Volunteer Park was the place to be on Saturday for excitement, tries and drama – culminating in the most incredible end to a game that one could never have envisaged.
The Linden were first to score when Chris Telfer pounced on a Forrester attempt to steal a home lineout to go over in the corner. Forrester responded with a period of pressure which eventually sucked in the Linden defence and allowed the visitors’ tight-head to stroll over for the equalising try.
A short ball from a ruck on the Forrester 10-metre line was then spilled and Gavin Stirling gratefully accepted the loose ball to sprint in at the posts, for Steven Beattie to convert. Only three minutes later Forrester were on the attack but once more they dropped the ball and Nathan Murray hacked on from his own 22 all the way to the visiting line to put Linden further ahead.
Forrester kicked a penalty before the Royal Blues scored a beauty to secure the try bonus point. From a strong Linden scrum, Josh Farmer gave a double dummy, a wide ball to Beattie and the winger scorched over and added the extras to put the home side in command at 24-8. However, in first half injury time, Forrester’s blind-side flanker took a short ball and went through a gap to score at the posts. The conversion reduced the Linden’s lead to nine points at the break.
Soon after the turnaround, the Edinburgh side scored from a lineout catch-and-drive. Although Stirling kicked a penalty, Forrester had taken a grip of the game and from a scrum they went blind for their winger to touch down and the conversion tied the match at 27-all. Then, just when it looked liked a draw would be the final result with only a minute of normal time left, Forrester went over for a converted try at the posts for what appeared to be the winning score.
Unbelievably, the game was far from over, and the Linden showed great composure to apply a long series of pressure, running a number of penalties before Murray finally crossed in the corner. Beattie had a kick from the touchline to tie the game but it fell just short. However, at least one Forrester player had shouted out during Beattie’s run-up to put him off and the referee ordered a retake.
Dissent from the visitors saw a penalty awarded. Once more the Linden went through phases and when another penalty was awarded near the line, Stirling took a quick tap and sneaked over for the match-winning score as the clock showed 13 minutes of extra time played.
This was remarkable given the Linden were looking for an equalising try at the 80-minute mark but they went through two very long periods of possession where the only stoppages were penalties and, of course, a match cannot end on a penalty.
The Linden would have been frustrated to lose after building a commanding lead, but equally so Forrester who seemed to have won it at the death. A draw would probably have been a fair result but the Linden deserve credit for showing composure at the end and pulling out a win.
Josh Farmer made an encouraging debut at stand-off, Craig Mitchell had some thundering runs in his last game before heading off to the army, and Blaine Willison showed up well until retiring with a back injury.