1stXV 39 Dollar Academy 19
Last week’s rather frenetic try fest with Fettes had been firmly put to bed during training this week, and I have been impressed with how well the whole senior squad has trained with various children slowly coming back from injury and competition for places really hotting up.
Unfortunately, Max’s hand split open again, so we would be without our skipper and fly half for this game against Dollar Academy, which is always one of the toughest games of the season, and the first signpost for us as to how this season might pan out for this group of boys. Dollar play with the ball in hands, they have lots of fast runners, and they are usually pretty physical and competitive at the breakdown. Today would be no different, so I was delighted with the really impressive team performance that we put together and it was another outstanding game of rugby at this level, with both sides showing tremendous skill, commitment and a real ferocity at the breakdown. No quarter given or asked, and some superb team tries were run in.
The first five minutes saw Dollar keeping possession of the ball albeit in their own half, and we just could not get our hands on it; they moved the point of attach impressively and tested our defence which was excellent today, right the way through the match. We made our first time tackles – Edward leading from the front in this respect and others followed – and won the battle of the breakdown convincingly all game, as we flooded numbers in and rucked and counter rucked exceptionally well this afternoon. Their coach commented on it and our superiority at the breakdown was the real difference between the two sides today as we starved Dollar of possession at the start of the 2nd half and pulled away from them.
We opened the scoring with Edward finishing off after some excellent continuity, and after a Dollar try, it was Jack who broke through some tackles to touch down and then Quin to give us a 15-7 lead at half time. Standing in for the injured Max as captain, he led the side really well today, encouraging all his players and putting in a barnstorming performance at inside centre, running some very direct lines but also using the men outside him when the gaps out wide started to appear later in the game.
So at half time, the game was very much in the balance, with the breakdown fiercely contested and both sides looking powerful in attack and in defence. However, we really hit our straps at the start of the second period, scoring four unanswered tries which put the game to bed and a shell shocked Dollar side were powerless to stop out relentless surge and precise attacking play. Glen came on the wing at the interval and scored an excellent hatrick of tries, running powerfully but also staying wide, using the space out there and linking up really well with his centres. An attacking blitz that blew Dollar away and showed just what we can do once we have done the hard work up front to win possession and wear defences down; it was a reward for the work of Alexander, Joshua, Ned, Hugo and Leo who carried so well all game and made excellent decisions as to when to off load or go to ground. The forward pack were mightily good today and it was the backline who benefitted from this.
Conceding two late tries in the final few minutes was perhaps understandable considering the huge defensive effort the whole team put in today; it was a real step up from last week’s game against Fettes which although we won, we lacked that defensive organisation that is so important and only comes through playing together and talking to each other all the time. It was a superb effort this afternoon with Rory stepping in at fly half and Ollie at scrum half, and both got the back line moving really well today; Rory in particular showed lots of vision and his tackling and jackling, as always, was quite outstanding.
This was a proper performance and I was delighted to see the hard work we have put in in training pay dividends today. Dollar were a better side than Fettes last week, and we really had to dig in, defend and then take our chances when they appeared after going through phase after phase. We are just two games in to what is a long season, and plenty of challenges lie ahead; however, we set the standard today, and I know the whole team will be keen to build on this over the coming weeks.
Very well played, every single one of you. In 16 years running the rugby here, this is a game that stands out as one of the best performances against a quality opposition that really tested us, despite the scoreline.
Next up, Loretto Sevens on Sunday and then Belhaven on Wednesday. On we go.
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