As rugby seasons go, the weather this winter has made it very tough on everyone involved with rugby in Scotland. Bishopton are no exception having suffered 8 cancelled fixtures in a row, last pulling on their playing jerseys on 23rd October. There was a collective sigh of relief when the Saturday morning pitch inspectors gave the ‘thumbs up’ and the second Renfrewshire derby match of the season between Bishopton and Renfrew was given the go-ahead.
In previous years a three month lay-off in the middle of the league program would have caused Bishopton all sorts of trouble, so it was a pleasant surprise to see coach David Jackson having a different set of difficulties with a full squad available for selection.
Bishopton started the game, after an intense and quite physical warm-up, with all guns blazing. Too many times this season the team has been guilty of starting slowly and has had to be stung into action by going a score down, it certainly was not the case this week. From the whistle there was an obvious urgency and for the seven minutes it took for the first points to be scored the home pack never left the opposition’s 22 yard area. Renfrew deserve credit for their committed defence as the Bishopton pack threw the kitchen sink at them, eventually a crack did appear and a quick Matt Wallace penalty tap found captain John Lamb who drove through it.
Renfrew did not take this lightly and responded within a minute, some great backs handling giving the powerful winger room on the outside to score a well-taken try, converted to take the lead at 7-5.
From the kick-off Bishopton again increased the pressure in the forwards and returned the ball into the visitors’ danger zone. Michael Burke was next to score for the hosts from a turnover in the ruck. 2 minutes later, following a Renfrew yellow-card for a high tackle close to the visitor try-line, scrumhalf Sandy Glassford took a quick tap and burrowed his way through the forwards to earn another five points. Both were converted by Alan Lees to bring the score to 19-7, after 20 minutes it was looking like it might be a long afternoon for Renfrew.
However they had different ideas and again silenced the noisy home support with another good try. The silence last only three minutes until Bishopton scored the first of three quick tries, securing the bonus point after just 24 minutes. All three of these tries were from short penalties, the first by Glassford, who was having a superb game behind his dominant pack and the next two from openside flanker Bruce Abernethy, chasing the ball with enthusiasm and causing all sorts of trouble for the opposition stand-off.
The half-time score was 36-12, and with a lot of fresh legs on the touchline Bishopton were looking forward to stretching the lead in the second half. Coach Jackson’s policy has always been that everyone involved in the match-day squad should play a significant part in the game. Without doubt this is the best approach for a club that plays its rugby at the ‘community’ end of the league spectrum, but when there is a full squad available rotating players on and off the field of play whilst trying to maintain team form is not easy. This was the case in this match, inevitably the game changed as fresh players took their places, and Bishopton started losing the control and composure which had given them so much possession in the first half.
That said, Bishopton was the first to score in the second half. An ambitious ‘off-the-top’ call from Stuart Kelly, the home team hooker, at a 5 yard lineout was caught cleanly by Abernethy and passed along the line to centre Stuart Smith. Smith has an incredible change of pace and scythed through the rush defence up to the halfway line, as the defensive back three converged on him he managed to find young Andy Evans who was supporting on the wing, Evans made no mistake finishing off the move with 5 points. This was against the run of play and Renfrew, who are a very experienced side with lots of weapons at their disposal, took complete advantage of the home team’s fractured game-plan and won the second half by two tries to one, the final score was 43-24 to Bishopton.