1st XV Match Report vs GHA

1st XV Match Report vs GHA

GHA 24 Stewart’s Melville 22

A sunny Saturday afternoon in Giffnock provided the backdrop for what would turn out to be an exciting game of rugby, indeed. We brought through a talented group of players who are becoming more consistent with every week that passes, looking to clinch our third win in as many games against a GHA side brimming with quality that had beaten the likes of Selkirk in recent weeks.

From the off, the ferocity of the GHA forwards saw them exert considerable pressure, forcing a lineout inside our 22 and only coming to a halt when Usuda was held up over the line. This was a grievous portent, right enough, as GHA made the most of the resulting scrum, a non-moving beast which allowed Jericevich to dive over from close range. Goudie converted, and the home side were 7 points up in as many minutes.

All credit must go to our players, who steadied their listing ship after this early score and showed voracity in attack. Our lineout is not always the most consistent, but, when everyone involved is switched on, it can be devastating. A determined drive was soon halted by a mistake, however, an errant knock on allowing GHA back into our half on 15 minutes.

And then there was light, a lovely sweeping attack spanning the width of the pitch ending with Ferguson dotting the ball down out wide; Hanning’s conversion attempt was only foiled by the crossbar. An entertaining opening 15, then, after which the score was 7-5 to GHA.

DSC_0036_editWe were soon over the whitewash once more, and this try came from close to nothing. After winning a series of penalties inside our half, GHA won a lineout and could have scored were it not for some sharp defending. Our back division soon turned their unlikely field position into points, with Morrison releasing Porteous – enjoying a real return to form in the 9 jersey – following an incisive run by Sami Paulsson. Hanning converted, making the score 7-12 to Stew Mel.

More points followed, and this time major credit must go to the quick handling and efficiency of our backs, who were all involved after a lineout on the stand side touchline saw us deep inside the GHA 22. Good service from Porteous saw big Gareth Henderson crawl (from about two metres out) over the line to score; Gareth would later pick up our man of the match accolade for his efforts. Hanning converted and we led the hosts 7-19, a pleasing state of affairs given our shaky start to the game.

In all fairness, though, GHA mustered an immediate response and won the ball back from the kickoff, their efforts only scuppered by a knock on inside our 22. A few minutes later, a series of scrums on the far touchline yielded a Stew Mel penalty, which Hanning converted to make the score 7-22. Going into the break, then, we appeared to be comfortably on top, with GHA only managing three more points from the boot of Goudie, who made it 10-22 just before half time.

In hindsight, the second half proved to be even more enjoyable than the first, although I suppose that ultimately depended on which team you were supporting. GHA’s early pressure from the kickoff was negated inside our half by a deft lineout steal from Gus, and the ensuing 5 or so minutes of rugby was real end-to-end stuff. This was also to be the beginning of the end for us in this game, however, with some confusion amongst the backs allowing Mollison to get a hand on the ball (just) and score. Goudie converted to bring the score up to 17-22.

DSC_0049_editWe fronted up somewhat after that frustrating score, Ferguson and Trotter putting in a crunching hit and an even more impressive tap tackle, respectively, to deny GHA space inside our half. The ball was cleared, and, following a squint lineout, the resulting scrum should have given us another try, with Murchie running hard and coming up just short. We were, sadly, unable to capitalise on the ground made at the set piece by this point, and inconsistency appeared to be creeping in.

Our defence was simply not good enough towards the end of the game, and, instead of closing the game out, we were tested time and time again by a skilled set of GHA backs, commanded by Jericevich, our old foe, whose speed and footwork were mesmerising on the day. Appropriately, the final score of the game was a spectacular one, an impressive move from the GHA backs and some porous defence allowing GHA’s fullback Mollison to find a gap in our backline and run hard to touch down. Goudie converted and the hosts rounded off the scoring at 24-22.

DSC_0074_editImmediately after the try, Ferguson was yellow-carded for a seemingly innocuous challenge straight from the kickoff. Having already used our full allowance of substitutes, we now had to contend with being one player short, but still looked capable of a winning score in the dying minutes of the game. Murchie, in particular, looked dangerous on the wing, but, in the end, we came up short and GHA completed their impressive comeback. Their 14 even had the chance to add another try to their tally, running about 50 metres before being tackled just short of the line.

This game will no doubt be known as the one that got away for some time, but we can take comfort in the fact that our 1st XV is slowly but surely becoming more consistent and adventurous in attack, and more confident and tough in defence. The forwards are improving in terms of the set piece, and the backs are becoming more hard-hitting and organised in defence.

DSC_0080_editFurthermore, as a group, the boys are proving to be one of the most committed and hardworking units I’ve ever seen at Inverleith, and the camaraderie which exists between them was on full display back at the clubhouse on Saturday night, making our trip to Braidholm that bit more enjoyable despite the result.

We must take this unity and drive into our next game, when we face Edinburgh Accies at Inverleith on the 11th of February, in what promises to be an exciting local derby.

On another note, thanks are due to GHA for their excellent hospitality – their club is a firm favourite with our travelling support and we wish them all the best for the rest of the season.

Callum McNie

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