Despair in the Borders

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The Independent Online
Glasgow 11

South of Scotland 26

Despite defeating Glasgow to avoid the ignominy of a first inter-district campaign without a win since 1955, Border rugby is braced for further embarrassment before this year is out.

On Thursday a Scotland A team for a crucial encounter with Italy in Perth on 7 January is due to be announced. Border forwards were once the foundation on which the full Scotland team was built; in 1984 there were six in a Grand Slam line-up, but by 199


that number had dwindled to two. On evidence presented at Bridgehaugh, where their scrummage was frequently in reverse and, ultimately. victory was due mainly to Glasgow naivety, it is hard to see Border forwards claiming more than a couple of places in even a Scottish second string.

What is even more worrying than the South decline is the response it has provoked. Some officials, whose idea of man management was to strip the captaincy from Craig Chalmers then reinvest him when a successor called off, appear genuinely to believe there is a witch-hunt against the district.

Self-pity is not what made the South a team to be feared and as rugby moves on apace the Borders remain rooted in loyalty, tradition and apparent intransigence.

The Border League (proud boast - oldest competition in world) is no longer compiled on merit, while seven Border clubs are on the brink of withdrawing from the 28-strong Senior Clubs' Association at a time when moves towards a Scottish Cup threaten theirvenerable but vulnerable April sevens circuit.

Gary Armstrong, one of the finest players the area has produced and whose own Jed-Forest club are about to move their sevens into May, recently acknowledged that it is possible more of the energy spent defending the sevens circuit could be directed towards resolving the current crisis.

Against the Springboks the sole Border standard bearer was Doddie Weir, whose place is currently under intense pressure. Weir, with his line-out expertise and general pirating in a back row also featuring flanker Ronnie Kirkpatrick as a dark horse for higher honours, did more than most to hand the wooden spoon to Glasgow.

How Glasgow must regret playing into South hands by moving slow, static, possession to the extent that not even that electrifying winger Kenny Logan, capable of enlivening the Leicester crowd when he makes his Barbarian debut tomorrow, could influence the outcome.

But by winning on short rations and in repeatedly ushering those Glasgow backs across field and into touch at least the South players showed a welcome touch of nous.

For the sake of Scottish rugby it is pity such attributes appear so lacking in perhaps the one area of Scotland where rugby really matters - the Borders.

Glasgow: Try Barrett; Penalties Barrett 2. South: Tries Suddon 2, penalty try; Conversion Chalmers; Penalties Chalmers 3.

Glasgow: D Barrett (West); G Breckenridge (GHK), C Simmers (Edinburgh Acads), I Jardine, K Logan; M McKenzie (all Stirling County), C Little (GHK); J Gibson, K McKenzie (capt), B Robertson (all Stirling County), A Watt, S Munro , F Wallace (all GHK), J Lonergan (West), G McKay (Stirling County).

South: M Dods (Gala); C Joiner (Melrose), A Stanger (Hawick), G Shiel (Melrose), K Suddon (Hawick); C Chalmers (capt), B Redpath (both Melrose); G Isaac (Gala), J Hay (Hawick), D Lunn (Melrose), R Brown (Melrose), I Elliot (Hawick), S Bennett (Kelso), G Weir (Melrose), R Kirkpatrick (Jed-Forest).

Referee: J Bacigalupo (Edinburgh).