Stewart’s Melville 86-7 Howe of Fife

The experienced Graham Thomson looking for a way through the defence. Pic by Chris Reekie.
The experienced Graham Thomson looking for a way through the defence. Pic by Chris Reekie.

The injury crisis at Howe grows week on week and the club had more problems as they prepared to meet Stewart’s Melville.

As each game passes it is as if a rugby tsunami has passed, taking out players.

At the start of the season a trip to play Stewart’s Melville in Edinburgh, who dropped from National 1, would have been a game look forward to with confidence.

Saturday’s team for the trip across the Forth stretched playing resources to the very limit.

Jake Douglas stepped into the hooker berth, Graeme Steedman was unavailable, despite the red card he received against Dumfries having been overturned.

Another colt from last year, Struan Smith, cousin of Gregor, came into the back row.

The redoubtable Iain Bousie, a Howe man through and through, also took up a back-row berth.

Sam Rowlands turned out at full back, having played for Stew Mel himself.

And Rory Johnstone came in at prop and Graham Thomson brought his experience to the centre.

Missing from last week were Ryan Hood, Andy Steven, Jack Todd and Euan Muir.

There is almost a full team of players missing through injury, eight from the team who started the first league game against Falkirk.

It was therefore only 15 players who took the park at Inverleith, no one available for bench duty.

The wind was blowing a real hoolie.

The home side, playing with the wind, moved into their stride and were five tries to the good before Howe crossed the line.

It was fitting that score and conversion came from Rowlands.

By then Howe had been reduced 14 men after the dynamic running Sean Murray pulled up with a significant ham string tear.

Despite struggling on he was forced to leave the field of play.

One cannot fault the Howe players for their resolve, they never gave up.

Time after time they produced good ball and caused the opposition all sorts of problems.

Even with 14 players.

But the tsunami had not yet finished it’s destruction.

Howe’s 10, Cameron Ellison, took a heavy blow to the head.

He was clearly unfit to continue.

The protocol and care within rugby players is paramount in relation to head knocks.

Having started with a full complement Howe faced an uphill climb with only 13 players.

With two backs missing behind the Howe scrum there was open space for Stew Mel to exploit.

They scored 15 tries in total, kicking in the wind was difficult, nine conversions were successful.

While Stew Mel had the run of the game, it was the perseverance and dogged tenacity of the Howe 13 which the home supporters applauded.

Many teams would have capitulated.

Right now, for Howe, there appears to be no respite.

Evident when Rory Johnstone injured a knee.

Howe ended the game with 12 exhausted players.

There is real quality in the team.

Given a fully fit squad, they would be a match for anyone.