West of Scotland 13-12 Howe of Fife

The corresponding fixture at the start of the season had been a close fought encounter and this one proved to be no different.

Tuesday, 10th December 2019, 12:42 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th December 2019, 1:46 pm
Sam Rowlands slides in for the first of Howe's two tries. Pic by Chris Reekie.
Sam Rowlands slides in for the first of Howe's two tries. Pic by Chris Reekie.

The heavy underfoot conditions were going to impact significantly on both sides.

As the game got underway the spectators would not have been forgiven thinking it was night match - it was that dark.

West were the first out of the blocks, driving through their forwards taking the ball into the Howe twenty-two.

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Howe repelled the home side.

The Howe lacked accuracy kicking out from the pressure West applied in the opening ten minutes.

Howe were making their tackles, defending well.

But over enthusiasm, coming offside at a ruck, gave referee Stephens no option but to award a penalty, converted by Nicholson for West.

Another penalty shortly after was missed by the same individual.

Having sustained the early pressure, Howe began to build a head of momentum through their forwards, this despite their scrum getting pushed back.

Thomson always managing to create go forward ball.

The break-through was the outcome of an individual try from Rowlands.

Always dangerous with ball in hand. The stand-off ran straight at the West defence from outside the home 22, breaking a couple of tackles.

Into open space, with still some way to the try line, he was able to keep his footing on the soaking surface, beat another two defenders to slide over the line with another defender hanging onto him.

Rowlands was unable to add to his score, missing the conversion. Howe led 3-5.

With the weather deteriorating, it was to both sides credit, they tried to run the ball through their backs.

It was inevitable in the conditions, mistakes would arise, disrupting the flow of play. Howe, through Jack and Rowlands, breached the West defence, but the support was not on hand to finish off the opportunities.

With the rain pounding down it was the Howe forwards who conjured up the next score. Johnstone, Douglas, Lawrie, Allan, all carrying individually.

Then collectively the whole pack drove through the West defence, for Captain Lawrie to claim the score.

A commendable conversion from Rowlands, increased the Howe lead 3-12.

It was a strong position from which Howe never managed to build on.

From dominating the proceedings for the last quarter of the first half it was disappointing for Howe to lose a try just before the break, as West winger Vasconcelos squeezed in to score, converted by Nicholson.

The conditions did not abate. The wind increased, in favour of West. With this advantage, the young West stand-off managed their field position, keeping the Howe penned back inside their half. Howe’s defensive duties were committed and effective, denying West scoring chances.

Howe’s best efforts in the second period came from driving mauls, but they were too far out to cause West problems.

Even the appearance of Howe coach Gavin Emerson in the second row, for his first appearance, could not inject the much-needed impetus to create a third try.

As the clock ticked down, the pattern of the game never changed.

With five minutes remaining, and legs tiring, Howe were penalised.

West missed the chance.

Then Howe appeared to have won a turnover, only for referee Stephens to raise his hand for an illegal use of a Howe hand.

West changed their kicker, centre Sean Carden coming up to slot the ball between the sticks to deny Howe an away win.

West played the conditions better in the second period to deserve their win.

For Howe, the lack of a kicker was critical to the outcome.

The season still has a long way to run and a quick return to winning ways will be expected as one of the bottom sides, Caithness, make the long journey from Thurso, next Saturday.