Saturday 27 September 2014 – 2.00pm
BT West Division 3
I can’t believe I never looked into whether the Isle of Mull had a rugby club, and that the Falcons fan who helped sort out our accommodation over here never mentioned it!
So wor lass and I were in a shop in Tobermory, right in the north of Mull, yesterday and saw some Isle of Mull Rugby apparel, shirts, coats etc. Through the dodgy internet signal I found out that the ground was near the ferry stop at Craignure, so easy to get to, and more importantly, that there was a home game today in West Division 3.
Mull’s game against Cumnock was supposed to kick off at 3pm according to the internet, so after dropping Mrs Leipy off at a spa just north of Craignure, I drove along one of the island’s few two-lane roads to the Garmony ground.
Arriving at 2.20pm, I found a game in progress. One team was clearly Mull (the island shape behind the players’ numbers giving that away), but the identity of the opposition was less clear. I soon became aware that this was the match I had come to see… ferry times probably dictated an early start.
Missing the start, it was a bit difficult to get into the game initially as I stood watching from the clubhouse balcony. The teams seemed evenly matched, as might be expected as they had both won one and lost one of their opening two games of the season and being separated only by one point on points difference (-13 for Cumnock and -14 for Mull) in the middle of the ten-team league. Both teams looked to attack with the ball in hand and kicked only as a last resort, making for a bit of entertainment.
Just before half-time, Mull’s left winger chased a chip to the corner and looked to have knocked on in diving for possession, but with Cumnock kicking out, the referee gave the hosts a lineout. The throw was taken quickly and Mull scored an unconverted try, which I found out made the score 17-5 to the islanders at the break.
At this point, believe it or not, I went in search of a pint. With nobody in the bar (apart from a woman with a table of sandwiches and cakes for the children playing in a tournament on the back pitch), I asked at the burger kiosk and another lady took me to the bar. She handed me a can of Carling and asked if I wanted a glass (a glass glass) – a bit different to the Premiership!
So the second half kicked off, the wind breezing over from the Sound of Mull in the background to this picturesque pitch. With just a minute gone, Cumnock won a penalty in a central position just in the 22 for a home tackler not releasing, and one of the visitors’ big centres sent the ball through the posts.
Mull seemed to be losing their discipline now as the mainland side turned the screw. Another penalty was sent to the left corner and from the lineout, one of Cumnock’s big, fierce second-rowers stormed over for a converted score, reducing Mull’s lead to just two points.
However, the home side managed to get themselves together and won a penalty in the right corner just in front of Cumnock’s tryline, the visitors feeling hot pressure from the island forwards.
The ball was driven forward again and then flung left, where Mull found no defenders on the left of the posts and scored. The conversion into the wind made the score 24-15 just short of the hour mark.
Mull were now in the ascendancy, and despite being sent backwards in a scrum on the left, they managed to spin the ball right and an attacker fought over for the hosts’ third try, which was again converted.
Cumnock broke and a fifty-metre run ended with a tackle on the left, and then a knock-on by the East Ayrshire team’s right winger on the other side of the pitch.
With eight minutes to go, a big scrum by Mull in the middle of Cumnock’s half confused the away defence as the home side’s veteran number eight picked off and moved to the right. He fed his right winger who made for the corner, and just before he ran out of pitch a looped pass inside allowed Mull’s blindside flanker to secure a bonus point for the islanders. Two minutes later, Mull scored their fifth and final try on the far left from an unstoppable steaming run down the wing.
The tries were coming thick and fast. Mull hesitated over the restart and Cumnock were able to gather, a different lock this time driving for the line and scoring behind the posts.
It was to be the final score of this entertaining match however, which Mull won 41-22 – thanks again to the referee for confirming the final score for me! I was interested to notice after the game that after the players had cheered their opponents, both teams chanted during the guards of honour. Maybe that’s a tradition up in this part of Scotland.
It got a bit better after the game. I headed back to the spa where I’d left the good lady, and found her drinking a cup of tea in the bar. What should I see in the fridge behind the bar? Yes, you guessed it:
Time was I would probably stop and watch a football game if I passed a field where one was being played, but not a rugby match. However, after a few visits to Kendal last season and Carlisle and now Mull this month, I’m really starting to like these ‘non-league Saturdays’. Viva rugby!
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)