Bad day at the office...
Folks – hard to put into words when we move to the bottom place in the Premiership so here is a neutral match report c/o “THE OFFSIDE LINE”
GARY HEATLY @ Myreside
Watsonians secured a bonus point win to give themselves a massive boost in their bid to avoid finishing in the bottom two – and left Gala bottom of the pile with some soul searching to do.
Heading in to the match, both sides were looking for an upturn in fortunes – and quickly. After a promising start to the season in their return to the top flight, Watsonians had lost their last five BT Premiership matches before Christmas to put them in eighth. Gala had also lost five on the spin, including a demoralising 57-15 derby defeat to Melrose. That had left the Borderers in ninth, but they had defeated Watsonians 25-15 back in early October.
Despite going behind early on, Watsonians were in control for most of this encounter. Captain Rory Drummond led by example, while fellow backrow Angus Duckett and full-back Andrew Chalmers also showed up well.
Bizarrely for a team that was in charge of things, Watsonians suffered four yellow cards. Two of them came in the last 11 minutes for replacement second-row Charlie McLean, meaning that he was sent off. Gala also had one player sin-binned and it is clear that the new high tackle directive is going to take some getting used to.
After the win, Watsonians head coach Marcus Di Rollo said: “When we lost at Gala earlier in the season it was one of our worst performances and the guys were determined to put that right. I thought that we were clinical from the start of the match and the guys took their chances well when they came along. We are not safe from finishing in the bottom two yet though and we have three big matches to come.”
Gala were dealt a blow in the warm-up when experienced second-row and co-coach Opeta Palepoi was injured. He was stretchered off before a ball was kicked, Sean Johnstone stepping up from the bench to start.
After two minutes Watsonians got the first chance to put points on the board, but stand-off Ewan Scott missed the penalty to the left of the posts. The same man was then yellow carded three minutes later and Gala took advantage, stand-off Gregor Hunter making no mistake with a penalty.
In the eighth minute Watsonians drew level when Chalmers kicked a penalty. The home side then had a good spell of pressure with number eight Drummond carrying well. That pressure led to a penalty in the 15th minute which Chalmers missed before Scott returned to the field to bring the Edinburgh side back up to 15 men.
The home pack continued their purple patch and in the 19th minute they kicked another penalty through Scott to make it 6-3 as the first quarter ended.
Gala could – and should – have been level in the 22nd minute, but the usually reliable Hunter did not catch the penalty correctly and it hit the upright and bounced to safety. His brother Fraser then came off the bench to replace the injured back-row Stevie Cairns.
On the half hour mark, after winger Scott McKean had gone close for Watsonians, they did bag the first try of the afternoon. It came when they charged down a clearance kick and centre DJ Innes went over. Scott converted.
The home team continued in the ascendency and in the 34th minute they gained a second try when, from a five metre scrum, the ball was shipped left and ex-Selkirk man Duckett gave the scoring pass to McKean. It was unconverted, but they were 18-3 up.
With two minutes to go before the break, Gregor Hunter’s off day with the boot continued as he missed a penalty and a further failed attempt came just on the whistle leaving Gala with a lot to ponder.
Gala would have been looking for a quick start to the second half, but they got the opposite. Backrow Rob Louw knocked on straight from the restart and a few minutes later Scott kicked another penalty to make it 21-3 to the home side.
In the 44th minute Watsonians centre Scott McLeod was yellow carded for a high tackle, but again rather than Gala getting on the front foot their opponents with 14 men just kept attacking. Watsonians scored two tries when the former Hawick man was off the pitch, winger Keith Young and backrow Viliami Fihaki going over for tries to clinch the bonus point. Scott added a conversion and it was 33-3.
Try number five for the hosts came with 17 minutes to go, scrum-half Reiss Cullen the scorer this time with Scott converting to make it 40-3.
With 11 minutes to go Watsonians were handed their third yellow card of the game by the referee Finlay Brown. This time it was McLean, the former Currie man on his first fifteen debut for the club, and with just seconds remaining of the 80 minutes after he had returned to the pitch he was yellowed again and it became a red.
It was a strange ending, but Watsonians were still smiling after this crucial win while Gala have it all to do.
Watsonians: A Chalmers; K Young, S McLeod, D Innes, S McKean; E Scott, R Cullen; N Borel, S Crombie, S Rowers, E Dods, C Borthwick, V Fihaki, A Duckett, R Drummond. Subs: D Miller, M Christie, C McLean, E McKirdy, R Steele.
Gala: Graham Speirs; Ross Combe, Dwayne Burrows, Lewis Berg, Paul Hendry; Gregor Hunter, Connor Adams; Chris Keen, Matt Carryer, Terry Skeet, Chris Weir, Sean Johnstone, Robert Louw, Stephen Cairns, Gary Adams. Subs: Dean Brooker, Alan Emond, Sasa Tofilau, Fraser Hunter, Craig Robertson.
Referee: Finlay Brown.
Watsonians: Tries: Innes, McKean, Young, Fihaki, Cullen; Pens: Chalmers, Scott 2; Cons: Scott 3.
Gala: Pen: G Hunter.
Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 0-3, 3-3, 6-3, 11-3, 13-3, 18-3 (h-t) 21-3, 26-3, 31-3, 33-3, 38-3, 40-3.
Yellow cards –
Watsonians: Scott, McLeod, McLean.
Red cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Watsonians skipper Rory Drummond – how they missed him when he was out injured. Works very well with Viliami Fihaki and Angus Duckett in the back-row.
Talking Point: Five yellow cards – one that meant a red was brandished – in a game that was not dirty at all. Referee Finlay Brown was going by the letter of the law and he is not to blame, but the new directives on high tackles are going to cause some discussions in clubhouses after matches.