BIG STEP TOWARDS PROMOTION WITH DRAW AT NETHERDALE

GHA RFC Match 16: GALA RFC 13 – 13 GHA RFC

2002/2003: Scottish Premiership Two

GALA RFC

GHA RFC

I. Wilson 15 A. Scott
D. Gray 14 R. Watson
I. Berthinussen 13 N. Barrett
M. Marais 12 A. Gibbon
R. Scott 11 J. Fitzpatrick
A. McLean 10 J. Noonan
J. Berry 9 S. O’Donnell
A. Johnston 1 R. Nolan
J. Berthinussen 2 I. Nelson
R. Bramhall 3 G. Walsh
G. Bryce 4 N. Tuwhangai
J. Fale 5 T. Carmichael
R. Ainslie 6 E. Smith
J. Dalziel 7 S. Unkles
J. Henderson 8 A. Plastow
M. Horsburgh 16 G. Howieson
D. Boland 17 B. Beagley
S. Cranston 18
19
Marais Try Plastow
Berry Con Noonan
Berry (2) Pen Noonan (2)
DG
Referee
Mr M. Valentine (Stewartry)

Glasgow’s new team on the southside now look certain to clinch promotion to Division 1 in their first season. Having taken the ambitious and difficult step of merging Glasgow Southern and Hutchesons’ Aloysians at the end of last season, there was only one target on the minds of the new club members – to bolster the city’s presence in Division 1 as soon as possible.

President Bernard Dunn admitted: “Consolidation and building the new club has always been the priority, but we do want to be in that top league because there are too many good players in the city to be supported by just the one club. “We’ve had a feeling since the halfway point that we could do it in our first season, having got to know our opposition, and although our display against Gala might not have had the pundits rubbing their hands with glee about us stepping up, we were pleased with the draw and are fully committed to improving our standards.” He added: “We’re not there yet. We still have tough games left, so we’re not taking anything for granted. It’s not over until the fat prop sings as they say.”

Gala still have two games remaining, but with the next being away to likely champions Watsonians in two weeks, the Netherdale faithful were on Saturday night contemplating another year in the second division. Captain John Dalziel admitted: “Everybody wants to get out of this league and into the top one, and the lads are pretty gutted not to win this game, but if we don’t go up, it won’t be the end of the world because we have a very young squad, players for the future here who will learn and get better. “If we don’t do it, defeats early in the season to Grangemouth and Selkirk is what has cost us, not this game.” There is also uncertainty over the coaching staff with Don Mackinnon and his assistant Brian Swan, who only took over last year, both currently on holiday in Australia. It is understood that Swan is preparing to emigrate down under before the end of the season.

There is little doubt Gala had the chance to force themselves into the promotion battle on Saturday, provided firstly by the Borders switching on the undersoil heating at Netherdale to enable one game of rugby to take place in the country, and secondly by their first-half effort which should have brought more than 13 points if not for missed opportunities. One stumbling block was the GHA forwards, who gave the home pack a tough workout in the scrum and defended superbly, whilst another was the reluctance of referee Martin Valentine to show a yellow card and curtail deliberate attempts to kill the game. While admirably striving to let the game flow, Valentine was still lecturing perpetrators well into the second half, despite countless excellent attacks having come to a demoralising end in the 22. On numerous occasions a player emerged from a ruck or maul, having killed the ball, to swiftly jog away and hide behind his own players, a smile betraying the pleasure at having given away a penalty, but managing to deny another try. GHA were the luckier in the first half not to lose a man, but Gala could as easily have been reduced to 14 men as they similarly halted GHA’s advances in the second period. How Mike Marais stayed on the field after a blatant late tackle on Glasgow stand-off Jamie Noonan was bizarre. Neither team was free of handling errors or poor decision-making at key moments, but the promptings of the respective half-backs Andy McLean and Jackson Berry of Gala and GHA duo Noonan and Steve O’Donnell regularly provided an attacking threat and lifted the crowd.

Early Gala pressure was initially repelled by stout defence of scrums and a great tackle by full-back Andy Scott on his opposite number Ian Wilson, but a fine direct run from 30 metres out by Mike Marais, Gala’s South African centre, caught out GHA’s defence in the eighth minute and he sprinted in under the posts. GHA responded and after wing Rory Watson had been denied on the right, former Australian sevens cap Andy Plastow exposed the Maroons defence on the blindside of a scrum with fine pace and skill to score, leaving Noonan to level the scores with the conversion with only 17 minutes on the clock. Berry slotted two penalties to add to his earlier conversion kick and put Gala 13-7 up at the interval, though again there was a question-mark over whether home lock Graeme Bryce might have secured a try had advantage been allowed by the referee. Gala’s six-point difference always looked precarious and the manner in which the Glasgow side responded after the break proved it to be. After a Noonan penalty had cut the deficit, and a period of Gala pressure failed to bring any reward, only a tremendous crossfield run and last-gasp tackle by Wilson denied Watson a try with only seven minutes of the game remaining. Noonan tied the scores with a penalty, albeit a very wobbly one, with four minutes left, and Gala found no takers with kicker Berry off when given a chance to clinch victory in injury-time – skipper John Dalziel having requests for a kick at goal turned down and opting instead to kick to the safety of touch and take the draw. Marais’ touch kick duly stayed in-field, ensuring GHA remain on track for promotion and Gala face a major struggle to join them.

Source: The Scotsman, Monday 6th January 2003

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