Howe Of Fife V West Of Scotland

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Howe of Fife v West of Scotland (under-15)

The Scottish Cup semi-final away at Howe of Fife - a big deal for all of us - and we had a large and very welcome support for the 19 boys in today's squad.

An early meet time of 8 am and a quick journey through to the 'Kingdom' with most of us half-awake.

We arrived before 10 am and shook out the journey. The boys changed and we warmed up for a while. Then back to the dressing rooms for the pre-match pep talks. "We didn't come all this way to lose in a semi-final."   "No-one remembers the teams that lose in semi-finals."  "How much do you want to play at Murrayfield?"    Various other rousing words - keeping the adults' nerves at bay as much as distracting the boys from their pre-match i-pod selection.    Out to the pitch, the huddle and the Gordon Vallance challenges to the squad. "Who are we?"  and "What are we?".

11 am - Game on.

From the off we did not drop one kick all day - a big change from 2 weeks ago.  We did however have a good Howe pack to compete with and the referee reminding the boys of the rules and penalising infringements quickly.  It was all mid-park but West seemed slightly stronger.  A West push up the left side brought a kick into touch inside the Howe 22.  From the Howe lineout West's Mark Vallance stole the ball and offloaded to Paul Ramsay who drove low from 5 metres out, and was unstoppable at this close range, over for the first West try.  Angus's conversion kick was close but not quite there. {about 10 minutes played} West 5 - 0 Howe. West received the Howe restart and the mid-pitch struggle continued with West seeming on top, but unable to get their backs moving with any real penetration. When Howe had the ball they used their big centres but they too had no change from excellent West tackling and no breakthroughs resulted.

West managed some more mid-park running, winning metres but always being stopped from a real breakaway, but did manage to pin Howe back. When Howe tried to clear the kick was charged down and Angus was first to pounce. He narrowly missed this conversion. { about 20 minutes played} West 10 - 0 Howe.

Would West run away with it or would Howe respond ?   Well Howe did respond, with their forwards upping the pace and driving at West. The West tackles were good but Howe made ground. A couple of scrums and penalties followed and Howe moved right up near the West try line.  The Home crowd bayed and the West support were worried. Another close in ruck, West penalised and Howe's big guns drove forward and from the second phase dived in to score on the line. Another good kick but just missing. { about 28 minutes played }   West 10 - 5  Howe.

Shortly afterwards the ref blew for half-time.  The West forwards were blowing hard, and we knew we were in a real contest.    Some much-needed half-time water and back out - no changes in either team. Subs wanting on but coaches nervous with the tight score.

The West pack upped their game again and throughout that second half made a number of great runs. Every one of these - notably Paul Ramsay, Mark Vallance, Stuart Holt, etc. - broke the Howe line but where usually that is enough for a West try, today the next Howe boy popped up and made the tackle.  There were a few kicks as well as runs from both sets of backs, but neither made the telling break and the defences stayed on top.  West and Howe each made a couple of substitutions and the West forwards appeared to be coping with the match pace better.  West drove up the right and from the Howe 22 Paul picked up from a ruck and sprinted in at the corner for West try no. 3. { about 15 minutes into the half} Again a difficult conversion and Angus was not successful. West 15 - 5 Howe.

Another Howe kick over the West back line was again caught by Blair (at full-back this week) and he kicked back over them, with one of their big centres gathering. Blair followed-up and tackled the big guy but was hurt in the process, and just after that one of the Howe backs was hurt from a powerful West tackle. Two more substitutions.

Some more West surges brought a rare quick passing move out left and Andy Taylor jinked and sprinted in at the left corner.  Another difficult conversion missed!   West 20 - 5 Howe.    The away supporters breath a little more easily - only 10 minutes to go. The remaining subs came on for West and another move out wide had a great run from Callum on at left wing, but he was stopped short by more good Howe tackling. A little more of the mid-pitch struggle, and Howe could not find a way through.

A few minutes later the referee ended the match. We were in the final !

It was an exciting match to watch, with a lot of open play and great endeavour from every player. Neither set of backs really lived up to the excellent efforts of the forwards. They tried but thing did not quite go to plan in attack despite all they tried, but both were very successful in defence.  Overall West were the stronger team and I think deserved the win.

West of Scotland:

Blair Smith 15

Marcus Bowie 14
Graham Bryden 12
Angus Burns 13
Andy Taylor 11

Cameron Mackay 10
Iain Campbell 9

Mark Vallance 1
Dylan Dawson 2
Michael Gibson 3
David Warden 4
Nick Duncan 5
Stuart Holt 6
Cameron Gilchrist 7
Paul Ramsay 8

Substitutes: Callum Brooker, Mitchell Colley, Bren Halliday, Craig McGrandles.

Unfortunately the West U16's were beaten in their semi-final of the Scottish Youth Cup at Boroughmuir, losing 14 - 7 in a tense match.

Under 15 – the other semi-final - Currie won 26-7 against Deeside.
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