followed and the Bears seemed shell-shocked from the visiting sides impressive start.
However, the Bears demonstrated that they can adapt a pragmatic approach to their game. The boggy conditions meant that playing expansive rugby was going to be tricky. Instead, the Bears played for territory using Sievewright’s weighty boot and when in possession they played tight using the likes of Andrew Wildgoose and Richard Marshall to pick and go.
Deep in the Haddington twenty-two, a solid scrum allowed Achilles to pick and go and then barge over the opposition right wing to score in the corner. With his demonstration of powerful ball carrying, Achilles was reminiscent of his older brother Ben who wore the Bears jersey two seasons ago.
Buoyed on by this response, the forwards continued to exert dominance over Haddington and soon Achilles added a second try. From a scrum in the middle of the field, the Kiwi 8 picked and fed Sievewight who dummied his way past one defender. The scrum-half then drew the full-back and found the supporting Achilles on his inside, who touched down. With both Bears tries going unconverted they were now level with Haddington but very much in the ascendency.
The Bears continued to enjoy the bulk of the possession but let themselves down on occasions with silly penalties, which were starting to irritate the authorative referee. Nevertheless, the Bears were able to add two tries and secure the try bonus point before half-time.
The third try came from the backs. Turnover ball five metres into the opposition half, led to the ball being picked up off the ground by Ulster pocket-rocket Chris O’Neill who beat one defender. He then passed to stand-off Chris Evans who then shipped the ball wide to Jordan Angus, who in turn passed to Luke Tarry. Tarry blazed through a gap in defence and unselfishly fed Chris Whitelock on the wing. Whitelock carried the ball on and then passed back to Tarry who touched down for a great score.
The final try before half-time came from Richie Batson, which was a reward for an industrious first half performance. With the Haddington back-line lying flat, Evans kicked behind them and a good chase by the Bears backs meant the away side were camped on their try line. The Haddington clearance kick was charged down by a Bears forward and with the ball floating in the in-goal area, Batson plucked it out of the air and touched down for a debut score. Sievewright added the conversion and the Bears held a 22-10 lead at half-time.
Coaches Laidlaw and Sievewright complemented their team for the way they had responded after a slow start and encouraged them to do more of the same in the second half.
The Bears did just that and five minutes into the first half, Achilles completed a dream debut with his hat-trick score. The forwards were continuing to play the tight game, with captain Rod Hutchison, hooker Ross Smith and lock Andy Clark making hard yards and in-roads into the Haddington defence. The pressure soon told and Achilles touched down from close range.
The introduction mid-way through the half of veteran prop Scott Anderson, was both a popular one with the fans and also an influential one for the Bears. The back-row continued to chop down the Haddington forwards and volleyball enthusiast/openside flanker Roy Jackson was enjoying his best game for the Bears this season with tough tackling. The relentless pressure meant the Bears were camped on the Haddington try line and prop Anderson rolled back the years, with not one but two tries from close range. The second score was converted by Sievewright.
The Bears took their foot of the gas slightly in the last ten minutes and were punished by a good Haddington counter-attack from their own twenty-two, which led to a try under the posts for the away side.
However, the Bears had the final say of the match. With the introduction of Kyle Mackinnon in the front row and another Bears debutant Nick Peters adding fresh legs for the Bears, they hit back with another superb try. A good break from full-back Mike Smith took the Bears into the Haddington twenty-two. The forwards pushed on with some strong ball carrying and eventually the ball came out to the backs. Evans, O’Neill and Angus linked well again in midfield before the ball found its way out to the left wing where Ross Smith drew the final man to put Chris Whitelock in the corner.
The final score was Boroughmuir Bears 44, Haddington 2nds 17.
This was an excellent performance by the Bears after a tough couple of weeks. Each player played their part in what was a great team performance. The defence was a lot better, the penalty count lower and more importantly the attacking performance was as good as it has been all season. The debutants Achilles and Batson were stand-out performers and the Bears coaches will hope to keep a hold of them for the remainder of the season.
The Bears face Edinburgh Accies next week and off the back of this morale boosting performance should be full of confidence going into that match.
15. Mike Smith, 14. Chris O’Neill, 13. Jordan Angus, 12. Luke Tarry,11. Chris Whitelock 10. Chris Evans, 9. Alan Sievewright, 8. Jackson Achilles, 7. Roy Jackson, 6. Richie Batson, 5. Andy Clark, 4. Rod Hutchison (c), 3. Andrew Wildgoose, 2. Ross Smith, 1. Richard Marshall
Subs: Nick Peters, Scott Anderson, Kyle Mackinnon