The weather was perfect for running rugby and Bishopton had a full squad available for the home league match against leaders Lanark on Saturday, so with no excuses this was the biggest test of the season so far.
Lanark elected to take the kick-off and signalled their intentions for an aggressive attacking game right from the whistle. Over the last few matches Bishopton have developed a pattern of slow starts which must be concerning coach David Jackson. This one was no different and Lanark spent the first ten minutes battering the home team looking for a way through. The referee this week was proving to be a stickler for the laws of the game and it took both teams a while to get used to his interpretations, but despite a huge number of forced turnovers the defence remained intact and no gaps were found. The pressure did eventually pay off and after ten minutes Lanark were awarded a 3-point penalty in front of the posts following a particularly aggressive ruck.
This was the spur that Bishopton needed and from the kick-off it was as if a different team had taken the field. Lanark allowed the kick-off to bounce into touch and Bruce Abernethy stole the first lineout of many to recover the ball for the hosts. The forwards took the ball up the middle of the pitch, and with Sandy Glassford at number nine pulling the strings, drove the ball through the phases into the strike zone. Glassford, as all good scrumhalves do, knew exactly when to call time on the forwards’ fun and from the back of the sixth maul picked up and darted through a tiny gap to score the first try of the match. Alan Lees converted the try from the touchline and five minutes later knocked over a penalty to take the score to 10-3, it remained this way until half-time.
One of coach Jackson’s mantras this season is that everyone in the squad will get some game action so at the break there were a pile of changes. With the team steadily improving as the match progressed this could have gone horribly wrong for Jackson – but it didn’t. The home team hit the ground running in the second half and it wasn’t long before the forwards again found themselves driving towards the line, this time veteran hooker Matt Wallace claiming the five point prize. Lees converted, and again followed up a few minutes later with another three point penalty. The big Lanark team were certainly not making things easy for the Holmpark men, and the tackles kept coming. Phase after phase of attack was shut down, but the set piece wasn’t working for Lanark and the lack of clean ball made it very hard for them to mount any sort of attack. The knife was twisted further with twenty minutes to go when another series of attacks resulted in the ball being stopped just short of the Lanark line. Again Glassford spotted an option for the home team and ran the width of the field, passing a long ball out to the wing where prop Stu Kelly had been spotted having a breather. Kelly made no mistake collecting the ball and plunging over the line for the third try, unconverted to take the score to 23-3.
At this point things went wrong for Bishopton. An injury to centre Andy Milligan followed by another to Glassford resulted in another flurry of changes, this time not so effective. Lanark sensed the weakness and changed gears, at the same time trying out a new gameplan that was to prove very successful. They introduced a rush defence, forcing Bishopton to kick for touch and at the same time the forwards sorted out the middle of their lineout. The Lanark backs were getting tidy possession for the first time in the match and with a solid platform to build off they were able to build their attacks, using their unusually large winger to great effect. In the final ten minutes the Lanark backs ran in two unconverted tries and it was with great relief in the home camp when the referee blew the final whistle with the score at 23-13 to Bishopton.
This was a super result for Bishopton, and although there were injuries coach Jackson is delighted with the improving depth of the squad. The new recruits have brought with them a refreshing optimism which the club hasn’t seen for a few years, and there is a strong belief developing down at Holmpark that Bishopton Rugby is now ready to take the next step. League business resumes for the club with a trip to Bute on October 9th.