Tough start to season as Giants shutout Pirates
April 23rd, 2018
East Kilbride Pirates 00 – Sheffield Giants 22
Sunday saw the Pirates at a new venue and unveiling their new home kit as they started a new League campaign. Unfortunately it was an old failing, that of a slow start to the season, that came back to haunt them. East Kilbride have now won only one of their last four season openers.
Playing at Braidholm in Giffnock, home of GHA Rugby Club, it was the Pirates who kicked off. Sheffield looked to establish their running game early, and made good progress until a fumble was forced by Matt Allison and recovered by Andrew MacIver. The Pirates response took them into Giants’ territory, but an incomplete pass on Fourth Down brought the drive to a premature end. Sheffield again made steady advances, but the home defence held firm and forced them to attempt a 45-yard field goal. The kick by Paul Stewart was unsuccessful, as indeed was EK’s next drive which ended in a punt to complete a scoreless first quarter.
Defenses were still on top early in the second period as the teams both went 3-and-out. The Giants found themselves starting on their own 11-yard line but put together an 11-play drive, rounded off with a 19 yard scoring pass from Daniel Johnson to Deivydas Merkelis, with the big receiver doing well to win the jump ball and maintain possession as he went to the ground. Alex Cooper kicked the PAT to make the score 7-0. The Pirates’ response was short lived, lasting just 2 plays before QB Neil Baptie was picked off by Jacob Skelton. The visitors were unable to take full advantage of the short field and settled for a 25 yard Cooper field goal. Desperate to get on the board before the break, Baptie was once again intercepted, with Matt Sherridan getting the pick this time. However, Gordon Wallace returned the favour, intercepting Johnson to end the half.
EK received the kick off after the restart, moving the ball steadily upfield, before stalling on a 4th-and-3 incomplete pass. Again the home defence forced Sheffield to kick, with the 41 yard attempt failing to extend their lead. The Giants did pad their advantage on their next drive however, and it was the Johnson – Merkelis connection that again did the damage. A 35 yard completion along with the Cooper conversion left the visitors 17-0 up going into the fourth quarter.
With the visitors happy to work the clock and EK unable to sustain any offensive momentum, the sides exchanged a series of punts, one of which left the Pirates deep in their own territory. Successive low snaps saw Baptie tackled in the endzone by Mikey Gray for a safety. A late 29 yard field goal by Cooper completed the scoring, while the Pirates’ last attempt to get on the scoreboard came up short, with Baptie throwing another interception, Anthony Marsden the grateful recipient this time around.
So not the start the Pirates were looking for, and plenty to work on before they host Edinburgh Wolves on Sunday 6 May. Kick off is 2.30pm.
Game report by Bill Campbell
Photos courtesy Duncan Gray, Duncolm Photography
Share this article