1st XV Match Report vs GHA
In his programme notes for Saturday, GHA president Euan Baillie reflected on the two matches between our teams last season and suggested that the 24-22 game at Braidholm in January would be the more likely template for our first encounter this season.
If only – as it turned out, we ended up on the sharp end of a thirteen try thumping that was GHA’s biggest win ever and probably our second heaviest defeat ever (that 97-3 home loss to GHK back in the dim and distant will hopefully never be surpassed!
The bizarre thing is that we started the game brightly, looking fairly relaxed on a beautiful day for our kind of running rugby. The opening exchanges were pretty tentative, with a lot of kicking and unforced errors from both sides, before an attacking scrum on the GHA 22 at the clubhouse end gave our backs the quality ball they needed. Some fine interplay led to Sean Murchie dotting down under the posts after twelve minutes, Scott Docherty adding the easy extras to give us a 7 point lead.
GHA were undeterred and rampaged up the park from the restart, their forwards starting to ask real questions of our pack in the loose. A kick from one of the GHA centres earned us a lineout in our own 22; we duly threw the ball to one of the home forwards, and were immediately back in defensive mode. The initial attacks were repulsed but, eventually, a pod of GHA forwards rumbled over, prop Michael Fox claiming the try and Andrew Goudie the extras (7-7).
GHA took the lead on 18 minutes after further spadework by their loose forwards allowed their backs to start looking for holes in our backline. We tackled manfully but, eventually, started to run out of defenders, allowing loosehead Michael Scott to claim another try for the front row union from close range. Goudie’s conversion made it 14-7 to our hosts.
We then spent a few phases on the attack in the GHA half before slack passing in the midfield presented Goudie with the ball and clear sight of the line. He duly sprinted away to touch down under the posts, his conversion making it 21-7 with 22 minutes gone.
Suspicions that this was going to be one of those ‘you score, we score’ games appeared to be confirmed a couple of minutes later when Cammy Taylor rumbled over near the posts after some intelligent attacking play and concerted pressure on the home line. That made the score 21-14 after Doc’s conversion.
We were immediately on the back foot from the restart, with the GHA front five continuing to cause us all kinds of problems and throwing our defensive patterns into disarray. It was full back Binnie who claimed the score this time, Goudie’s fine conversion from wide out making it 28-14 with only 27 minutes gone. This was the point at which the old ‘They’re scoring a point a minute here’ alarm bells first started to go off …
The alarm bells got even louder shortly thereafter, a nasty looking leg injury seeing Ziggy stretchered off. We had actually been attacking at the time, with our backs starting to show some of the sharpness they had displayed in the second half of the Accies game. Ziggy’s injury seemed to take the wind out of our sails, though, and we were soon back under our posts, home winger Spowart the scorer after we had kicked away possession in midfield. 33-14, and thirty three minutes gone.
GHA were very much bossing the game by now, and claimed another two scores before half time. We seemed to be trying to force the game, with everyone hammering after the ball at the restarts – this, unfortunately, left massive gaps in our midfield when the GHA forwards inconveniently claimed the restarts and fed their ruthless backline. The end result was a 47-14 scoreline at the break.
I’m not going to dwell on the details of the second half, where we only managed to make things even harder for ourselves by getting three men sent to the bin within 15 minutes for eminently avoidable offences. Gus Wallace was the first to go, for handling in the ruck shortly after the interval, then was followed by captain Dunc (for fisticuffs) and Nick Hay (for looking a bit like the rather more culpable Craig Willis). GHA scored another four tries while all this was going on, taking the score out to 71-14 with maybe fifteen minutes left on the clock.
We then enjoyed something of a rebirth as the carded players came back on and our replacements started to work their way into the game. A neat succession of phases duly saw replacement prop Tom Patieu (a Summer ‘signing’ from the school) dot down in the corner for our third try. Could an unlikely losing bonus point still be on the cards?
The answer to that was a resounding NO, though we fought gamely to claim the critical score from the restart. As they had done for most of the match, GHA soaked up our pressure and returned it with interest, a further brace of tries making the final score 83-19 to our hosts.
You won’t be surprised to learn that there were precious few positives to be taken from the game, with most of our players looking well out of sorts. Yes, we travelled to GHA with 20+ players missing across the 1st and 2nd XVs, but there was still enough quality in the 1st XV squad to suggest that we could give GHA a decent game. It just seemed to be the case that, with so many changes in the squad, no one was sure what they should or should not be doing in any given situation, while the mix of players in key areas like the back row and the backline simply didn’t work on this occasion. It’ll come, though.
The 66-5 loss to GHA at the start of October last year was, arguably, the point at which the players gave themselves a shake, reminded themselves of their season goals and started to turn things around. Let’s hope Saturday’s loss against wee Clarky’s well-drilled and physical GHA team has a similarly galvanising effect.
We go again against Cartha Queen’s Park at Dumbreck this Saturday – an ideal opportunity for some payback against our Glaswegian brethren!