On a weekend where the Six Nations comes to its dramatic conclusion, lets see whether memory lane can lead us to any other dramatic finales as we look back at the long missed days of Saturday club rugby.
On the fourth Saturday of March back in 2013, GHA headed the short three miles to Dumbreck to face Southside rivals Cartha in a winner-takes-all Championship A title decider. The home club overcame the wintery conditions; allowing this much anticipated match to be the only game to go ahead in Scotland. In hindsight, their efforts may seem unwarranted as GHA swooped in and claimed the club’s first ever silverware, and the bragging rights to end all bragging rights.
GHA CHAMPIONS WITH SOUTHSIDE SHOOT-OUT SHUT-OUT
GHA RFC MATCH 260: CARTHA QUEENS PARK RFC 0 – 23 GHA RFC
2012/2013: Championship A
CARTHA QUEENS PARK RFC
|J. Manning||15||S. Lang|
|T. Nyangweso||14||R. Jericevich|
|A. Scott||13||H. O’Hare|
|D. Goudie||12||A. Henderson (c)|
|T. Hine||11||J. Brogan|
|W. Burrows||10||D. Dunn|
|A. Black||9||A. Gillman|
|A. Harvey||1||M. Kidd|
|B. Gillmore||2||J. Malcolm|
|J. Malakoty||3||S. Carson|
|G. Williamson||4||R. Jenkins|
|B. Pollock||5||J. Auld|
|J. Dowling||6||D. Malcolm|
|P. Hollier||7||J. Pinder|
|C. Dickson||8||G. MacDonald|
|F. MacKinnon||16||C. Landsburgh|
|N. Smillie||17||R. Glen|
|R. Gillies||18||A. Auld|
|T. Davidson||19||G. Adams|
|Try||Carson, Gillman, Penalty|
|Mr A. MacPherson (SRU)|
GHA took the RBS Championship A division trophy home to Braidholm after a shut-out victory in a ‘winner takes all’ decider against Cartha Queen’s Park at Dumbreck on Saturday. But the basis for the championship success, at least in numerical terms, was the tally of 18 bonus points over the season. That was an average of exactly one per match.
This game itself, however, was not one for thinking of bonus points: for both teams, it was simply a win that mattered. In any case, conditions were not conducive to ‘five point’ rugby.
Cartha, to their great credit, had gathered a squad of willing volunteers to clear snow off the pitch in the morning so that the match could go ahead. Consequently, the ground was soft and clawing, and a chilling, diagonal wind was blowing from somewhere north of Siberia.
GHA had the wind in their faces in the first half, but that did not hinder them in making an early statement of their intent to take Cartha on up front. Grant Macdonald and Donald Malcolm were particularly eager to break the gain-line and draw their colleagues into a tight driving game.
Off such a platform GHA gained their first score after only six minutes. After the forwards had done their work Andrew Gillman broke up the left touchline and struck a kick through for Scott Lang to chase. The GHA full back was taken out by his opposite number, Steven Manning, but after a confab between referee Andrew Macpherson and one of his assistants, Andrew McMenemy, the former sin-binned the home full back and awarded a penalty try, which John Brogan converted.
It is not normal practice for a team of three match officials to be appointed to a Championship division game, but the significance of the top-of-the-table contest was such it merited such appointments, especially with two such highly rated referees among the triumvirate.
GHA gained nothing more during the sin-bin. However, the pattern had been set, and with Jamie Pinder plundering the breakdown, GHA added to their control of possession with the frequency of turn-overs, especially in the first half.
Gillman, Dominic Dunn, Hefin O’Hare, Andrew Henderson, and Lang all had a turn at trying to exploit the forwards’ ground work, but it was not really a day for piano players. Instead, it was for the piano-shifters, one of whom scored GHA’s second try less than 10 minutes short of half-time. The visitors turned a line-out into a fearsome drive almost to the goal-line, with Scott Carson going close before he went over at his second attempt. The former second XV centre had taken another step in his new career as a first-team prop!
Brogan missed the conversion as well as a penalty early in the second half. That was no discredit in the windy conditions, but when he chipped in with two penalty goals in 57 and 72 minutes GHA were comfortably almost home at 18-0.
Over the contest Cartha had their moments in attack, especially in the third quarter. However, lacking the continuity and cohesion that marked GHA’s rugby, the home team rarely threatened the visitors’ line. They also handicapped themselves with two sin-binnings. The second was for repeated infringements in the final 10 minutes, the penalty from which Brogan kicked his second goal.
Five minutes later Gillman finished off with a typical try after leading-up work by Rangi Jericevich and Alan Auld. The wing caught a loose clearance on the right, the replacement forward ran the ball up, and the scrum half found space to break through a gap that was apparent only to him.
So GHA ended their season with a well earned trophy even though the win was not in the style which they have become used to. But was only the third league match in which they have not gleaned at least one bonus point of one sort or the other. The other blanks in that column were in the 14-27 defeat at Ardrossan in mid-September and 21-17 win away to Falkirk five weeks ago. Even in their three other defeats they picked up the maximum of two bonus points. Now upward to the National League!
GHA Head Coach Gordon MacPherson was thrilled with the team’s display.
He said: “I was delighted with the way our guys played in tough conditions. In particular the way our forwards as a unit completely outplayed Cartha at supposedly their own game. It was a real gutsy, team effort to restrict them to zero points. It was an outstanding performance. It was pleasing to nullify them and some of our driving play and continuity with possession was top class.”
Head Coach Gordon MacPherson was also pleased with how the younger players in the team coped in such a big game for the club. He added: “It shows how much we have improved over the course of the season. Guys like John Brogan, Grant MacDonald, James Malcolm, Jamie Auld and Matt Kidd are all either still in their teens or young 20s. It was really pleasing to see how they stood up to the conditions and were absolutely relishing the game.”
GHA Head Coach Gordon MacPherson is relishing the challenge of playing in the National League next season. He said: “It will be a big step up and we will obviously be looking to improve again. I think the teams towards the bottom of the second division we will possibly be on a par with. I think the top teams will pose a bigger threat. We will need to step up our game and improve as a team again to be able to match and beat these sides. It will be a real challenge but one the club is really looking forward to.”
Source: Bill McMurtrie