Howe of Fife 26-20 Ardrossan Academy

Rory Johnstone dives over for Howe's second try. Pic by Chris Reekie.
Rory Johnstone dives over for Howe's second try. Pic by Chris Reekie.

Ardrossan arrived at Duffus as league leaders and sure to present Howe with a very competitive match.

With a few players unavailable, coach Gavin Emerson introduced Ross Stockton into the front row, James Acheson into the second row with returning Fraser Allan taking up a berth in the back row.

Ian Aitken returned at 10, with Fraser Ellison moving into the centre and the experience of Graham Thomson at fullback. Ardrossan were first to score with a strong run from flanker Nathan Welsh. The kick went wide.

The score vitalised the Howe.

The forwards were securing good ball from the lineout and driving hard in the midfield through hard running from captain Jamie Thomson, Fraser Allan with Graham Thomson’s silky running.

It was from one of Thomson’s intrusions into the line and a deft offload to Ian Aitken outside the visitors 22, which led to Howe’s score.

Aitken ran hard and straight tom outpace the defence but missed the relatively easy conversion.

Howe were starting to exert pressure and won a penalty at the half-way line.

Aitken missed the kick to touch, the ball ending up in the hands of Ardrossan’s rangy full back Andrew Duncan.

He set off up field, the Howe tackling somewhat ineffective, slicing through defensive frailties.

He was supported by centre Rhuaridh Anderson, for the centre to score. The conversion attempt failed.

It was the Ardrossan forwards who conjured up the next score, their hooker Scott Campbell rumbling over for a try with the conversion missed.

In the last two seasons the Howe may well have succumbed to losing two quick scores either side of half-time. Not so this season.

It was the turn of Howe’s hooker Rory Johnstone to show a bit of power play.

His direct running and strength saw him bounce of a couple of tackles to score close beside the posts for Aitken to convert.

This was the catalyst for a resurgent Howe.

It also coincided with the Ardrossan No 10 receiving a yellow for some skulduggery close to their own try line, preventing Howe from scoring.

The crowd came alight as Ellison, now on at stand-off, created space with an inside, outside change of pace, then strong running and drive to the line, to slither under a couple of defenders to score.

Ellison converted.

From 5-15 behind, Howe now led 19-15.

Howe continued to batter Ardrossan.

The link play between all players and the strength of Allan both in attack and winning turnover ball was of high quality.

A fourth try came with around ten minutes to play.

Eden Cruickshank outpaced a couple of defenders for an easy canter to score close the posts. Ellison Converted. With the clock running down and leading 26-15 the Howe were looking at a bonus point win.

With their numbers back to 15, Ardrossan had other ideas.

Howe did manage to force a couple of lineout turnover from Ardrossan to relieve the visitors’ pressure.

Then it was their flanker Welsh who was on the end of a pass to get behind the Howe defence and score wide out. With the clock running down they took a quick drop kick for the conversion, which missed. At 6 points behind the visitors knew a converted try would win them the game.

What transpired was an intense 12 minutes of additional time, the referee finding it hard to close out the match, as Howe transgressed, conceding penalty after penalty, some questionable decisions.

The attitude and discipline displayed by Howe during those extended minutes was outstanding.

Finally, at a breakdown close to the Howe line, referee Mr Pratt adjudged the ball to be held up in a maul, blowing his whistle.

Howe with three wins in a row will take a massive boost after this performance. The hard work and enthusiasm on display was matched by the enjoyment within the ranks of the massed Howe support. Next week is a new experience as Howe head to Maybole to meet Carrick.