This ‘ friendly ’ fixture was the last match before the West U15 Cup matches start and both sides were keen to get in some final match practice. The conditions were almost perfect for good running rugby, being surprisingly mild, still and sunny.

Stewartry U15 XV (34) vs Annan U15 XV  (14)

From the kick off it was one way traffic with Annan having all the possession, making the ground and finally scoring a well worked try close the posts, making the conversion relatively straightforward. Stewartry were sat back on the gain line waiting for the Annan runners to come at them and despite sound tackling the Annan numbers eventually broke down the Stewartry defence.

This try must have sparked something in the Stewartry players who after a frank discussion as to standards required, went on to score three unanswered tries in the remainder of the first half. The first of these came to Euan Reeves who finished off a good series of approaching runs. Somehow the ball was kept alive and Euan stepped back against the grain to score.  The second was scored by acting Captain, Fin Baillie. The ball had been worked wide from a well organised lineout and, after several offloads, Fin was in a good supporting position to collect the ball and score near the posts. The tries were both converted by David Martin. The last try of the half was a similar score with Stewartry players, especially Andrew Bodden, making good individual runs and managing to keep the off-loaded ball alive. Fraser Gibson, as a good open side flanker should be, was first to a breakdown and snaffled the off-loaded ball, driving over the line to score.

It is interesting what a part psychology plays in matches. From Annan being the dominant team, Stewartry had turned the match around and ended the half well in the ascendency. The scrum was going well for Stewartry with Andrew Bodden being the dominant prop, Paddy Traynor stepping into hooker at the last minute and Murray McKenzie holding his own against a very large loose head. The lineout too showed promise when Fin Baillie’s link with Fraser Gibson, being lifted by Andrew Bodden and Connor Clanachan, was on the same wavelength. These things meant that the team had the basics right but the real turnaround probably came when the leaders in the team showed by example what needed doing. One of these leaders was David Martin, who led from the front especially in defence. One of his tackles near the touchline was bone crunchingly devastating and helped set down the marker for the rest of the Stewartry team.

The second half, began in much the same vein, with Stewartry running back ball strongly into the Annan half. The first try of this half came when Stewartry were knocking hard at the Annan defence. Several players carried hard close to the line but showed the discipline not to knock on and to recycle the ball when it was held up short. Eventually the ball was worked to the right by Patrick Quigley, who was, as always, in the right place to ensure continuity of play, and was passed out to Kieran Brand who broke the final tackle to score a well-deserved try. A similar try was scored by David Martin when a series of drives was held up by good Annan defence. Eventually David picked the ball from the back of the ruck and drove over from short range.

By now, both teams had suffered some injuries and were having to play with reduced numbers and so some of the team cohesion, on both sides, was disrupted. Nevertheless, both teams were still trying to play rugby. Connor Clanachan followed up another good passage of Stewartry play and drove over to score from close range. Annan had not given up however and finished the match with perhaps the play of the game. A very well taken lineout gave fast ball to the fly half who went on a long arcing run to outflank the Stewartry defence to score a try which was converted.

Thanks to Aaron Murray, Robbie Briggs, Zak Hunter and Jack Gordon who were drafted in to unfamiliar positions at the last minute and did not let the team down in any way. Roll on the Cup competitions

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