MATCH REPORT – Ayrshire Storm 22-38 Aberdeen Warriors (sorry, I leave the headline writing to the papers…)

Ayrshire Storm began life at new home Bellsland with defeat to defending champions Aberdeen Warriors.

The game ended up as the Storm’s season opener after they were forced to postpone last week’s visit to Edinburgh Eagles due to union commitments, and the match practice of the Warriors showed as they kept up their unbeaten start to their title defence.

Both sides had a look at each other in the opening exchanges, before Warriors captain Liam Reid broke the deadlock with an unconverted try on the left after nine minutes.

The Storm responded well to falling behind, and after Ruchin Filander, debutant Liam Matthews and Jordan Duncan each had sight of the Warriors try line, just after the quarter hour Michael Kirk took a pass from Jonathan Deviney – another new face in the lineup – on the right and crossed in the corner to square up the match. Craig Williams’ conversion put the home side 6-4 ahead.

They had chances to go further in front when the Warriors gave the ball away at the kick-off reception and infringed as they tried to regroup, before Blair Jardine and Kyle Matheson made good headway from an interception in the Warriors half, but they were unable to capitalise and the visitors punished this with tries either side of the half hour.

The hosts were the architects of their own downfall in both cases.

First they conceded a penalty in midfield which the visitors kicked to the corner, and from the resulting set winger Richard Roach crossed on the left. The Warriors then pinned the Storm back in their own 20 with a clever Alasdair O’Connor kick play, and after being ruled held up on the resulting set Matt McCall scored on the right after the Storm again gave the ball away. O’Connor converted the latter to put the Warriors up 14-6.

The Storm needed a try before half time to give themselves a foothold in the game, and gave the Warriors a taste of their own medicine with a minute to go. Williams’ probing kick deep in their territory gave the hosts good field position, and Filander claimed the touchdown in the left corner to get the Storm into double figures at the interval.
The home side continued to turn up the heat on the visitors early in the second half, with new recruit Lewis Matheson forced into touch in the Warriors half from a turnover forced by captain Scott Robertson’s intelligent kick play, and Duncan nearly scoring on the right.

Disaster struck eight minutes in however, when another kick play to the corner was intercepted by the Warriors. They built the length of the field from their own line and it fell to lock forward Johnny Gray to apply the finishing touch on the left. Substitute Tom Aplin, taking over the kicking duties from O’Connor, brought up the 20 with his conversion.

The hosts were thrown a lifeline shortly afterwards however. Filander made a fine break into Warriors territory and offloaded nicely to Robertson, whose progress was halted illegally by Danny Hazzard with the Warriors defence in trouble, earning the centre ten minutes in the sin bin.

Taylor McHarg forced his way over under the posts to crown a patient spell of try line pressure from the resulting penalty, to give Williams an easy conversion to cut the deficit to four points. But the Storm were unable to capitalise further on their numerical advantage, and Gray’s second try just before Hazzard’s return, converted by Aplin, kept them in the driving seat at 26-16.

Substitute Connor Turnbull was well marshaled into touch on a typically incisive run, Duncan crossed the line only to be ruled held up, and Jardine dropped the ball in the act of scoring on the right as the Storm continued to search for a way back into the game, but it was to be the Warriors who scored next on 77 minutes.

Not for the first time in the match, the wound was partly self-inflicted. They coughed up possession as they tried to work upfield, and from the resulting set Aplin scored the Warriors’ sixth try of the afternoon, which he converted himself for a 32-16 lead.

The Warriors gave the ball away at the kick-off reception, allowing substitute Robbie McVey to play in Kyle Matheson for the try their attacking play deserved, converted by Robertson. But this was to prove no more than a consolation, and McCall’s second try of the afternoon in injury time put the icing on the cake for the visitors.
The Storm next play Aberdeen Warriors 2nd XIII in a cup tie at Bellsland, before hosting Glasgow Panthers – who defeated Edinburgh Eagles 34-26 in the day’s other match at West Lodge – in the league the following weekend.

AYRSHIRE STORM — C Stormonth; L Matthews, L Matheson, R Filander, C Williams; S Robertson, K Matheson; S Raby, J Duncan, T McHarg, J Deviney, B Jardine, M Kirk. Interchange: C Turnbull, R Festorazzi, S Docherty, R McVey.

ABERDEEN WARRIORS — D Genocchio; J Robertson, B Bissett, D Hazzard, R Roach; C Hume, A O’Connor; L Reid, M Sexton, A Robertson, A Little, M McCall, J Gray. Interchange: J Burnett, T Aplin, S Gray.

REFEREE — Mick Henry

MAN OF THE MATCH — Kyle Matheson (Ayrshire Storm)

Ayrshire Storm head coach Alex Bibby:

“I was happy with the commitment of the players and we were a bit short of match fitness, but with only two training sessions under our belt and a few new faces in the team we worked hard, made a few wrong decisions and got punished. But it’s our first game together so if we can hold on to this team, things will come together [and] we will have a good season ahead of us.”

Welcome to “Del’s Deliberations”…

Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Derek, a rugby enthusiast and reporter based in Ayrshire.  I don’t know if I’ll keep “Del’s Deliberations” as the title, but the only catchy title I could think of was “Derek’s Drivel” and that seems to be taken already!
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I’ve been a dual code rugby supporter since 2007 when I took my first tentative steps into rugby league after several years on an union-only diet.  And since you generally don’t last long as an ordinary supporter in grass roots rugby, they had to find me something to do.  Which is where the other tag comes in.
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I joined the committee of Irvine RFC in 2010 and in my first year spent my match days keeping score at home matches and occasionally, when they were really scraping the barrel, running touch.  At the end of that season I turned up at Ayrshire Storm RLFC’s first match of the 2011 rugby league season, looking forward to getting back to just relaxing and enjoying the game again for a while, only to find they wanted me to work behind the scenes for them too.
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My role with the Storm gradually evolved into that of the club’s official match reporter.  This career got off to a somewhat inauspicious start at the club’s second home game against the then seven-time champions Edinburgh Eagles (the Eagles are basically the “Real Madrid” of Scottish rugby league).  I thought I’d got my preparations spot on having armed myself with a clipboard and plenty of paper but I had reckoned without the pouring rain which made my writing increasingly difficult to read owing to running ink, and after persevering to half time I ended up watching the rest of proceedings from the bar.  (Fortunately the design of the Irvine clubhouse is quite advantageous to the fair weather supporter.)
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Anyway.  Apart from putting one Storm player’s nose out of joint after reporting him as throwing a “wastefully forward” pass, I managed to get through that summer without embarassing myself further, and my work got me appointed to do the reports for Irvine as well.  They even got me one of those fancy Weather Writer clipboards so I could write up the action in the aforementioned pouring rain, which was awfully good of them.  And that has been the cycle of my rugby life ever since.
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The seasons to come for both Ayrshire Storm and Irvine are set to be exciting ones, so there’s never been a better time to start this blog and showcase both clubs, and those they meet along the way, to the wider world.
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The teams in Scottish rugby league’s top flight are about as evenly matched as they’ve ever been, with each of the four harbouring ambitions of lifting the trophy in August.  Champions Aberdeen Warriors naturally start as favourites, and underlined this by trouncing Glasgow Panthers 52-18 in their opening match, which just happened to be a replay of last season’s Grand Final.  The Panthers, already hurting from that defeat, will now be more determined than ever to land that elusive first title, and a 34-26 victory over Edinburgh Eagles at the weekend tells you everything you need to know about what damage they can do.
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That just leaves the Storm – I’ve dealt with the Eagles already – who finally broke their trophy duck last season, three years after agonisingly squandering a 34-point lead in the Plate Final in their inaugural season back in 2010, and are looking to go one better this year by getting to the Grand Final and winning it.  These ambitions took a slight knock at the weekend with defeat in their opening game, but with only a brief pre-season and several new faces in the lineup it was always going to be a big ask to hit the ground running.
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So, with everyone having their own point to prove, needless to say it’s going to be an exciting summer of rugby league up here.
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Interesting times are also afoot for Irvine, with national league rugby returning to Marress for the first time in three years.  Most of the teams they will be up against are familiar faces from previous years, but there are first league meetings with Hawick YM – four years after they knocked us out of the Shield – and West of Scotland, who appear to have fallen on hard times of late.  After winning the league and the West Regional Shield, as well as heartbreakingly losing in the semis of the National Shield to Preston Lodge – another of next season’s opponents – Irvine will be hungry for more success and with a history of winning back-to-back promotions, I wouldn’t bet against them being there or thereabouts again this season.
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So that’s the scene set (I hope).  I intend to post my match reports on here, which I hope you’ll enjoy – there’s certainly never a dull moment from my point of view – as well as previews and other things that might be of interest.  All feedback in this direction is more than welcome, feel free to leave a comment.
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It now only remains for me to say, if you’re still reading this far down, watch this space, and thanks for your attention!