U18s Progress in West Trophy
Sat 26 February
Garnock 15-5 Whitecraigs
Through misfortune Garnock U18s was consigned to compete in The West Chairman’s Trophy competition. The squad was asked to play a preliminary game (vs. Strathaven) before entry into the elite West Cup competition, but waterlogged pitches and a tight schedule meant the tie was settled by the cut of cards – which Garnock lost. This was particularly disappointing as our boys have defeated Strathaven in our last two meetings, and indeed easily defeated several of the teams placed in the Cup that did not have to play preliminary rounds.
The team: 1- Euan Ferguson; 2 – Aaron Armstrong; 3 – Grant Bryden; 4 – Manu Clark; 5 – Jay Hyslop; 6 – Fraser Ewington; 7 – Rory Dominy; 8 – Lewis McGeachy; 9 – Matt Richmond; 10 – Per Jacobsen; 11 – Evan Sandford; 12 – Keir Walker; 13 – Fraser Brocket; 14 – Konnar Doyle; 15 – Jordan Gilbert; 16 – Ross Brocket; 17 – Angus Dickson.
Kick off was at 12:00, the Lochshore pitches were in excellent condition, and the sun was shining – perfect conditions for an open game of rugby. Garnock kicked off playing down the slope and were soon applying pressure on the spirited Whitecraigs’ defence around their 22 metre line; but the defence held firm. Play moved backwards and forwards between the Whitecraigs 5 metre line and halfway with neither side managing to exploit the space behind their opponents – too much haste from both teams, plenty of errors, and the defences were on top. After ten minutes Euan Fergusson scooped the ball from the back of a ruck just inside the Whitecraigs’ half and with a very impressive turn of pace broke to the left down the short side leaving several would-be tacklers in his wake; twenty metres seems to be his endurance limit, however, and he went to ground on the 22 – perhaps the weight of tackle, perhaps exhaustion – but had the presence of mind to pop the ball up to Rory Dominy who stepped a defender and cruised over the try line to touch down fifteen metres in from the left hand corner flag. The conversion was narrowly missed, but Garnock were 5-0 up.
After the re-start the game continued in the same theme; play was mostly in the Whitecraig’s half, frenetic encounters at the breakdown, scrappy ball for both sets of backs, but pressure on those in possession through good defensive lines speed. Matt Richmond made an excellent break around the side of a ruck before shipping the ball left – two quick passes and the Garnock left wing Evan Sandford had a clear line and a twenty metre sprint for the corner; a desperate covering tackle from Whitecraigs’ full back, David McCormick, just prevented a score and resulted in Evan leaving the field in some discomfort. The game resumed but there were repeated infringements from Whitecraigs at the breakdown, nothing cynical – just over exuberance, and it was clear the Garnock scrum, and lineout in particular, had the edge. It’s maybe not the ‘Garnock Way’ but Per Jacobsen and Keir Walker decided not to overwork our forwards with engagement at the frenetic ongoing battle at the breakdown, but to kick for touch and give the imperious Jay Hyslop (at 2 in the lineout) and Rory Dominy (at 5) a better-than-even chance to secure both territory and possession. With 22 minutes on the clock, after a succession of rucks and forward pod plays that moved the ball left along the halfway line for little territorial gain, Matt Richmond switched play to the right allowing Per Jacobsen to make a half break and release Lewis McGeachy outside him who thundered into the opponents 22 and drew two defenders; an overhead pass found an unmarked Konnor Doyle tight on the right touchline who cantered over for an excellent score. The angle proved to be too acute, however, and the conversion was narrowly missed; Garnock 10-0 Whitecraigs.
From the restart Garnock were again encamped one the Whitecraigs’ 22 and pushing for a further score but too many of the Garnock forwards were in no-man’s-land, neither committing to the ruck nor to a pod, and the ball was carelessly turned over, moved quickly to Whitecraigs’ left and with the Garnock backs caught out of position, a break was on. Despite the efforts of Garnock’s blind side flanker Fraser Ewington, Whitecraigs winger Kyle Yule, did not trouble the touch judge and he scored by the left hand flag. The conversion was missed; Garnock 10 – 5 Whitecraigs.
Within minutes of the restart Garnock were again back in the Whitecraigs’s 22 but could not find the composure to increase their lead. Whitecraigs were clinging on, no one could fault their commitment to defence, but their enthusiasm resulted in five successive infringements at the ruck and set scrum, all within 10 metres of the try line. Garnock, sensing blood, opted to put the ball into the left corner confident of securing good possession at the ensuing lineout – which they did, but once the ball was secured the execution of plays that followed were rushed and the half concluded with the scoreboard reading Garnock 10-5 Whitecraigs.
At the turn-around Garnock shuffled the team, Manu Clark (4) – who had worked tirelessly – was given a well-deserved rest, Lewis McGeachy (8) went to lock, Rory Dominy (7) to number 8, and Ross Brocket came off the bench as open side flanker. The second half resumed in a similar theme; both defences applying spirited pressure, and neither side with the composure in attack to break the shackles. A blunt exchange of views between the two sets of players saw Lewis McGeachy sin binned for 10 minutes, but this had little bearing on the spectacle. Play continued to swing from end-to-end but Garnock sensed they had the upper hand. A defensive mistake seemed the most likely way to break the deadlock, but once Garnock were back up to a full side the home team looked even more threatening as Whitecraigs tired. Ross Brocket twice had excellent breaks on the right touchline, and twice was stopped just meters short. Rory Dominy picked from the base of scrum 15 metres from the Whitecraigs line, but couldn’t ground the ball once in the in-goal area. Whitecraigs continued to defend valiantly but conceded a succession of penalties deep in their own half as they attempted to slow down Garnock’s ball. The referee lost patients and issued a final warning to the visitors; further infringements would not be tolerated. To Whitecraigs’ credit they continued to pose a threat with the occasional breakout that required some desperate defence form Garnock, but the home team now had momentum and were confident one more score would secure a well-deserved victory – and eventually it came. From a series of rucks on the left side of the Whitecraigs’ 22, the ball was move quickly to Lewis McGeachy who was lurking in mid-field – he had the power and pace to crash over for a try that was unconverted; Garnock 15-5 Whitecraigs, and that was the score when the referee signalled the conclusion of the contest. A good win for the Garnock boys, but perhaps the margin of victory should have been greater; some navel gazing, some soul searching, and some hard work down on the training field, and they might work out how to remain calm and turn possession into points.