Watsonians too hot for Currie



IT WAS billed as the closest final for years but instead Watsonians had the game all but won with three unanswered tries in the first 40 minutes and, if the game wasn't safe then, they made it so with two more touchdowns in the final ten minutes.

The Myreside men enjoyed a 19-0 lead at half-time but they will have remembered back to 1996 when they squandered a 15-0 lead against Hawick. It looked for a while as if lightning might strike twice as Currie improved after the break. They scored first in the second half with a try and penalty to pull to within nine points, but that was as close it got.

"The truth of the matter is that we didn't play very well," said Currie coach Ally Donaldson with typical candour. His opposite number, Cammy Mather, appeared in that 1996 final and the player/coach, sidelined yesterday with a broken hand, confirmed that the long wait for silverware was worth it.

"I made every tackle and every pass out there," he said afterwards. "I am not too cool on the sidelines but I was proud of the guys on the pitch. The first half defence was just amazing. I think that Currie reckoned we had something of a soft underbelly up front but we took them to the cleaners. The turning point for me was just before half time when they had all the pressure on our line and we repulsed them time after time. I think that me not playing was a plus because it put their emphasis back on to the other players who fronted up. If Iain Sinclair had played like he did today back in 1996 we would have won that match."

As good as the veteran flanker was, the real stars of the show were the Watsonian backs. Jamie Blackwood and Bryan Rennie grabbed a brace of tries each but they were still overshadowed by speedster Andrew Turnbull. If our pro-teams cannot find a good use for the electric pace of Turnbull then they simply aren't looking hard enough. The little flyer set up the first two tries and the whole crowd held their breath every time he got the ball in hand.

All the early flow was with Watsonians who had touched down over the Currie line only for prop Paul Tait to be called back when referee Malcolm Changleng adjudged that he had obstructed a tackler. Scotland sevens star Turnbull had already skipped past three tacklers on his first carry so Currie cannot argue that they weren't warned when he set up the opening score for scrumhalf Blackwood on 17 minutes.

Turnbull stepped out of two despairing tackles on his right wing before finding his scrumhalf with a neat inside pass. Four minutes later the little winger struck again, popping up on the "wrong" wing to give his skipper Alan Nash the simplest run for the line which the fullback-for-the-day was grateful to accept. Nash then made his presence felt at the opposite end of the field when he bundled Geoff Caldwell into touch after the Currie winger had latched on to the end of Donovan Raw's cross field kick.

Just about the only aspect of play that Currie were able to dominate was the set scrum but, contrary to all received wisdom, it made not a jot of difference to Watsonians. With Iain Sinclair slotting into the backrow role vacated by Mather, it was the veteran flanker who sparked a break out that almost resulted in his side's third touchdown. Once again Turnbull was involved but this time the winger knocked on as he raced Currie scrum-half Graham Calder to a ball in goal.

It mattered little as the match was all but over on 33 minutes. Currie stand-off Donovan Raw spilled a low pass and, while everyone waited for the whistle, Watsonians centre Rennie scooped up the loose ball and raced unopposed to the line. Bernard Hennessey added the extras.

Currie did have a couple of chances in addition to Caldwell's near miss. Douglas Flockhart had one man to beat but the full-back's attempted chip ahead was charged down. Richard Snedden also had a chance but the reserve scrumhalf turned left when all his support was lined up the other way and another chance went west. Just as it looked as though the men in black might muscle their way across the Watsonian line from a short-range lineout, they were frustrated by the half time whistle.

Currie started the second half as they finished off the first but with no more success and Sinclair and Turnbull were able to break out down the right wing to relieve the pressure. Twice in the opening 10 minutes of the second half Currie were awarded a penalty and twice they opted for a kick to the corner rather than claim the three points. The ploy didn't work as Watsonians proved stuffy defenders if not always honest ones, Tait doing 10 minutes in the sin bin for the most blatant offside of the season.

Eventually the pressure paid off, although when the touchdown came it owed nothing to muscle and everything to skill. Ben Cairns was by far the brightest spark in the Currie backline and the classy centre dummied and weaved his way to the right-hand corner. The tide was suddenly in their favour, Raw's conversion hit the post before bouncing over and then Hennessey pulled a penalty wide of the posts at the other end.

The same man did likewise with a well-worked drop goal attempt but Watsonians had weathered the storm and were once again dominated this match. Raw did convert a penalty in front of the posts to drag his side to within nine points but Watsonians lock Ian Dryburgh set up Blackwood for his second try and Rennie did a magnificent swallow dive to claim the final five points in the left-hand corner.

Watsonians: A Nash; C McWilliam, B Rennie, B Hennessey, A Turnbull; J Easton, J Blackwood; K Koertz, S Lawrie, P Tait, I Dryburgh, D Payne (J Thrush, 60), G Brown, G Hills, I Sinclair.

Currie: D Flockhart; G Caldwell, B Cairns, D Officer, C Browne (K McShane, 50); D Raw, G Calder (R Snedden, 35); A Reekie, G Scott, A Edwards, P Huntly (J Taggart, 68), C Black (A Adam, 40), B Miller, M Cairns, R Weston.

Referee: Malcolm Changleng (Gala)

Scorers: Currie - Tries: Cairns, McShane. Conv: Raw. Pen: Raw. Watsonians -Tries: Blackwood (2), Nash, Rennie (2). Conv: Hennessey (3).