GREENOCK Wanderers were swept aside by a resurgent Falkirk at Fort Matilda on Saturday as the BT National League Division Two campaign reached the half-way stage.

The men from Cala Park threatened to swamp Wanderers in an opening quarter that was as one-sided as any seen at the Octavia Terrace ground this season and as a light blue tidal wave engulfed the beleaguered Greenock ranks the question on most spectators lips was ‘how many this week?’ The locals though put up some sterling resistance, particularly during this opening period, and the cover defence especially did a magnificent job in keeping the visitors at bay.

Skipper Murray MacDonald, Ally Abernethy, Martin Lavelle, Anton Ward, Andy McDougall and Leigh Tyley all led by example in getting across the defensive line to add their numbers to the contact area and thwart countless numbers of Falkirk opportunities to open up a sizeable lead.

Wanderers were hampered pre-match with the news that influential lock-forward Matt Gray and centre Michael Frizzell would miss out through injury. The rearranged Greenock side had no time to settle as Falkirk stamped their authority on proceedings and showed the gulf in class between the teams at the top of the division and those struggling at the bottom.

A secure set piece performance set the platform for some entertaining and fast-flowing rugby from the visitors and they showcased their talents straight from the start with some excellent passages of play.

On 10 minutes efficient rucking allowed visiting scrum-half and captain Harry Russell to spread the play and he found blindside flanker Gregor Brodie in the line and he opened the scoring by powering past his opposite man to touch down close to the posts.

Amazingly, Wanderers managed to avoid losing any more points until almost half-time as they were pummelled by an extremely well-drilled Falkirk side.

The locals gained some momentary respite when referee George Whitecross awarded two penalties within kickable range in quick succession around the 25-minute mark but normally reliable stand-off Kenny Diffenthal narrowly missed on each occasion.

On 38 minutes though, the decisive breakthrough came when the visitors had the throw-in at a lineout some 30 metres from Wanderers’ goal-line. The textbook catch and drive move was executed to perfection and when the drive came on the visitors shunted the Greenock pack back the entire length over their own goal line.

When the pile-up of bodies cleared second row Craig Hamilton was credited with the touchdown. Stand-off Logan Bonar made no mistake with the conversion to give his side a 12-point advantage at the interval.

The forlorn hope around the Wanderers support was that they had weathered the storm and would make a comeback in the second period but that was not to be as Falkirk raised their game and put Greenock to the sword with four further well-worked tries.

On 65 minutes a simple loop move through the stand-off channel was executed beautifully and scrum-half Russell found the gap and sniped through to start the rout. Three minutes later more quality possession was secured at the lineout and having sucked in the Wanderers defence with the resultant drive, Russell spun the ball wide and winger Jacob Adamson breezed in at the corner. Bonar converted on both occasions to stretch the lead to 26-0 and effectively call time on Wanderers’ efforts for the afternoon.

The Cala Park men however were not finished yet as having already secured the try-scoring bonus point they sensed the opportunity to add significantly to their ‘points for’ tally for the season. On 75 minutes referee Whitecross awarded the visitors a penalty some 30 yards out and with the Wanderers defence dithering and showing alarming naivety, Russell took the quick tap and simply scampered over the line, untouched, for Falkirk’s fifth try of the contest. Bonar’s conversion was easily executed.

With the game deep into stoppage time Falkirk added the icing to the cake when another impressive piece of crisp distribution across the backline created the gap for replacement Gordon McGuire to round his man and sprint in at the corner.

The 38-point victory did not flatter Falkirk in the slightest and in truth had it not been for the outstanding defensive effort of the Greenock men in the early stages the margin of defeat could easily have doubled.

President John McDougall said: “All credit to Falkirk who deserved their victory but we have to analyse the game from our perspective and I think most people will agree that we defended well for long periods of the game.

“We now have to go forward and beat Livingston next week in what is a must-win game for us.” Wanderers host Livingston at Fort Matilda next week in what is a crunch game in the context of the relegation battle.

Wanderers are sponsored by Texas Instruments.