GHA 15 Currie Chieftains 20
A dark brooding sky greeted all arriving for this match at Braidholm on Saturday. High-flying Currie were determined to carry on with their excellent form they have shown consistently since the start of the season. The home side in an up and down season were equally determined to recover from a disappointing display at Hawick last week. A very healthy crowd attended the annual Christmas lunch and there was a good crowd in very cold conditions assembled for the match. There was a minute’s silence in memory of the sad death of Scottish Internationalist Siobhan Cattigan, who died suddenly last week.
Both sides went through thorough preparation for the match and it was evident that Currie were very focused on the task before them.There was a very well organised and busy set of drills delivered by the visitors with a minimum of instruction. The home side kicked off with a long, searching kick ably fielded by Currie who immediately began to move the ball through hands into the GHA half. The visitors swept through the home half and after some slick passing Paddy Boyer tore through to score and his try was converted by his half back partner Gregor Hunter. The score after less than two minutes was: GHA 0 CURRIE 7.
The home side looked shocked and Currie wasted no time in looking to increase the damage to GHA resolve. From the restart, the home side attempted to engage the visitors and indeed won possession of the ball and moved into the visitor’s area. Just as the home side began to move into an attacking position they gave away a penalty which immediately removed any pressure from the visitors. This was to become a consistent feature of the match and greatly enabled Currie to cope with periods of pressure from the home side. Currie cleared the ball up to the GHA twenty-two metre area and already after about eight minutes, the home side were under intense pressure from a very smooth running Currie side. Messrs Boyer and Hunter were continually changing the angle of attack from the visitors in total concert with a very tight group of forwards and backs. This forced GHA on to the back foot when only some herculean tackling kept the visitors at bay. Despite this the GHA “ham and eggs” combination of Baird and Goudie on meagre rations looked to ease the pressure and indeed a superb break by Andy Goudie tore through the over extended Currie back line and took play up to half way before being tackled, Messrs Fox and Kerr made drives into the Currie defence but Currie were awarded a penalty for failing to release the ball on the ground and Currie pushed play back to the GHA ten metre line.
It seemed that GHA had overcome the shock of the loss of an early try and were working hard to stop the concerted attacks of the Currie pack and to take the game into Currie territory. From a clever lineout steal, GHA with little space contrived to move the ball quickly through hands and a kick through had the startled Currie rearguard desperately defending in their own five metre area. The home support roared on their team appreciating the efforts being made to gain a foothold in this match. Some superb defence by messrs Goudie and Lonergan blunted thrusts from Currie and indeed the whole GHA side was having to constantly tackle to knock down groups of Currie players whose close support play was winning them yardage. Despite the pressure on the home side they continued through the guile and craft of messrs Baird and Goudie to look for ways to penetrate the Currie defence. GHA forwards continued to support each other in looking to drive through a very solid Currie front guard. The home side refused to give ground easily and messrs Bruce and Hunter were constantly battling to win the ball, in the loose ably supported by Messrs McCarthy Plummridge Hiddleston and Campbell and |Kerr. Currie were only too well aware of the spirited efforts from the home side and continually changed their angle of approach to probe for gaps and space. Currie were further frustrated by the positional play of Grant Mollison who nullified some probing kicks by his swift defence and booming clearances. As we moved towards the end of the first quarter, the home side began to ask questions of the Currie defence but several promising moves broke down when the ball did not go to hand . Again a penalty to Currie allowed them to release pressure and take the game into the home half. The scrummaging of Currie was beginning to cause problems for the home pack and allowed the visitors to build a solid platform . Currie employed the tactic of releasing the ball and then chipping into space forcing the home side to scramble to clear. After a series of drives and lineout takes Currie forced the home side deep into their own half. Currie won a lineout in the GHA five metre area and Gregor Nelson broke through before feeding Graeme Carson who went over to loud acclaim from the Currie support to score. The conversion was successful and the score after the first quarter was now GHA 0 CURRIE 14
Despite this setback, GHA refused to buckle and renewed their efforts to find a way through a very solid Currie defence. As we reached the twenty fifth minute several minutes of sustained effort by the home side were undone when a further penalty was awarded to Currie inside their twenty two area and the ball was swiftly cleared up to halfway. A superb steal by Jamie Campbell at the lineout allowed the home side to move the ball with purpose forward. Grant Mollison put a lovely through kick behind the Currie back line and gave chase. However, the visitors managed to nullify the danger and a combination of messrs Cunningham and Southern worked the ball up the pitch . As the move broke down at the GHA twenty metre line, the visitors were awarded a penalty which was superbly converted by Gregor Hunter to make the score after twenty six minutes: GHA 0 CURRIE 17.
Undaunted by this further setback GHA applied themselves again. The home side were working hard and whilst not able to make a decisive breakthrough and giving away a number of penalties, they were making it very clear to Currie that they would not give up. In an absolutely outstanding piece of play Grant Mollison whose overall play was a delight to witness gathered a speculative kick and went straight at the Currie on coming forwards. With ease he brushed aside despairing tackles , drawing further attention from the Currie backline before releasing Christopher Hyde who exploded through the gap made by Grant and headed for the line. Amid huge cheering from the home support, Adam Kerr made up huge amounts of field to gallop into space to receive a beautifully timed pass to go over to score. George Baird converted and the score was now after twenty seven minutes GHA 7 CURRIE 17.
This try was the result of accurate passing and well supported play. GHA were now realising that they were asking questions of the much vaunted Currie side and had they been able to harness accuracy and avoid giving away penalties consistently then they would have seriously troubled Currie. Currie briefly began to make mistakes, knocking on passes, being turned over and even giving away a penalty or two. The home side as we passed the half hour were totally focussed on further reducing the leeway as they sensed a slight wobble in the confidence of the visitors. There were some really clever breaks by George Baird at his absolute best “pest” mode constantly worrying the Currie scrum half indeed in one astonishing break, George shimmied his way through player after player and was only held up when over the line to deny a brilliant try. The whole GHA back line are more than capable of penetration and Andrew Stirrat with scalding pace sliced through the Currie defence more than once before being brought down. Currie, as we approached the interval began to use their scrum to telling effect, their strength and technique putting huge pressure on the GHA pack which resulted in a number of penalties conceded by the home side. Currie would use this pressure release tactic in the second half to telling effect.
As play moved towards the GHA twenty two metre area Currie employed again crash ball moves featuring a number of their forwards and especially messrs Nelson and Ramsey which drew in the GHa forwards and bought time for Gregor Cunningham to prepare to launch the next attack. Despite furious attempts by the home pack to match the powerful Currie forwards another penalty was conceded inside the GHA ten metre area and MIchael Fox was yellow carded. Currie kicked into the GHA twenty two metre area but the following lienout was not straight and GHA chose to scrummage. The ball was retained by the home side who tried to move the ball through hands only to lose the ball in the loose to Curry. Desperate last ditch defence saw the home side scramble the ball into touch at the five metre mark.
It had been an absorbing half with lots of effort from the home side and some brave rugby from them. However there was a calmness and assuredness about everything Currie did which made it very difficult to pierce a very effective defence. GHA also gave away a number of penalties at crucial times which totally negated the hard won pressure they had created.
The first minutes of the second half saw some untidy play and a number of unforced errors by both sides. It had become appreciably colder towards half time and the cold wind had intensified. Such conditions did not help either side and it took several minutes for the match to return to the intensity of the first half. GHA were first to strike and some spirited and effective drives by messrs McCarthy, Bruce and Plummridge drove the game into the Currie half. As GHA recycled the ball there was a lovely break by Charlie Lonergan which stretched the Currie back line. The home side were awarded a penalty which George Baird converted. The score was now: GHA 10 CURRIE 17
The home side were growing in confidence and really asking questions of the league leaders. For the first time in the match GHA began to put a sustained period of pressure on the visitors. Andrew Goudie was using every tool in the box to find space behind the very quick Currie defence . However, the Currie side regained their confidence and calmly dealt with repeated incursions by GHA players. There were several minutes of rather aimless kicking between both sides as the intensity of the previous few minutes faded. As we moved toward the fifteenth minute of the half there was a growing feeling that we were at a pivotal point in this intriguing match. Could GHA summon a further period of sustained pressure and execute accurately their moves and ploys or would Currie continue to marshall their resources and with efficiency and accuracy seal the victory. Just as it seemed that GHA might break the hold Currie exerted over the match, another penalty was awarded to Currie inside the GHA ten metre area. Currie converted the penalty with a super kick to make the score after sixteen minutes: GHA 10 CURRIE 20.
Despite this blow the home side redoubled their efforts and as we passed the twenty minute mark began to force Currie to defend in their own half. A superb break by Ruari O’keefe from halfway which cut deep into the Currie half led to his subtle chip through as excitement rose in the Stand. As Ruarri tore through past the flat-footed defence he was crudely impeded . DJ Innes was yellow carded and a penalty awarded to GHA. Backchat to the referee meant ten further yards added to the penalty and the home side kicked to the corner. Currie won this critical lineout and tried to move the ball wide. The home side stopped the move and from the loose gathered the ball inside the Currie twenty-two and in a lovely show of quick accurate passing found Charlie Lonergan who steered a winding course through startled Currie defenders to score in the corner. THis try was not converted and the score after twenty-two minutes of the match was : GHA 15 CURRIE 20.
The try was a reward for the resilience and determination of the home side and meant that as we moved into the final quarter that there was all to play for. The last ten minutes of the match were characterised by the calm efficient way that Currie moved the ball through the ranks before driving into the GHA defence matched by intense efforts by the home side to knock down opponents and win the ball.GHA won a penalty inside the Currie five metre area as the game became more and more frenzied. As the home side shaped to shift the ball wide the ball was knocked on for a scrum. This gave Currie the chance to exert their control over the scrummaging and they duly won a penalty which relieved the pressure at a critical moment yet again. As we entered the last five minutes CUrrie showed their ability to manage the ball and ensure play was in the GHA half. The home side put in some tremendous tackles as Currie looked to deliver a killer blow. The match ended with a score of GHA 15 CURRIE 20.
It had been an exciting match. GHA refused to fold at any time in the match and indeed will rue the number of penalties they gave away at crucial times to a side more than capable of punishing such mistakes. However the commitment, skill and tenacity of the home side must stand them in good stead for the equally difficult matches ahead.
CURRIE : C.BRETT A.HALL R.SOUTHERN DJ.INNES J.McCAIG G.HUNTER P.BOYER G.CARSON S.FISHER AP.McWILLIAM E.STEWART H.FERGUSON G.NELSON W.NELSON R.DAVIES R.STEWART C.RAMSEY A.McCALLUM C.GRAY E.CUNNINGHAM
GHA : G.MOLLISON C.HYDE C.LONERGAN A.STIRRAT R.O’KEEFE A.GOUDIE G.BAIRD D.HUNTER G.HIDDLESTON M.FOX J.CAMPBELL J.McCARTHY A.KERR S.PLUMRIDGE J.BRUCE D.EWING B.BOUM W.GRAHAM S.SIMPSON B.JOUARY
REFEREE : MR D YOUNG
ASSISTANT REFEREES: MR F HOLLINS MR A PARRY