The Boroughmuir Road to Murrayfield
The Boroughmuir Road to Murrayfield
The dust has settled but it has been replayed so many times on YouTube, in my head, through conversations with those who were there and those who weren’t. It doesn’t get tired and neither do I, but I do miss it.
The players got it right and I was proud of the way they had maintained their standards through, what up until that point had been, a challenging season. People say some strange things when you are involved in sport, clichés tend to make us laugh but then we catch ourselves saying them too! Towards the end of the league campaign people asked me ‘would you rather stay in the Premier League or win the Cup?’ My answer was always the same, ‘Why is it choice?!’ I wanted both and because of the dedication and belief shown by the coaching team and the players, (along with a bit of luck!) we got both.
The other thing I was told was ‘this is why you coach’. That is nonsense. If Cup Finals are why people coach, a lot of coaches would have thrown in the towel long ago – I’m very lucky and I know it. We coach because we can’t play anymore, because we like to pass on our ideas and make others get the same enjoyment we experienced as players, because we love to see players develop, because we love the challenge and the winning and the losing and the banter and the sharing it all with people who want the same. We do it because we love it.
We couldn’t get too hung up on the final after the semi because we still had a lot to do in the league to ensure we stayed safe. The players maintained an intensity and determination for a 4 week period and drove each other onwards. The final game of the season saw us play Hawick at home after getting hammered away earlier in the season. We were a very different team and put in a strong performance to win the game. It was close to the perfect preparation for the cup final. We won with a bonus point but Hawick had a spell in the second half where they cut loose and scored 3 tries. The game and the result did 2 things that were crucial to our cup final build up – 1 it showed that we could beat them and 2 it showed that we couldn’t lose concentration for 1 moment because players like Nikki Walker and Rory Hutton could do serious damage if given a chance.
We analysed Hawick before the league game and put a lot of energy into their performance. In the run up to the cup final we focused largely on our own game. The players took the foot off the gas after the league climax and training wasn’t at the standard it had been in the home straight. That was understandable and there was no panic, we were still 4 weeks away from the run out at Murrayfield. We selected a large squad to ensure we could be competitive at training and a lot of players were in with chances to make the final cut. We decided not to play against anyone in the run up but did play an internal game at Lasswade where 2 sides went at each other as if it was the cup final – the desire was there and the training took a big lift from then on.
The squad was cut to 25 for the final 4 sessions where we started to refine the game plan. Our analysis of Hawick was thorough and we were very focused. Training wasn’t perfect because it was challenging and competitive. There were players desperate to make the starting XV. We trained on the Saturday before the final at Murrayfield on the back pitch to get familiar with the surroundings and it was a relaxed, unit based session ensuring everyone was confident with the shape we were trying to play.
We trained as normal on the Tuesday night and the intensity was high. We settled on our final 22 and I made the phone calls on the Wednesday night. That is the toughest bit of being a coach, telling players they aren’t playing. On the Thursday night we put the finishing touches on our shape and all the players brought £5 to training. We trained for 1 hour and at 8pm we had a crossbar challenge, winner taking the pot. There were some shocking efforts and a huge groan when Paul Larter, our analyst took the prize! It was a good way to relax the mood and show we were confident in the players. We didn’t want the session to go on and on and look for more and more things to add in or correct. The players eat together after training and the buzz that Thursday night was a joy to be part of. The coaches sat around in the club chewing the fat and telling stories over a bowl of pasta and juice. We were loving the anticipation.
Cup Final day was almost perfect. The players were excellent, the intensity and purpose was immense and the coaches were able to take a back seat. We were confident our preparation had been good and felt we had done everything we possibly could. We couldn’t have dreamed it would go so well but having focused on the process, we got the result we had worked very hard for.
You can’t plan to win the cup. The luck of the draw is crucial and we got that luck and gave every game our best effort, the cup helping our survival and our survival helping our cup win.
Lots of people told me to enjoy it and to savour it because it will pass so quickly. I did enjoy it. Of course I did – its rugby. If you didn’t enjoy it, why would you do it? The little moments were great and weren’t recorded anywhere else but in my mind. The things people said and did and the sights and sounds and smells of the whole thing. I got to stand on the side line at Murrayfield as a coach and watch my team win the Cup, I think I’m the luckiest man alive. It was great to share it with the coaches, players, staff, families, members and supporters. It was a great day for the club. I’d love to do it again, but I’m not sure I can be that lucky.