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1st XV Season Review 2018/19

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The second term tossed up an intriguing array of fixtures, with any outcome from 1st to 3rd still possible for us in Scottish 1A. The first encounter was a tempestuous tussle on Uni Park with Heriot Watt, a fellow league topping contender. We fell behind in an exasperating but traditionally slow start, conceding three tries before slipping into first gear. A quick tap and go try just after half time propelled the Saints into flying form, going on to score a steady flow of beautiful team tries. Only one more converted dot was required at 26-31 down but with all caution being hurled at the wind we were left exposed, with Heriot Watt scampering home for the decisive try, winning 38-26. Deserved revenge for our narrow comeback win in term 1.

Our final home game of the season never happened as a floundering Aberdeen 2s side couldn’t muster an XV.

Buckets of pent up energy were duly expended the following week in a high scoring match against Edinburgh 2nd XV. Several key players rendered themselves unavailable due to academic ambition in the Guardian league table, providing opportunity for our promising youngsters of the near future to showcase their abilities. A showcase it was, with 83 points being scored between the two teams on a quick rubber crumb that evidently really hurt to tackle on. I think it a fair assessment to say that we never really looked like losing in spite of a close score line; 45-38 to the good. The highlights of all these tries are available on our Instagram page.

The last match of the season came away against league leaders Aberdeen. Having enjoyed a half decade of dominance over the granite polishers, they seem to be experiencing a resurgence of form and they made a physical and abrasive opposition. We initially proved superiorly combatant, taking the spoils in a tight first half. However, on a deteriorating pitch we were lured into an arm wrestle in its muddiest depths, and they soon wrested the lead through bloody minded attrition. The game ended 17-24, one score in it and reflective of the qualitative parity of the league, while we were perhaps lacking a killer instinct and belief in our ability to win.

Lofty expectations are warranted given the success of recent years, and with that in mind we were doubtless disappointed with a 3rd place finish back in the regional league. However, after five years playing alongside some very talented players, I can attest that the quality of individual players is as good as ever. We had Rob Lind captaining the Scottish Students this year, with Kelvin Chen and Fezan Muggle being selected for the wider squad. The fourth team has provided a training-free social outlet, allowing the third team to focus on player development. The fruits of this is evident in several 1st team caps having come through this developmental pathway. I’m confident that this season will prove a mere blip as the team adjusts to a change of regime and the loss of several big players and characters. The rapid turnover of players in university rugby means that the young bucks quickly become team leaders, and I believe we are merely lacking a belief in our ability as a team, rather than any dearth of talent. Scott Lawson has been very good at instilling this confidence, as well as a clear and effective game plan. There is great cause for optimism, and I look forward to watching a maturing and confident side take centre stage BT Murrayfield in September.

A quick word on a brief but successful sevens season. The club had the enormous honour of playing in the Melrose Sevens for the first time. We had reached the Cup semis at the Gala sevens the weekend before, losing to 2018 Melrose champions Watsonians in a tight game. Our opening match at Greenyards was against Gala, with Fez Mughal dotting down the winner in final play, 20-19. Our second match was against a largely Fijian cohort of the British Army, who showcased immense flair and physicality. Nonetheless we took the lead through an Alex Hodgins try and brilliant Kelvin Chen touchline conversion. We played some fantastic rugby, but they ultimately proved superior. It was a great privilege to go toe to toe with the Army, especially on such a famous stage. We were grateful to welcome alumni legends Sean Murchie, Danny Clink and Scott Docherty back into the blue jersey.

 

Roland Walker

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