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39 Eng Reg Vs 1 Royal Scottish Reg

On 30 November 2011 39 Engineer Regiment played 1 Scots at Dreghorn Barracks, Edinburgh in the third match of their premier league season. On paper the fixture looked even as both teams had both won and lost in their previous matches. The Scots pitch was sodden after a week of showery rain and the highland winter had set in with a vengeance; both teams had to deal with a gusty wind and a slippery ball.

39 won the toss and began with the wind at their backs. The game began with a kick off deep into the Scots half, they sprinted it back to run through five or six physical phases at the Sapper defence. The muddy conditions hampered a flowing, running game and for the first five minutes the Scots held possession at the Sapper 22 yd line, sustaining the pressure. Eventually the home side won a penalty in front of the posts and it was converted for the first score of the game. SCOTS 3:0 Sappers.

After the kick off the ball bounced out of play to see the first lineout of many along the downwind side of the pitch. The ball was then run back and possession and penalties were exchanged over five minutes of halting play around the center of the pitch. The slippery ball made handling difficult and both sides knocked the ball on in separate occasions; the resulting scrums were extremely hard-fought and even on the muddy ground. The Sapper team gained the ball from a free kick and the back line ran it into the Scots half. Spr Best ran a great line to unzip the defence, freeing Spr Douglas to sprint the ball into the corner from the 22 yd line. Spr Best kicked the conversion well but was defeated by the gusty conditions to leave the score 5:3 to the Sappers.

The Scots kicked the game off but struggled to win back momentum, as soon as they gained ground the ball was sent deep back into their own half by kicks from the sapper back line, aided by the wind. The 39 forwards gained the ball and through several phases in quick succession forced pressure against the home team. Finally LCpl Nakamuvuto broke the deadlock sending an excellent crossfield kick into the hands of Spr Douglas who again ran in for a try, four minutes after his first. This time Spr Best had the measure of the conditions and curved the ball between the posts. With ten minutes left of the half the score stood 12-3 to 39 Engr Regt.

The Scots side were definitely not beaten and after gaining possession ran the ball back to within 5m of the tryline, only being deprived of a score by good kicking from the Sapper backs using the wind to pin their opponents back into their own half. Regaining the impetus 39 continued to pressure the Scots, slowly gaining ground on the muddy pitch. The ball was knocked on by both sides in the resulting scramble near the tryline. The Sapper scrum turned the ball over and the 39 Scrum-half LCpl Lawton slipped through a gap to set up the third sapper try.
Spr Best converted from in front of the posts to make the score at half-time Sappers 19:3 Scots.

With the wind now behind them the Scots piled on the pressure; their backs spreading the ball wide to use the field. The score line remained static as the 39 team were occasionally down to a last man tackle to prevent a try. The weather added to the tension and both sides struggled to maintain discipline – the referee eventually lost his patience and the Sappers lost a player to the sin-bin for ten minutes after a high tackle.

During the rest of the second half the physical nature of the game left both sides struggling to maintain the momentum. Fatigue began to show with several balls being knocked on and penalties awarded. In the dying ten minutes 39 again looked threatening and ran the ball to within 5m of the Scots tryline. A penalty was awarded to the Sappers only for it to be reversed for dirty rucking; the Scots followed up the penalty kick and won the ball back in the 39 half. The sappers set up a defensive line on their 22 yd line and resisted phase after phase of aggressive play. Heaping on the pressure the home side finally forced an error in their opponents and gained a scrum. The Scots effort was finally rewarded as their pack pushed over the tryline to score. In the gusty wind and fading light the Scots kicker failed to convert the try and the score as the final whistle blows stood at Sappers 19: 8 Scots.

The game had lived up to its expectations, the wind and rain had resulted in a tense, physical match and at times the win could have gone to either side. The 39 Engr team now looks forward to its first home game against 19 Royal Artillery Regiment, to be played just before Christmas leave.

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