A Bad Day At The Office for the Boars

The weather last Saturday was again unseasonal, another match day where the clouds were absent without leave, and the sun defied the odds and draped the picturesque Lochaber Rugby Club in eye-squinting brightness. The pitch was immaculate and stood proud against the backdrop of Ben Nevis. Before the kick-off, I strolled alongside the lock gates of the Caledonian Canal as several boats descended and stopped for a coffee.

And I could swear that I heard the Harry Potter steam engine puffing off to the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

I had left Furnace full of anticipation for the drive through Glen Coe and my first visit to this rugby club. I hoped to witness the Boar’s first win of the season. However, the drive to Fort William should have given me portents for the match. The romantic and isolated journey I had imagined through the glen while listening to Capercaillie resembled a snarl-up on the M8 during rush hour. I was horrified by the number of cars on the road and badly parked vehicles discarded by the roadside as if the occupants were popping into the shop for a paper. This was made worse by the numerous slow-moving motorhomes. These tents on wheels seem to be driven by inexperienced drivers used to driving on the other side of the road. Thankfully, Argyll isn’t a favoured destination for these lumbering vans, but it must be a nightmare for locals in the Highlands trying to move around in the summer.

Powdermills Bed & Breakfast relies on the tourist industry, so I’m reluctant to criticise visitors for enjoying the stunning beauty of our country. However, there must be a re-think of how to manage Glen Coe. Fewer but larger Car Parks? Could shuttle buses be provided? Perhaps a ban on traffic? Who knows? But it’s a problem facing many parts of Scotland, most notably Skye. Our unparalleled landscape needs protection from overuse. I understand this trade is our lifeblood in the Highlands and Islands, but it is not a green or sustainable model.

Anyway, enough of my rantings and onto the rugby. At the outset, I was challenged because Lochaber had a similar strip to Stewart’s Melville. It reminded me to check on the Stew Mel vs Kirkcaldy match on Twitter or whatever it’s called now.   The game kicked off, and from the start, it was clear that Lochaber had skilful backs, although the forwards seemed well-matched.  Mid-Argyll fell off tackles too often, and Lochaber established a two-try lead early.  The Boars struggled to gain and sustain possession, and near the end of the first half, they allowed several tries due to errors.  Heads could have dropped, and you sensed the frustration with the players who felt competitive but were gifting Lochaber opportunities.

Mid-Argyll came out with a fresh determination in the second half and pinned Lochaber in their half for over twenty minutes but failed to convert this pressure into points.  Lochaber played some attractive rugby in the last quarter and ran in four late tries.  The result was 52-0. It’s worth pointing out that the home team played well.  They are top of the league for a reason.  They had pacy backs, with good handling skills and eager support runners.  There is no disgrace in losing to a team that played a better game on the day—accepting it as learning is the key to a loss like this.  There were lots to be positive about and progress from last week.  The forwards battled and did not let up.  The tackling was courageous, and the loss could have been higher had it not been for some valiant efforts.  The commitment of the right winger in defence was excellent, but there were many examples throughout the team.  The No. 8 had another strong game, and his pick-up from the base of the scrum proved effective.  In addition, his leadership throughout was excellent. 

What was significant was the team’s reaction to what was a hard day at the office.  They never gave up and continued to fight.  This good team spirit will stand the Boars in good stead for the coming matches.

I apologise for suggesting areas to work on.  I can’t help myself.  So, for what it’s worth:

  • Play the game in the opposition’s half – kick deep and behind them.
  • Work on the lineout – a simple throw to an athletic jumper at second in the lineout.
  • Get the scrum lower – first and second rows – the scrum should be a weapon for the Boars.
  • Work on some basic penalty moves.  Quick tap penalty moves – using a pivot and having three or four options for runners, attacking space in wider channels.

Even after this week’s defeat, I’m even more optimistic that victory is around the corner.  By the way, I checked Twitter throughout the game, and Stew Mel were winning by thirty points at one time.  But they lost 47-45, so it was a silent and lonely drive home on the coast road, thinking what might have been.  Fortunately, the motor homes had parked up for the night by then.