Saints entertained Royal High Corstorphine at Park Farm on Saturday looking to maintain their winning start to the season. As RHC had won both league fixtures last season Saints knew this would be the toughest test yet this season. It did not disappoint!
Saints started at pace putting the visitors under pressure immediately and winning an early penalty which Ben Johnstone converted from a good distance out in front of the posts. 3 – 0 The Saints possession and territorial advantage was however not being converted into points as the line out misfired initially and allowed the visitors to clear their lines. RHC gradually edged their way into the game and put the first try on the board after retaining possession through multiple phases before putting Simpson over near the corner flag. Buchan converted the difficult kick 3 – 7. The score galvanised Saints and they went straight on to the attack putting pressure on the RHC clearance kick which resulted in a line out in the visitors 22m. This time the line out was won and Saints stretched the visitors defence first on the left before moving back to the right where space was created for Ben Johnstone to go over. The conversion into the wind was missed but the lead had been regained within a couple of minutes. 8 – 7.
It was RHC’s turn to come back strongly and they scored an excellent try beside the post when Morrison ran a great line which cut through the advancing Saints defensive line. Fortunately for Saints the conversion was missed but they again trailed in the game. 8 – 12. For the remainder of the first half Saints pressed hard but they gave away too many penalties and line outs combined with great RHC defence kept them out. RHC finished the half strongly and only a quick steal of the ball from a ruck by Aaron Booth kept them out. By the time the whistle went for half time the pace and intensity of the game was taking its toll on both sides. 8 – 12.
Saints started the second half as they had started the game and following a controlled number of phases the ball went through the backs and Harry Houldey went over in the corner. Saints missed the conversion but led by the narrowest of margins 13 – 12. Saints were now attacking when they saw the opportunity and following a great break from their 22m area the ball was lost forward in the tackle just short of the RHC line. The resulting scrum put a marker down for the second period as Saints started to dominate with Adam Prentice, Saints man of the match, prominent in marching the visitors backwards. The penalty from the scrum was missed as the ball fell over just before the kick was about to be taken. Saints pressed for the majority of the second half but couldn’t get the score they needed to calm the nerves of the home support. They had chances having worked good openings but couldn’t quite convert with ball not going to hand or lack of speed on the pass allowing the scramble defence to get back and cover.
Having failed to increase their lead Saints were put under severe pressure by the visitors in the last 15 mins. RHC kicked a penalty, awarded for a high tackle, into the Saints 22m on 25mins giving them their first visit in the second half. What followed was a shredding of the Saints supporters nerves as wave after wave of visitor pressure was resisted and, importantly, without infringing. Saints controlled defence was rewarded when RHC were penalised for not releasing. As most of the support heaved a sigh of relief, Saints were on the move and went 90 metres before an great cover tackle stopped them just short of the line. Saints however disrupted the resulting line out and the ever alert Aaron Booth nipped through to score the crucial try. 18 – 12. With the conversion hitting the post the Saints support could not relax. The final minutes were played out in the Saints 22m area but they held on for a well deserved victory.
The game was a great advertisement for club Rugby played at pace with some huge hits taking their toll but always played in a good spirit and in a disciplined manner. Saints coach Ed Barnes was clearly delighted with the win, and although there is still work to be done to keep the intensity for 80 mins, he feels steady progress is being made.