GHA 31 Jed-Forest 38
After a considerable enforced lay off GHA returned to competitive action at Baidholm on Saturday. Their opponents, Jed-Forest had also had to cope with match cancellations due to the inclement weather in late November and December. Critically the Border side had managed to play a Borders League match against rivals Hawick on Boxing Day which had kept the Royal Blues match fit . A bitterly cold day greeted players and spectators alike with an angled wintry sun affecting vision early on. Despite the recent heavy rain, the pitch was soft underfoot and continues to hold up well despite the continual usage. There was an extra vigour about the preparation of both sides, perhaps the chill factor ensuring that all players were fully engaged in activities.
GHA kicked off and Jed gathered the ball only to lose it at once. Both sides had hands on the ball in the opening minutes as they both attempted to settle into their game plan. In the early exchanges it was noticeable how quickly both sides moved to close down space. The home side after two minutes began to make progress into their opponents half with breaks by David Corbenici and Jamie McCarthy setting up an attacking move in the Jed half. The home side were awarded a penalty for an infringement and Andrew Goudie failed to convert the penalty. This seemed to galvanise the visitors who began to force GHA on to the back foot. Clever intrusions by Darren Gillespie and Andrew Sanders took the play to well inside the GHA half. Despite a superb tackle by Max MacFarlane on a breaking opponent, the visitors quickly recycled the ball to allow Lewis Young, running superb lines to weave through the home defence from the twenty metre line to score an excellent try which Ewan Scott converted. Thus after five minutes the score was GHA 0 JED-FOREST 7.
This score seemed to encourage the visitors to roll out their impressive tactic of slick close passing, feints and mispasses and close support which would continue to tax the defensive qualities of the home side for much of this match. GHA were trying very hard to gain a foothold in the match and a great break by Ross Angus, to the delight of the home support carried play deep into the Jed half. The Royal BLues defended desperately as messrs Gilman and Goudie attempted to set up opportunities for GHA to reduce the deficit. As we reached the tenth minute mark, the home side were pressing on the Jed five metre line and trying with all their might to pierce the visitors defence. Despite pressure, Jed managed to clear their lines and indeed in a series of catch and drives forced play deep into home territory where Robbie Shirra-Gibb exploited an opportunity to go over to loud acclaim from the travelling support.The try was converted by Ewan Scott to make the score after twelve minutes: GHA 0 JED-FOREST 14.
This was a blow for the home side who had pressed so hard to score at the other end of the pitch only to find themselves further in arrears to patient defence and well worked support play by the visitors. It was becoming clear that the visiting players were all comfortable with the ball in hand , running from any position in close and effective support to the ball carrier. Jed seemed to realise that they were beginning to dominate proceedings and again quick release of the ball from safe hands between the visiting players resulted in Callum Young going over in the corner. The conversion from a very difficult angle failed and the score after fourteen minutes was GHA 0 JED-FOREST 19.
The home side despite gallant endeavour were being stretched by an opposition whose players were attacking from all angles, an impressive combination of forwards and backs constantly asking questions of the GHA defence. Despite this situation, the home side at last began to find some rhythm after their long lay off and began to exert pressure of their own. As we reached the twentieth minute an over eager defensive line by Jed outside their twenty metre line gave a penalty to the home side for offside. A quick move by Andrew Goudie saw him make a beautiful swerve to send the central defensive pairing of Jed the wrong way to allow him to go over between the posts. He converted his won try to make the score GHA 7 JED-FOREST 19.
The home side were clearly lifted by this riposte and began to put several moves together combining forwards and backs to ask questions of the visiting defence. An excellent intrusion by James Edgar was only stopped on the visitors ten metre line. Andrew Goudie and Scott Plumridge linked well together to force the visitors on to the back foot. Another successful drive into the Jed five metre area allowed James Sutherland who was involved in much of the good play by GHA throughout the match, to go over to score. The conversion failed and the score after twenty six minutes was : GHA 12 JED-FOREST 19.
Both sides understood the importance of this period before half time. Jed, confident in their skills now faced a home side beginning to gel and ask serious questions about the visitors. Both sides began to throw the ball wide in an attempt to find room and both sides obtained interceptions from loose passes. Jed re established ascendancy and in a superb move which saw the ball moved very quickly and runners coming in at acute angles to confuse the defence, Gregor Young scored to make the score after twenty eight minutes GHA 12 JED-FOREST 24.
The conversion failed. To their credit, the home side continued to take the match to the visitors and forwards and backs worked hard to gain territorial advantage.Jed were controlling the scrums which forced GHA to realign constantly and denied the home side attacking ball.Just before half time the visitors missed a penalty attempt and so the score at the interval was; GHA 12 JED-FOREST 24.
The interval gave both sides a chance to reflect on the previous forty minutes which had been played at a fast pace and contained some well executed moves and considerable effort from all the players. The second half started amidst increasingly colder temperatures. Despite the biting chill both sets of players had managed to retain possession and there had been few spills. The early moments of the half saw Jed again working combinations of forwards and backs to gain territory and the home side forced onto energy sapping defensive duties In one such thrust Jed worked the ball close to the home line which allowed Clark Skeldon to score from close range. The try was converted and the score after two minutes of the half was: GHA 12 JED-FOREST 31.
Both sides now engaged in attempting to place diagonal kicks to turn defences with limited success. GHA began to edge their way into the Jed half and indeed concerted effort took the game into the Jed five metre area where only desperate defence prevented the home side scoring. Jed gave away a penalty and ,quickly taken by the ever alert Andrew Gilman he weaved his way through surprised opponents to score. His compatriot Andrew Goudie converted to make the score after twelve minutes of the half: GHA 19 JED-FOREST 31.
This was a very quick response to the Jed strike and pulled GHA back into the match. However the see saw nature of this match continued as Jed came strongly back at the home side and again polished interplay between forwards and backs allowed Cameron Mack to go over from a loose maul to score. An excellent conversion from an acute angle by Ewan Scott took the score after seventeen minutes to GHA 19 JED-FOREST 38.
Despite this lead the visitors dare not relax on their laurels as once again the home side made determined inroads into the Jed half. It was now Jed’s turn to attempt to stifle breaks by GHA. Despite the bitter cold, and no doubt warmed by the excellent refreshments from the Tennent Caledonian sponsored Braidholm Boozer the crowd were enjoying this match particularly the fact that neither side seemed capable of dominating the match for extensive periods. Right on cue, Ben Addison made one of his trademark searing breaks closely supported by Andrew Goudie and James Edgar. As Ben was stopped inside the twenty metre zone, Andrew Goudie collected the ball and set up James Edgar for a well worked try. Andrew Goudie with a difficult kick failed to convert and the score was after twenty one minutes GHA 24 JED-FOREST 38.
The home crowd roared their support for GHA and the Royal Blue contingent encouraged their heroes to see out the last twenty minutes.The home side tried a variety of tactics to gain territory, catch and drive, three man forward attacks in the loose, diagonal kicks behind the Jed defence to try and turn them. As a result play became somewhat scrappy and tended to go across the pitch. As we moved towards the last ten minutes injuries to Jed front row players resulted in non contested scrums which negated both sides ability to attack from a driving scrum. Both sides attempted to find a way through and as we headed towards full time there was no let up in the hectic action despite players beginning to tire. Play swung from end to end with fine tackles on both sides just preventing a score. However GHA mounted attacks in the last few minutes which put the visitors under pressure. Finally, GHA were awarded a penalty inside the Jed twenty metre area and David Corbenici summoned the strength to drive a channel through the Jed defence.The ball was reworked out to Max MacFarlane who went over under the posts. Andrew Goudie converted as the final whistle blew. Final score: GHA 31 JED-FOREST 38.
Thus Jed returned to the Borders with the points having produced some very impressive handling and support play. They seemed just a little sharper from the outset and clearly benefited from their Boxing Day match. GHA perhaps as a result of their lay off started slowly and allowed the visitors to put points on the board in the early stages. Gradually they took the match to Jed and indeed were asking questions of the visitors right until the last minute.
JED-FOREST : L.YOUNG C.YOUNG G.YOUNG M.MITCHELL R.SHIRRA-GIBB E.SCOTT R.MARSHALL C.HOGG C.MACK J.OLIVER C.SKELDON G.LAW A.SANDERS D.WARDROP D.GILLESPIE – Replacements: G.PAXTON J.HYND R.YOURSTON.
GHA: C.KING J.EDGAR C.TUCOULET M.MacFARLANE B.ADDISON A.GOUDIE A.GILMAN M.SCOTT S.USUDA M.FOX D.CORBENICI J.MCCARTY S.PLUMRIDGE J.SUTHERLAND
R .ANGUS – Replacements: D.EWING T.BROGAN LM.MAVUNGA J.PRESTON G.MOLLISON
REFEREE: MR A MORRISON
ASSISTANT REFEREES : MR C LAZENBY MR C GEORGE