For the third week there were personnel changes in the team and some shuffling with positions for the visit to Whitecraigs at Newton Mearns. In the backs, Sam Rowlands went to 15, Ben Mitchell on the wing, with Cammy Walker on the other wing, Dylan Suttie came into 10, in the centre a first start was given to the experienced Sean Murray. For the forwards, Ben Peddie started at prop with Rory Johnstone at hooker. George Henderson came back into the second row. On the bench it was good to see Fijian Robert Cabemaiwasa along with Dave Hodge and Ally Brunton.

Last year, the second last game of the season here at Aurs Road had been a very high scoring match, it was hard to envisage the same happening again. Early exchanges and willingness of both sides to move the ball wide, seemed to suggest otherwise.

Whitecraigs produced the first of their eight tries from winger Aaron Graham, the conversion popped over from a very reliable and accurate kicker in their 9, Steven Gillies. The response was immediate from Howe. A strong run from Andy Steven into the host’s half was supported by Scott Teister, who knocked on. From the field position, centre Gregor Smith powered over to reduce the leeway to 5-7.

There then followed a fallow spell for Howe. Unable to get control of the ball, and badly missing first up tackles, gave Whitecraigs momentum to produce four consecutive tries, from Callum Innes, Brandon Wamberg , Graham Murchie and Liam Barbour. Three converted by Gillies. At 5-33 the position looked bleak with Howe. During this time, for Howe, Mitchell retired injured, Cabemaiwasa replaced Henderson, Hodge took up the centre berth with Smith replacing Mitchell on the wing.

When in possession of decent ball and benefiting from the power of Mann and Cabemaiwasa, Howe began to create space to give their speedy backs, particularly Murray and Hodge, opportunities. Before the break, Hodge dodged over after some excellent inter-passing and continuous phase play. Suttie converted to enter the break still heavily adrift 12-33.

The match was a mirror image of the corresponding fixture last year. Whitecraigs building up a sizeable lead for Howe to doggedly get back into the match. Howe may not be a big side, but they do have heart, and collectively work hard for each other.

The second spell continued in very much the same vein. This time it was Howe grabbing then initiative, with a second try from Hodge. Then Cabemaiwasa in belligerent fashion as only Fijians can, brushed aside defenders for Howe’s fourth score.

Then back came Whitecraigs, firstly from their powerful winger Eddie Abekhe, who had been a constant threat. And a second from Murchie, both converted by Gillies. Having closed the gap to ten points, Howe were once more looking at a mountain to climb, at twenty- five points adrift. Sean Murray, showing the guile and strength of the experienced player he is, shimmied over for Howe’s fifth try. Again, the conversion was missed, the lack of a kicker is an aspect which requires to be rectified.

Whitecraigs appeared to be running out of steam, the Howe enjoying keeping the fast pace of the game up, accurate passing and strong runs from the forwards, Steven, Mann and Cabemaiwasa rampaging around in open space. Inaccuracies get punished. Whitecraigs snapped up the chance from a spilled pass to score their eight try to give Murchie his hattrick. At 27-52, the mountain just got steeper.

This only galvanised the young Howe players who responded in a three try burst, exhibiting, fast, slick, accurate rugby. Firstly, Jake Douglas, followed by Mann and Cabemaiwasa. Two converted by quickly taken drop kicks from Murray. At 52-46, only 6 points behind, the game was there to be won. Almost inevitably it was not to be. The Howe in possession and looking threatening at every attack had Whitecraigs realising the game is not over until the final whistle. Which came from a Howe knock on as they pressed for the win and referee Gordi Reid heralded the end of the game with a long flourish of his whistle.

A try count, of eight a piece for each side provided great entertainment for the spectators. Howe take great credit for their gutsy performance, recording two well-earned bonus points. Each game lessons are being learned. The mistakes must be count down, the tackles made.

Next week see the visit of table toppers Biggar. This will prove a stern test.