GHA 18 Falkirk 17
Falkirk arrived at a busy Braidholm hoping to continue their recent good form. The Junior section lunch plus the visit of Stirling County 2nd xv meant a busy clubhouse and changing facilities. A mild day with a slight rainfall was the setting for the match. Despite the pitch being rolled as late as Thursday it was heavy underfoot in what was an overcast day.The sides varied in their preparation, GHA forwards carrying out some scrummage and line out work on pitch three whilst the backs ran a number of passing drills on the main pitch. Falkirk by contrast worked together as one unit spending time rehearsing line out drills and touch kicking before running whole team drills. A guard of honour from the Junior section welcomed both sides to the pitch.
Falkirk kicked off and the first few minutes saw both sides attempting to establish the patterns that they wished to employ in the match. Falkirk when driving forward used their powerful forwards particularly Craig Hamilton and Keith Slade to win ball before releasing the backs through scrum half Harry Russell. In five minutes an elaborate move by the visitors which could have caused damage to the home defence was nullified by a knock on. The first half and to an extent the second half also was punctuated by knock ons and spilled passes by both sides. This tended to create a stop go effect to the half and created a sense of frustration amongst the players. Scott Plumridge in his last match for the home side was involved in several drives into the Falkirk half but on each occasion the danger was cleared. The game was moving from end to end with both defences closing down space and preventing either side establishing dominance. On ten minutes Michael Scott was yellow carded for infringements in the loose. This forced GHA into a reshuffle and on thirteen minutes a superb kick by Craig Robertson took play up to the home side’s twenty two metre area. In the next phase of broken play overeager GHA forward play resulted in a penalty to; Falkirk. Craig Robertson kicked to the corner and following forward pressure as GHA desperately defended Andrew Simpson went over to score. Craig Robertson with a splendid kick just missed the conversion so after fifteen minutes the score was: GHA 0 FALKIRK 5.
The home side tried hard to take control of the match with Grant MacDonald prominent in the loose. Both sides tried to bring their strike runners into play but in an untidy period a number of passes were spilled or knocked on. Gradually GHA began to drive the visitors towards their own goal with a combination of good forward back and deft angled kicking by Andrew Goudie. The home side managed to take play to the visitor’s five metre line and put tremendous pressure on the Falkirk defence who tackled heroically to keep GHA from scoring. Jake Eaglesham was yellow carded for the visitors for misdemeanours in the loose. With a scrum on the five metre line Scott Plumridge dived over to score. Andrew Goudie just failed to convert the try and after twenty five minutes the score was: GHA 5 FALKIRK 5.
Falkirk restarted the match with a marked sharpness in their passing and increased pace in taking and receiving the ball which began to find gaps in the home defence. Falkirk forwards put great pressure on the home side and forced GHA back almost to their own try line. Despite strong defence Falkirk’s Andrew Simpson scored in the corner with the home side fully stretched. A marvellous conversion from a very tight angle by Glen Faulds made the score after thirty minutes: GHA 5 FALKIRK 12.
Falkirk had managed to establish some dominance of the proceedings and John Mckenna made a great break for the visitors before being stopped inside the home twenty two metre area. GHA were able to relieve the pressure when Falkirk were penalised for pulling a player down in the maul.For several minutes both sides attempted to probe and find space by running the ball at their opponents but strong defence and yet more spilled passes ended such moves.As we approached half time Cameron KIng made a superb break from his own half which turned the Falkirk defence and just as Grant Mollison arrived on his shoulder the move broke down.
Half time score GHA 5 FALKIRK 12.
The interval allowed both sides to reflect on their performance in the first half.A level of frustration was evident with a number of spilled passes and misdirected passes ruining good opportunities. Neither side had been capable of maintaining dominance for a lengthy period. A greater level of accuracy in the contact and indeed passing would be required to win this match. A display by the home side’s Junior section entertained the crowd as both sides returned to the arena. Falkirk began the half with their ploy of recycling ball in the tackle and winning territory before releasing. This strength sapping ploy pushed GHA on to the back foot. However after several minutes GHA began to show a far greater cohesiveness in the loose and began to cope far better with Falkirk’s attempts through the excellent Craig Hamilton to disrupt the home side’s line out ball.
After five minutes GHA won turn over ball at the ruck but Jack Preston and Andrew Goudie’s clever attempts to snipe and present quality ball were stifled by a very capable Falkirk defensive line. Despite this the home side continued to look for ways to break through the visitors and breaks by Grant MacDonald,Adam Kerr and Ross Angus won some territory for GHA. A superb kick from Jack Preston took GHA up to the Falkirk twenty two metre line. Falkirk were penalised for crossing and Andrew Goudie kicked to the corner. Falkirk were defending desperately literally on their own try line and a promising spell of pressure by the home side was undone by the ball being knocked on. From the resulting scrum Falkirk cleared the immediate danger and took play up to their ten metre line. Despite a huge tackle by Andrew Goudie on his opponent which drove the visitor back GHA were penalised for not releasing the man on the floor. Glen Faulds elected to try and add to the score and just failed with a very good kick. Despite this disappointment Falkirk were quickly back inside the GHA twenty two metre area and in a lovely controlled move Gary Dempsey went over to score in the corner after the speed of the visitors passing had taken out the GHA defensive line. Critically, Glen Faulds was again most unlucky with a good kick . The score after fourteen minutes of the second half was: GHA 5 FALKIRK 17.
Despite the deficit GHA remained calm and clearly focussed on the task in hand. Andrew Goudie put in a very clever cross field kick in side the opposition half which was chased by Andrew Spowart with which he just failed to connect. In twenty minutes GHA adapted their play to allow the forwards to take the ball into contact and quickly release the ball to the backs. A clever long pass by Andrew Goudie caught the Falkirk defence flat footed and Grant Mollison scored in the corner. The home support were delighted with this response to being behind by the local side. A great attempt at conversion by Andrew Goudie hit the upright and bounced back . There was a fresh enthusiasm about the home side who seemed to sense that this was a game that could still be won. As we reached the half hour there was a perceptible increase in the effort by the home side which was matched by the dogged defence of the visitors. Despite mounting pressure from the home side Falkirk were still capable of breaking out of their own half and indeed as we entered the last ten minutes Falkirk broke through the home rearguard and only a last ditch tackle prevented a score for the visitors. Back came GHA deep into the Falkirk half. Keith Slade was penalised and Andrew Goudie kicked to the corner. At the critical moment GHA knocked the ball forward and the Falkirk support gave a huge cheer as their team had survived. Despite Falkirk attempts to break out of their own half, GHA drove them back but knock ons and spilled passes as we neared the end of the match seemed to suggest that this would not be GHA’s day. Falkirk gave a penalty away as we approached the last five minutes. Andrew Goudie from the twenty two metre line converted the penalty to make the score : GHA 13 FALKIRK 17.
Both sets of supporters roared on their favourites as the clock wound down. Falkirk put in a huge scrum drive and the won a penalty. The visitors cleared the ball up to their ten metre area. GHA seemed to find new energy from somewhere after what had been a strongly contested match and breaks by Ben Addison and then Seitaro Usuda took play to the five metre area. Falkirk were defending bravely and seemed to be capable of holding on for victory. The visitors gave away several penalties in quick succession right in front of their posts as the clock moved towards full time. From the last penalty Andrew Goudie placed a perfect pass into the path of Ross Findlay whose fine running angle beat the Falkirk defence to crash over the line, to wild cheering from team mates and home supporters alike. The conversion was missed and full time blew seconds later. Final score: GHA 18 FALKIRK 17.
This was an astonishing ending to an exciting match. GHA’s belief in their ability matched to a refusal to give up saw them triumph in the end. Falkirk had defended superbly throughout the match and especially in the closing hectic minutes. It had taken a sublime pass and excellent running angle to defeat them.
GHA: G.MOLLISON J.HAMILTON-POTTER B.ADDISON R.FINDLAY A.SPOWART A.GOUDIE J.PRESTON T.BROGAN S.USUDA M.SCOTT A.KERR A.BARNETT S.PLUMRIDGE R.ANGUS G.MacDONALD – Reserves: G.CAMPBELL C.BRAID J.AULD D.EWING C.KING
Scorers: T – FINDLAY, MOLLISON, PLUMRIDGE P – GOUDIE
FALKIRK: G.FAULDS A.RENNIE M.HALL G.GILLILAND G.DEMPSEY C.ROBERTSON H.RUSSELL J.McKENNA A.SIMPSON K.SLADE C.HAMILTON A.INWOOD G.BRODIE A.McNAB J.EAGLESHAM – Reserves: K.BURNEY A.GILLESPIE A.HAMILTON L.BRIMS K.ROWE
Scorers: T – SIMPSON (2), DEMPSEY C – FAULDS
ASSISTANTS: MR T COUTTS & MR B EVANS
Pictured: Ross Findlay scores the winning try in injury time.