Crieff and Strathearn 11
CRIEFF and Alloa battled through horrendous conditions last Saturday to produce an intriguing match in what the clubs hope may become an annual fixture: the Rob Roy Challenge Cup.
With both teams having had their National Plate ties cancelled on account of the weather, club president Alan Rose managed a last-minute deal to allow the players to blow away the festive cobwebs.
Little did he realise that this was exactly what would happen, as the weather deteriorated during the afternoon at an incredible rate.
Alloa are going through a rebuilding phase, having pulled out of their amalgamation with near neighbours Hillfoots and being forced to drop from National One to Caley Two Midland, where they are 14 points clear of their nearest opponents and have averaged 50 points a game.
The Blue and Golds found themselves with a number of their established front five unavailable, while new man Daniel Pilgaard from Aarhus RFC in Denmark made his debut partnering Craig Gordon in the second row with veteran Bob Kerr in the front row.
Among the backs stand off Jamie Coffey failed a last-minute fitness test and Craig Wishart moved from full back to outside half to partner old faithful Ken Butler, making a welcome return after a prolonged injury. Coach Botha sprang a surprise with Welshman Tom Warnes back to partner Fijian Lapeni Ragede in the centre, the versatile Gordon Innes moving to full back and new man Will Young starting on the left wing.
By kick-off time the wind was not far short of gale force, the rain was sweeping in a torrent down the middle of the park and Alloa had the elements at their back.
Although outgunned physically up front, the Blue and Golds’ forwards moved the ball around whenever the opportunity arose. Alloa found themselves on the back foot and a number of penalties were conceded in quick succession. Skipper Kennedy duly punished them with a superb kick into the teeth of the gale to push the homesters into a three-point lead.
With the weather getting worse by the minute, it was a tribute to both teams that they tried to play rugby in the awful conditions. A greasy ball saw a succession of knock-ons and dropped passes.
The second half saw Crieff with 90 per cent territorial advantage as they pinned the visitors down in their own half. The home side went further ahead when a fine handling move involving the back row was finished off by Will Young.
Although unable to add the two points, another penalty brought the homes side’s total to 11. Alloa’s consolation try following their only incursion into the home half was a fair reward for hard effort.
This week the Blue and Golds resume their league duties with a long haul to Orkney and an overnight stay. A win there would be a tremendous achievement.