Early Blitz Sets Up Big Win
By Peter Martin
Highland’s pre-season preparations were rewarded with a fine 56-19 victory over borders side St Boswells in Round 1 of the BT Cup.
Head Coach Dave Carson had set his players a specific game plan to start with a high tempo, aggressive style – and this is just what they did. Highland gave the visitors no chance to settle as they ran in two early tries to set up a fine win.
From the kick-off Highland were close to the line and a powerful scrum shoved the visiting pack off their own ball which led to a quick succession of punches at the line. Good ball retention each time eventually saw skipper Andrew Findlater touch down in the corner. Stand-off Scott Fraser made a superb conversion from out wide and it was 7-0.
The home side didn’t slacken and more attack play pulled in the St Boswells defence which was spotted by scrum-half Tom Brogan who deftly chipped the advancing defenders for Craig Findlater to race in and touch down again converted by Fraser for 14-0.
This was a good spell for Highland yet the visitors rallied and had a couple of attacks thwarted by some good home tackling as well some poor discipline. They did have a penalty chance which was pulled wide. Further St Boswells pressure saw their small but elusive full-back Callum McNeill run in for a converted try and 14-7.
Highland were not derailed buy this and they came back to the attack starting with a penalty for handling in the ruck which was converted by Fraser for 17-7. Back on the front foot Highland’s better control and discipline snuffed out any opposition threats to run in tries from Sean Blair and Craig Findlater, both converted by the on form Fraser for a half-time score of 31-7.
The squad were well placed to repeat the scoring of the first-half, but a couple of issues crept in to disrupt the intensity of play. Tom Brogan and Kevin Brown were taken off so as not to aggravate injuries, but the worst news was Stuart MacDonald suffering a broken Fibula from a seemingly innocuous contact. Highland sealed the victory with tries from Brogan, Callum Carson and Lyle Archer with two conversions and two penalties from Fraser who only slipped up on the last kick of the day.
The changes saw some cohesion in defence lost and the St Boswells number ten Lee Armstrong inspired a couple of tries, one for himself and centre Greg Walker. But this wasn’t enough to threaten Highland who deserved their 56-19 win.
For many spectators this was the best display of rugby by Highland, especially in the first quarter and the efforts put in Carson and his coaching staff to prepare the squad are paying off. MacDonald’s injury will mean he is out until the New Year which tends to highlight a possible injury crisis if any more players fall victim. A good start to the season, but they will be just as cautious in preparation for the visit of Orkney next Saturday, a seasoned Division Three side.