Sunday, 5 March 2017

Duffus Park, Cupar

Howe of Fife 7-12 Stewarts Melville

4th March 2017

With the Junior Football match I had penciled-in called off, I decided some club rugby would serve as my sporting fix this weekend.  The BBC Weather website promised both “Sunny Spells” and “Sunny Intervals” in west Fife during the afternoon, so off to Cupar it was.  But nary a ray did I see, as an insidious drizzle rarely let up, with much of the match played in a light, but nevertheless dank, mist.

Not that this detracted in any way from the afternoon's entertainment, as the visitors snuck away from Duffus Park at the conclusion with a slightly fortuitous victory – one which, I later learned, had confirmed their place in the  BT National League 1 for another season.

Stew-Mel had begun proceedings on the front foot, aided by some slightly wayward kicking from the home lot – Howe's kick-off, for example, went straight into touch – and had taken the lead after just 10 minutes when Sami PAULSSON forced over a, subsequently converted, try.  But Howe, fairly swiftly levelled with a similar-looking counter of their own through Grahame STEEDMAN.  What turned out to be the the winning score came on 25 minutes as Sean MURCHIE ran in, to take the score to 12-7 to the visitors.

And despite the fact there was no further scoring after this point, this was a never less than engrossing encounter nevertheless.  Howe, I would attest,  for the most part dominated both possession and territory...but just could not breach the Stew-Mel defence.  The vising line was, to be fair, rarely seriously threatened, and I wonder if the home lads are this morning ruing a kick-for-the-corner-rather-than-go-for-the-three-points decision they took, with around 10 minutes remaining.  For this defeat pushed Howe of Fife ever deeper into the relegation mire and, sitting as they are now twelve points from safety with just four matches remaining, things do not look rosy.

Both sets of players entered to a surprisingly raucous welcome by the modest-sized crowd.

Howe of Fife v Stewarts Melville - March 2017

Steedman forces over for Howe of Fife's only try of the match.

The scarily youthful looking Howe of Fife scrum-half Andy Harley.

I wonder how difficult it is to retain your authority with mud on your face.

Spot the recent entrant onto the field of play.

A thankless and endless task - attempting to keep the ball dry and mud-free.

View from the Duffus Park stand.

The term Howe is an old Scots word meaning a stretch of low-lying (and generally fertile) land; witness Lewis Grassic Gibbon's term “Howe of the Mearns” to refer to the arable land south of Aberdeen in A Scots Quair.

For, although the rugby club is based in the town of Cupar, it enjoys a long history of drawing both its support and players from the surrounding farming community.  None more so, I suppose, than the club's most celebrated son: David Rollo.  Rollo, despite spending all of his rugby career (if one could call it a career back then), with unfashionable Howe of Fife RFC, between 1959 and 1968 turned out 40 times for Scotland, and was quality enough to be invited on the 1962 Lions tour to South Africa.

He never quite managed a win at Twickenham during his visits there, but came mightily close during a couple of 3-3 draws.    

Duffus Park stand.

Panorama of Duffus Park, Howe of Fife RFC, Cupar.

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