Edinburgh Accies are perhaps the most famous Former Pupils rugby club in Scotland. With the FP tag not as relevant to them now as perhaps in the past, it is something that has driven a new class of FP’s to the top of Premier Two.
Accies have been top of the tree since game one and have the calibre of players to score tries from anywhere on the pitch. They have, and will continue, to post big scores against opposition teams through their attacking brand of running rugby.
The wide approach to the game has worked well for Peebles at times this season also and with the two styles meeting head-to-head at Raeburn Place, a frantic, fast and loose game could have been expected.
The early exchanges however set the tone for the Peebles attitude on the day. Early forward breenges at the heart of the Accies pack generated and abundance of good ball and did not allow the larger Accies pack to settle. This, along with a good kicking game meant that, when Accies did have the opportunity to attack from deep, they were marshalled into areas to limit their attacking options. The set piece exchanges were very well matched but through nous and grunt, Peebles won their fair share of good ball. The backs reacted to the example set by the forwards and played a controlled, well managed game. They mixed field position with some direct running and did not hesitate when the opportunity arose to play wider.
The first half ended with Peebles with a commanding 16-0 lead. This was courtesy of three Neil Warnock penalties and a converted try straight from the training ground. Good lineout possession was won by Harvey and the ball was battered up in the midfield. A forward scurry around the ruck opened the space for Moore to hit McLean up the blindside whose beautiful miss-pass gave Donald Anderson enough time to scorch in at the corner.
The interval gave Parker and McGuinness the chance to reinforce the ethics of the day and, as expected, Accies came out strong. After 10 minutes they had scored an opportunist try in the corner that, once converted, got the city team on the score sheet. Two further Warnock penalties asserted some control back into proceedings and the coup de grace came with the last play of the game. Having soaked up some desperate Accies pressure, the ball was spilled and Clancy was quick to react. He chased his long hack through and had the patience to pick up and despite a close quarters tackle, had the strength to score. Warnock converted and to bring no side and a well deserved 29-7 win for the Gytes men.
This was one to remember for the Peebles faithful and a massive boost for the team. A team that play like a team of mates and will graft and scrap and work hard for each other. There were no superstars and selecting a man of the match would have been wrong. The work from Aitken, McConnell, Brown and Harvey with and without ball in hand was a testament to the commitment on show. Adam Clark, who, like a good Claret, is getting better with age. Borthwick won the battle of the sixes and Paton won the battle of the gingers. Paton was his usual industrious self making ground with every carry. And, in Euan Jackson at openside flanker, Peebles had perhaps the most effective forward on the pitch. What he lacks in physical bulk, he makes up for with aggression and wit.
In the backs Moore and Warnock worked like a well oiled machine. McLean and Clancy were rock solid in defence and threatening in attack. Smellie showed great commitment with ball in hand and more importantly by purely playing through an injured shoulder. Martin Cruickshank is another who punches above his weight and offers real threat, and he, like Anderson are the sort of players that can light up a dull day when they get ball in hand.
Interestingly enough Martins mother, ‘Mrs’ Cruickshank, has been a very vocal member of the Peebles support at each game this season and has, at one time or another, taught PE to all of Peebles players (except Dave McLean). Peebles High School has a rich rugby heritage and it is testament to this education of the game that Peebles have such a good number of local players still involved, not just at this club, but at some of the biggest in the country.
Next week, Stewarts Melville travel to the Gytes. The tables have now turned and Peebles are the team the others want to knock off their perch. Parker and McGuinness have already briefed the players on the hard word required to maintain consistency. For this week though, they can be secretly satisfied about a job well done. They set out a game plan to beat the team at the top of the league; a plan the players delivered. The famous catchphrase of Hannibal from the A-Team springs to mind, ‘I love it when a plan comes together’.