Harris Academy FP RFC 1st XV.......................................14
Alloa RFC 1st XV.............................................................15
Everyone connected with Alloa Rugby Football Club knew for some time that last Saturday’s game against closest rivals, Harris was likely to produce a nail biting finish to the season. However, not many would have been able to predict just how tight the game itself was going to be.
Local interest in the match was such that in excess of 60 supporters made the trip to the Riverside pitch and with the destiny of the title in their own hands, Alloa were prepared for a tough game as the previous encounter had resulted in a narrow 25 – 20 win for the Earlsfield side.
Alloa started the match well and within 5 minutes had earned a 7-0 lead from a well rehearsed line out move which resulted in Hooker, Dale Foster charging over the line leaving an easy kick for Matt Allan to contend with.
This early intensity seemed to catch the home side unawares and for the next 10 minutes Alloa continued to pressure their defence. But the Dundee side is not second in the league without merit and they slowly managed to work their way into the game utilising their strong set of forwards to maximum effect and from an Alloa scrum they managed to win the ball against the head and free up their centre’s who cleverly released the flying winger to score in the corner. Much to the relief of the travelling support the resultant conversion just flew wide of the mark. However, this relief was short lived when 5 minutes later a penalty was awarded against Alloa for handling on the deck and when the decision was petutantly questioned the referee had no hesitation in marching them back 10 metres making the resultant kick for the posts easier. The Harris winger made no mistake from the boot.
Further disappointment soon followed when another penalty was awarded, again within the young winger’s range and he stretched his sides lead to 4 points. With half time approaching Alloa were awarded a penalty of their own, however, Matt Allan’s sweetly struck effort Sailed just wide.
As the sides turned around with Harris leading 11 – 7 Alloa knew that they had to dig deep if there was to be any chance of the league title being decided on the day.
Both sides continued to serve up a good display of hard, physical rugby and were evenly matched throughout, although Alloa were creaking slightly at the scrums. This allowed their strong back row to attack the Alloa backs who stood strong throughout making tackle after tackle. However with 20 minutes remaining Harris were once again awarded a penalty within kicking range and duly stretched their lead to 7 points.
The pressure was really on now with the home side, who had to win this game to keep their title hopes alive, buoyed by the fact that Alloa had to score twice to steal the points.
However, Alloa have been strong finishers throughout this campaign and once again displayed true grit and determination in their efforts to turn the game around.
With 10 minutes remaining Gary Bryce, not for the first time this season, harried his opposite number at the base of the scrum. The ball spun loose for the Scrum Half who popped up a pass for the rampaging, James Shaw who bulldozed his way over the line in front of his own supporters, much to his and their delight. However, the kick to tie the game was from wide out on the touchline and once again Matt Allan appeared to strike the ball perfectly. It was heading straight through the middle but agonisingly fell just inches short.
The atmosphere was now at fever pitch level with both sides’ supporters doing their best to spur on their side. But the next chance came Alloa’s way when they were awarded another penalty with 4 minutes remaining, this time from 35 metres out. Former Captain, Stevie Skelton was given the responsibility and he rose to the occasion, expertly dispatching the kick straight through the uprights.
Alloa dug deep for the remaining few minutes as the desperate Harris pounded their line, but attack after attack was thwarted by some strong defending and finally their luck ran out when they were penalised just short of the Alloa line for handling on the deck in an attempt to recycle the ball. Captain, Rab Truesdale checked with the referee and he signaled that time was up as he sent the ball spiraling over the sidelines to the sheer joy and jubiliation of his team mates. Alloa had done it by the narrowest of margins, but this didn’t make it any less sweeter and the celebrations that followed
will live long in the memory.
James Shaw, who had been a doubt before the match picking up a hamstring injury in midweek, and had only started on the bench, made a significant contribution when brought on and he along with Stevie Jack were awarded the joint man of the match title. However, every player deserves enormous credit for their sheer determination and will to win. Well done boys.
ARFC would like to thank Stirling County coach, Johnny Bryce for taking charge of the side this week in the absence of our normal coaches, Alex Jess and Willie Duncan who were with the Clackmannanshire Colts trip to Wales. A big thank you also is extended to these guys who have made an immense contribution to Alloa’s success.
The league title party is set to continue at Earlsfield on Saturday as Alloa play hosts to Montrose. As always, everyone is welcome to join in the celebrations with the match kicking off at 3pm.