Lasswade 18 v 10 Greenock Wanderers
Greenock Wanderers produced a determined and skilful performance at Hawthornden on Saturday but still could not overcome fellow title challengers Lasswade who edged them out in a highly entertaining and thrilling contest in the Tennents National League Third Division.
The result means that three sides, Berwick, Ardrossan Academicals and Wanderers now all sit in joint top spot in the table with 49 points each in what is fast becoming one of the most exciting and interesting league battles across the entire national league structure.
Home advantage promised to be vital in this tie and so it proved as the hosts secured an early lead and despite some spirited Wanderers attacking play held on for a vital victory in the context of the championship race.
For Wanderers a strong forward display kept them in contention throughout with Callum Robb, Martin Lavelle and Istok Totic in outstanding form.
Also catching then eye was youngster Marco Zavaroni, a recruit from the successful Wanderers academy system, and he looks a real prospect for the future and he showed up well when he replaced former skipper Andrew love in the final quarter.
The muddy and wet conditions suited the home side best and they used their big heavy pack to good effect.
They got the scoreboard ticking over in the first minute when Dale Robertson smashed his way over the try line. Goal kicker Matty Smith converted to give the hosts the perfect start.
On 13 minutes Smith once again showed his prowess from the tee when he slotted a penalty when an award went Lasswade’s way after a handling infringement in the ruck was spotted by the eagle eyed match official.
The hosts were good value for their early lead but Wanderers stuck to their task and goal kicker Michael Frizzel reduced the deficit on 25 minutes with a fine strike of his own after the Lasswade backs were adjudged to be offside at the breakdown.
The 10-3 lead at the interval was not unassailable and Wanderers knuckled down to their task in the second half with purpose knowing that they would in all likelihood have to strike first if they were to salvage the match.
As it transpired It was the ’Mighty Swade ‘ who increased their advantage with another finely struck Smith penalty and moments later effectively sealed victory with a Liam Grieg try that extended the lead to 18-3.
Wanderers never gave up and continued to probe for that elusive opening. It eventually arrived late in the game when Serbian international hooker Totic scored a fine converted try after some good work by both backs and forwards.
The counter reduced the deficit to 18-10 but try as they might the locals could not find that further cutting edge that was needed to get them back on terms.
Although beaten Greenock were certainly not bowed and if they can maintain this form then they have every chance of winning some key matches in the future that will ensure they will compete for the top prize come spring time.
Vice-president Steven Haldane said,” We battled throughout and despite the defeat gave a good account of ourselves. The pack in particular matched the aggression of Lasswade and in reality but for some missed chances we could have got more out of the game. It’s a setback but we are still very much in the hunt and will look to regroup this week and produce a good result next Saturday”
Wanderers continue their league programme next weekend with their final home match of the year against Hillhead/Jordanhill.
Elsewhere Wanderers second string defeated Dumfries at Fort Matilda 17-5 in atrocious weather conditions and the third XV had their game cancelled due to the opposition being unable to raise a side.
Wanderers are sponsored by MM Search.
Match report by Donald Cunningham