Penalty miss in inter-district rugby final ends winning streak going back to 2002 for South of Scotland

Ronan McKean on the ball for South of Scotland during Sunday's Scottish inter-district championship final against Caledonia Reds at Braidholm in Glasgow (Photo: Euan Cherry/SNS Group/SRU)Ronan McKean on the ball for South of Scotland during Sunday's Scottish inter-district championship final against Caledonia Reds at Braidholm in Glasgow (Photo: Euan Cherry/SNS Group/SRU)
Ronan McKean on the ball for South of Scotland during Sunday's Scottish inter-district championship final against Caledonia Reds at Braidholm in Glasgow (Photo: Euan Cherry/SNS Group/SRU)
South of Scotland’s 32-30 loss to Caledonia Reds in Sunday’s Scottish rugby inter-district championship final in Glasgow ended an unbeaten streak for head coach Matty Douglas stretching back to last April and an even longer one of 21 years for the regional team.

Prior to the weekend, Douglas’s last taste of defeat was in a play-off semi-final with Hawick at Marr at the end of March 2022 and since then he’d gone on to rack up 24 wins and one draw with the Greens and a victory earlier this month with the South versus Edinburgh.

A long time without losing that might be but the South had gone over two decades longer, last being beaten at XVs, twice, in 2001’s championship, having won all four of their games in 2002’s championship, the last until the competition’s revival this year, and four one-off fixtures since – in 2009, 2011, 2016 and 2017.

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They were only one kick away from keeping that winning run going as well, Craig Dods being given a shot at edging out Reds with a last-gasp penalty only to see it drifting wide, handing the title to an opposition outfit featuring his Gala team-mate Glen Brough.

Matt Carryer on the ball during Sunday's Scottish inter-district championship final between South of Scotland and Caledonia Reds at Braidholm in Glasgow (Photo: Euan Cherry/SNS Group/SRU)Matt Carryer on the ball during Sunday's Scottish inter-district championship final between South of Scotland and Caledonia Reds at Braidholm in Glasgow (Photo: Euan Cherry/SNS Group/SRU)
Matt Carryer on the ball during Sunday's Scottish inter-district championship final between South of Scotland and Caledonia Reds at Braidholm in Glasgow (Photo: Euan Cherry/SNS Group/SRU)

The red-and-white-hooped regional representatives had come from behind to win their five preceding matches – by 50-17 against Edinburgh in Galashiels this month, by 40-24 versus Reds in Stirling in 2017 and 33-7 against them in Jedburgh in 2016, by 22-15 versus the Barbarians in Hawick in 2011 and 37-3 over Northumberland in Galashiels in 2009 – and had looked to be on course to do the same again after a 74th-minute Dods penalty edged them in front by 30-29 after being 15-10 down at half-time and 29-10 behind at one point after the break.

A sixth comeback in succession proved to be beyond them, however, as a 75th-minute penalty by Falkirk’s Glen Faulds from 40m out put Reds 32-30 up and Dods was unable to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with the last kick of the game at Glasgow Hutchesons’ Aloysians’ Braidholm home ground.

The South’s other scorers were Hawick’s Shawn Muir and Kirk Ford, Melrose’s Calum Crookshanks and Musselburgh’s Michael Badenhorst with tries and Dods with two conversions and another penalty within a minute of kick-off.

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Reds’ try-scorers were Highland’s Adriu Muritoki, Stirling County’s Callum MacPherson, Glasgow Hawks’ Liam Brims and Falkirk’s Harry Russell, with Brims adding three conversions and a penalty.

South of Scotland's Nicky Little being tackled by Caledonia Reds during Sunday's inter-district championship final at Braidholm in Glasgow (Photo by Euan Cherry/SNS Group/SRU)South of Scotland's Nicky Little being tackled by Caledonia Reds during Sunday's inter-district championship final at Braidholm in Glasgow (Photo by Euan Cherry/SNS Group/SRU)
South of Scotland's Nicky Little being tackled by Caledonia Reds during Sunday's inter-district championship final at Braidholm in Glasgow (Photo by Euan Cherry/SNS Group/SRU)

South captain Muir, 29, was disappointed to see his side miss out after getting so close to pulling off another winning fightback, telling Borders Rugby TV: “It’s a bitter pill to swallow, if I’m honest. It’s a tough one to take.

“Fair play to Caley, in the first half they were exceptional. They just threw the ball about and had us all over the shop.

“We’d seen them play like that against Glasgow and the West last week and that’s the disappointing thing as we knew what they were going to bring.

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“In the first 40 minutes, we lacked a bit of accuracy in attack and also in defence. We weren’t getting set quick enough and we weren’t getting off the line and making shots. We just gave them too much of a head-start.

Hawick's Shawn Muir being tackled during Sunday's inter-district championship final between South of Scotland and Caledonia Reds at Braidholm in Glasgow (Photo by Euan Cherry/SNS Group/SRU)Hawick's Shawn Muir being tackled during Sunday's inter-district championship final between South of Scotland and Caledonia Reds at Braidholm in Glasgow (Photo by Euan Cherry/SNS Group/SRU)
Hawick's Shawn Muir being tackled during Sunday's inter-district championship final between South of Scotland and Caledonia Reds at Braidholm in Glasgow (Photo by Euan Cherry/SNS Group/SRU)

“In the second half, we had our chances to win that game, but they’re a good side and they won it. We’ll take this on the chin.

“We got our noses in front, by 30-29, at the end but we just weren’t able to see it out. I thought we were going to do it again and come back from behind.”

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