Arbroath were away to Bannockburn in the first round of the Midlands Cup and for the first time in many years had a pool of 22 players to pick from.
Bannockburn won the toss and elected to use the wind. The game kicked off and was played at a very fast pace and quickly Arbroath were penalised for not rolling away at the ruck to which Bannockburn went for the posts and slotted it over with ease to go 3-0 in front.
Straight from the restart Tom Hall gathered the ball and made good yards . Quick recycled ball from D. Jones had the backs on the front foot and the flying Fijian Joe broke through the Bannockburn centres and left the 15 bamboozled with footwork that wouldn’t look out of place on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ to score under the posts with the conversion good by Owens, 7-3.
The game started to become disjointed as the Bannockburn 10 decided to use the wind and kick everything, but nine times out of 10 the ball ended up going dead turning the game into scrum after scrum. At this point Watson came on for Robertson in second row.
Arbroath were penalised for hands in the ruck and the kick to touch put Bannockburn just five yards from the try line.
The resulting line-out was taken by Bannockburn and they did a textbook driving maul to which the Arbroath pack had no answer resulting in a try with the conversion added Bannockburn edging in front 10-8.
The Arbroath backs had the edge over their opposition with excellent pace and handling but the final pass seemed to go astray and the entire team was getting frustrated at this point. Old warhorse Neish came on for C. Tough in the front row.
The contest for the ball in the rucks was becoming messy with the referee not seemingly willing to penalise the players for not rolling away so no continuity was flowing.
Bannockburn took a long range penalty but missed and the Arbroath full-back Lillley decided to run the ball out of his 22. Some slick handling from backs and forwards took the ball up the halfway line before Williams was forced into touch.
From the line-out Abroath were penalised for offside and again the kicking to touch from the 10 was pinpoint
This time the Arbroath pack knew what they had to do and stopped the driving maul in its tracks but were done for a stray boot kicking the ball away Bannockburn took a quick tap and ended up scoring in the corner conversion missed to lead 15-7. The half-time whistle sounded soon after.
After the team talk Arbroath knew they were still in the game but just had to start doing the basics right. Lewis came on for Jones and went to winger with Grey moving to nine and Shaw moving to centre.
The second half started and the team talk seemed to be forgotten as the wrong options were being taken and the Bannockburn defence easily forced the attacking players into touch.
The line-outs were beginning to work in Arbroath’s favour with Muir being a constant thorn in his opposite number getting in front of him at every throw.
Bannockburn decided to try and play tight but the Arbroath team was ready for this and the pillars and guards knocked the stuffing out of the Bannockburn players.
With this not working the Bannockburn backline tried to force the ball wide which Lewis intercepted and sprinted to score under the posts with a dive that would be best forgotten. Owens converted 15-14.
From the restart Watson won the ball and Arbroath were on the front foot again making inroads into the Bannockburn half with Grey making a break into their 22. Neish was on hand to support and carry the ball to the five metre line resulted in Bannockburn being penalised for not entering through the gate at the ruck.
A quick tap and the ball went right to Shaw and quick recycled ball had the defence in tatters with Irvine scoring on the left touchline. Up stepped Joe and sent the ball soaring through the uprights to make it 21-15 to Arbroath.
With 15 minutes to go Stanbridge came on for Lilley, A. Tough for Watermeyer and Saddington for Irvine. Bannockburn were now trying everything to get back into the game but on one such move Saddington was having none of it and tackled his man twice the size of him into touch.
From the line-out Bannockburn stole the ball but the centre dropped it and the ever-present Joe scooped the ball up to race away and score under the posts. He converted his own try making the score 28-15.
The last few minutes of the game were played in the Bannockburn half with the last play seeing Hall being held up over the line.
Everyone can be proud of the way they played. The next game is the first league match at home against Stobswell tomorrow (Saturday) with a 3 p.m. kick-off.
Team: Hall, McLennan, Tough, Muir, Robertson, Irvine, Watermeyer, Mo, Jones, Owens, Williams (C), Joe, Grey, Shaw, Lilley. Substitutes: Watson, Neish, A. Tough, Saddington, Stanbridge, Lewis and Proctor.
Training is still at Victoria Park on Tuesday at 6.30 p.m. and at RM Condor, 6.30 p.m. on Thursday.
The way numbers are going everyone has to make the effort to get there.