GHA 14 Gala 31
The famous maroon jerseys of the Border side graced Braidholm with their presence for the first time in a number of years. Conditions were overcast though dry with a reasonably firm playing surface. The appearance of a winter sun masked what was a very cold day. Both sides prepared carefully, Gala concentrating on refining lineout moves and running codes between forwards and backs. GHA concentrated on realignment and contact work. Gala in particular went about their preparation to a cacophony of screams and shouts and arm signals reminiscent of a battle reenactment group.
Gala kicked off and immediately began to probe for any defensive frailties in the home defence. GHA responded with their own running game and the first minutes of the match suggested that both sides were appraising their opposition. It took an all enveloping tackle by Andrew Goudie to prevent a searing break by Craig Robertson giving Gala an early advantage. GHA suffered an early upset to their formation when Charlie Lonergan was forced to leave the field and his place was taken by Scott Derrick. The home side had already lost Grant Mollison on the morning of the match due to illness .his place being taken at full back by James Edgar.
The home sides reorganised back line was pierced when the ball was hacked through moments later and the visitors were awarded a penalty and Scott Derrick received a yellow card for tackling a player without the ball. Gala elected to go for a scrum well inside the home twenty metre line. The visitors in the previous scrum had rocked the home side back and Gala clearly believed they could build a scoring platform with their powerful scrum. Gala won the scrum and passed the ball with speed and accuracy to Craig Robertson to score in the gap left by the home side being a man short. Gregor Hunter with an excellent kick from a tight angle made the score after eight minutes: GHA 0 GALA 7pts.
The visitors seized control of the match securing ball in set piece and loose and running intricate patterns at the home side which GHA desperately attempted to stop. Gala passed and received the ball at pace and exuded an authority which seemed to faze the home side. Around ten minutes after another clever move involving the back row and half backs, Gala scored through Paul Hendry who easily exploited confusion in the home rearguard. Gregor Hunter converted to make the score : GHA 0 GALA 14.
GHA were finding it difficult to gain a platform in the match such was the control exerted at this stage by the visitors. A kick behind the onrushing visitors into space was expertly fielded by Graham Spiers who ran the ball back at the home defence and managed to open up a gap before passing to Paul Hendry to score in the corner despite desperate attempts by GHA to prevent the score. Whilst the try was not converted after fifteen minutes the score stood at : GHA 0 GALA 19.
A feature of the match was the ability of Galas defensive triangle of Spiers, Hendry and Robertson to be in the right position time after time to deal effectively with GHA kicks to either wing or through the centre. Gala continued the pressure from the restart and a long kick by Gregor Hunter took the visitors deep inside the home half of the field.For the next five minutes GHA defended bravely as the visitors attempted to score again. Gala patiently worked the ball across the field and engaged the home side before recycling and changing the line of attack. In the twentieth minute Gala found a way through and having won scrum ball on one side of the pitch passed through the hands to allow Rob Louw to score. Gregor Hunter converted the try to make the score :GHA 0 GALA 26.
The home support sat in near silence as they realised it would take a Herculean effort to turn the tables in this match. However after an indifferent start by the home side, GHA started to galvanise their response. Tackles were effective, passing crisper and forwards approached the loose and set piece with a new resolve. Gala suddenly found as we moved into the second quarter of the match that GHA were not a spent force and were coming back at the border side. After twenty five minutes Peter Jericevich kicked long into the corner to put pressure on the Gala 5metre line. The crowd was now responding to the efforts of the home side and every positive action by the home side was being cheered. Gala who had some experienced players sprinkled through their ranks cleared the danger and indeed ran the ball at GHA deep into the home half. GHA gave away a penalty right in front of the posts and Gregor Hunter elected to kick to the corner. Excellent defensive work by GHA won a penalty as some careless play by Gala was punished. Peter Jericevich cleared the danger with an accurate kick which took play up to the edge of the home half of the field. Gala cleared the danger with Chris Keen and Gary Robertson proving potent ball carriers as they took the game to GHA. The home side were moving in concert now and asking questions of Gala whose players suddenly found less time to move the ball before being engulfed by GHA players. Despite this as the clock reached thirty five minutes the visitors line had not been breached and a great deal of effort expended by the home side had brought no tangible reward. Despite this Andrew Spowart and Ross Findlay had to show skill in preventing a breakthrough by Gala. From the resulting break down Scott Derrick made an incisive break before passing to Andrew Goudie who blasted through an attempted Gala tackle to score to huge cheers from all home supporters and players. The manner of Andrews try showing sheer determination not to be stopped reflected how hard the home side was now working in this match. With the conversion the score after thirty six minutes was GHA 7 GALA 26. Half time arrived with the previously confident and assured Gala not looking quite so comfortable after the first period of the match.
GHA had found their rhythm after a devastating opening twenty minute burst by the visitors. The home side had grown into this match and were now causing some problems for the Gala side.
GHA continued after the restart in the same vein they had shown before half time, They soon had the ball in the Gala five metre area but the calm execution of the tackle and recycling soon had the Gala backs moving the ball towards halfway. The visitors who had lost some of the assuredness they had demonstrated in the early stages went through several minutes of careless and loose passing and reverted back to using the power of their scrum to win quality ball. After four minutes GHA had shown an improvement in their ability to hold their ground against a powerful scrum. After nine minutes a superb break by Andrew Goudie cut through the Gala defence and the break was well supported by Fergus Haig only for the ball to be knocked on and the danger cleared. From a scrum at halfway Gala moved into the home half and despite resolute tackling from the home side the ball went loose and was hacked on by Simon Fairburn who gathered the ball over the line to score to his relieved team mates and coaching staff Thus after fifteen minutes of the second half the score was: GHA 7 GALA 31 as the conversion was missed.
GHA refused to give up and seemed to regard the loss of the score as a mere irritant as they focussed their efforts in driving Gala back at every opportunity. GHA were competing better at the set piece and there was a greater deal of accuracy about all their work. In the twenty fifth minute after some consistent pressure from the home side a sublime passing interchange by the home side found gaps in the Gala cover defence for Scott Plumridge to score. The home side and supporters celebrated loudly not due to any ill placed confidence but as a response to a period of very hard work finished off with elan. Peter Jericevich converted to make the score: GHA 14 GALA 31.
Gregor Hunter at stand off for the visitors calmed matters down with some excellent rifled kicks to touch to clear the eager GHA attack. As we reached the thirty third minute Gala had coped with further flurries from the home side and were intent in staying on the home sides twenty metre area. Adam Barnett ,Tony Brogan and Sietaro Usuda worked fearlessly in the loose to win back ball. Clever promptings by Gregor Hunter with deft chips through the GHA defence forced the home side to scramble to clear the ball. In an altercation which involved a number of players Paul Harkins who had along with Ross Angus and Adam Barnett worked hard to win quality ball at the breakdown was yellow carded with a fellow Gala forward. In the dying minutes of the game as GHA fought to get out of their twenty metre area Scott Carson made several excellent breaks, one in particular which totally wrong footed his opponent and set up a team mate to drive to half way. This superb piece of footwork by Scott received the loudest cheer of the afternoon. The match finished GHA 14 GALA 31. After a difficult start GHA had come strongly back into the match and put in a huge effort against their illustrious opponents.
GHA: J.EDGAR, C.LONERGAN, C.BINNIE, R.FINDLAY, A.SPOWART, A.GOUDIE, P.JERICEVICH, T.BROGAN, S.USUDA, M.SCOTT, G.MacDONALD, A.BARNETT, F.HAIG, W.GRAHAM, R.ANGUS – Reserves: S.CARSON, D.EWING, P.HARKINS, S.PLUMRIDGE, S.DERRICK
SCORERS: T – GOUDIE, PLUMRIDGE C – JERICEVICH (2)
GALA: G.SPIERS, P.HENDRY, L.BERG, R.JEFFREY, C.ROBERTSON, G.HUNTER, G.LOTT, C.KEEN, M.CARRYER, G.ROBERTSON, C.WEIR, C.PATE, R.LOUW, F.HUNTER, S.CAIRNS – Reserves: C.HOGG, D.BROOKER, A.EMOND, G.MEIN, S.FARBURN
SCORERS: T – HENDRY (2), FAIRBURN, LOUW, ROBERTSON C – HUNTER (3)
REFEREE: MR R MABON
ASSISTANT REFEREES: MR A WATT MR A LAING