Watsonians 42 - 14 Dundee HSFP THE introduction of a specialist backs coach is being hailed today as the vital extra ingredient that can carry Watsonians to their second Scottish Hydro Electric national rugby cup in three seasons.
The Myresiders took another step along the road to Murrayfield finals day with a 42-14 home win over Dundee High FP's which puts them into the quarter final. And, according to skipper Kyle Traynor, the input from Bruce Aitchison made a significant difference on two fronts.
Borderer Aitchison, now teaching PE in Edinburgh, arrived around the turn of the year following stints coaching at Dundee High and playing at Boroughmuir. Traynor said: "The fact that Bruce had some insight into Dundee certainly helped because we had a better idea what to expect from them. But while we have always felt we had a good pack, a bit of fine-tuning has been done to our backs, giving them that extra edge nowadays.
"Coupled with the presence of the best coach in the Premiership that is Cammy Mather we are lacking nothing in preparation and hopefully that showed when inching nearer our Cup goal."
While four of 'Sonians' six tries came from the backs a more telling statistic lay in the fact that when Dundee visited in the Premiership this season they were only just seen off, by 23-20.
Saturday's scoreline hinted at more finishing power from Watsonians against opponents much more competitive than the scoreline suggests and whose resilience was reflected in them closing, as well as opening, the score.
Traynor added: "We knew that Dundee, despite effectively being relegated from our league, would be good at holding on to the ball because we'd had them watched recently. Historically they seem to trouble us so it was satisfying to win by such a margin."
Coach Mather echoed the view that 'Sonians had shown creativity in singling out Samoan centre Malasai Mialo.
"Mialo again showed brilliance for his two tries," said Mather. And the coach was also pleased with the contribution of Scott Kennedy when deputising at stand off for clubs' internationalist Andrew Skeen whose damaged knee ligaments are on course to heal for the April 5 quarter-final round.
"Scott settled in well and when it came to really using the strong wind at our backs in the second half it was only sensible to take the pressure off him by making as much use as necessary of Bernie Hennessey's powerful boot," said Mather.
Indeed it was a clever strategy to find midfield roles for blindside flanker Hennessey on the rare occasions Watsonians were pressurised after a shaky opening quarter. Such tactics ensured there would be no way back for Dundee after centre Graham Thomson capitalised on turned-over possession to race 40 metres for the opening score which Cammy Ferguson converted.
Kennedy, son of former Grand Slam centre Euan, looked much more comfortable compared to when used in his regular role of full back and besides kicking two penalties showed awareness to take a quick drop out which led eventually to the opening home try by Kian Coertze from a driven line-out.
That helped 'Sonians turn round 11-6 in front and if a re-start try from winger Sam Paulo didn't put them in total control then Mialo's thundering run to the posts from Kennedy's scissors move certainly did. It was simply a question of how wide the margin would be for the final half hour and the answer was provided by tries from Mialo, Rohan Steyl and Josh Abraham before Craig Lemon's consolation effort.
Conspicuous throughout much of the one-way traffic was centre Dougie Brown with some smooth linkeage. Also, lock Torrie Callander, coincidentally also the son of another ex-Scotland cap, Gary Callander, was quick to every breakdown prompting Traynor to pay tribute saying: "A recent break in the USA seems to have had a good effect on Torrie but with the second half of the season so stop-start because of the representative programme our whole team benefited from travelling to face Glasgow Hawks in a friendly on Calcutta Cup morning. It took a bit of commitment to get ourselves along the M8 for an 11am kick off and all credit to the team for showing the right attitude.
"It was definitely a worthwhile exercise because rustiness evident early on against Dundee began to disappear the longer the match went on although nobody is taking anything for granted just because champions Boroughmuir are now out of the Cup."
The only negative for 'Sonians, who on this form must fear nobody in the Cup, was the dislocated shoulder suffered by tearaway flanker, Johnny Pelter.
Watsonians: Tries: Mialo (2), Coertze, Paulo, Steyl, Abraham. Conversions: Kennedy (3). Penalties: Kennedy (2)
Dundee High FPs: Tries: Thomson, Lemon. Conversions: Ferguson (2).
Watsonians: C McWilliam, R Steyl, D Brown, M Mialo, S Paulo, S Kennedy, E Howe, A Welsh, G Wood, K Traynor (captain), T Callander, J Nicolson, B Hennessey, W Lipp, J Pelter. Subs: N Hart, K Coertze, M Kerr, J Abraham.
Dundee High FPs: M Kerr, R Lemon, G Thomson, C Ferguson, A Hay, L Graham (captain), Andy Dymock, Alan Dymock, K Watt, N Dymock, C Cumming, R Hawkins, S Dreyer, G Oommen, D Levison. Subs: J van der Esch, M Jenkinson, R Milne, B Jones.
Referee: Mr A Ireland (Grangemouth).