1st XV vs GHA: Match Report
Among the various logos and slogans adorning the smart new jerseys worn by our players on Saturday was a quote often used by the inimitable Stevie Sims: ‘No excuses – play like a champion’. While we didn’t exactly play like champions for 80 minutes at Braidholm, there was still enough evidence to suggest that we may well be challenging for honours at the end of the season.
It was just as well those new jerseys were in our familiar colours, as, otherwise, you might have struggled to tell which team was which – there were so many new faces in the starting Stew Mel XV. Four of the backs were recognisable – Mike Hanning, Struan Allan, Ross Samson and captain Nick McCashin – while Willie, Sangy, MoMo, Ruaridh Stewart and Adam Howie provided the continuity in the pack.
The other six players were all new recruits, having joined us from Currie (Denis Pech, Alan Whittingham), Hawick (John Coutts), Falkirk (Matt Morrell), Wandies (Ross Anderson) and South Australia (Ben Wilson).
It didn’t take long to see that the revamped team had already gelled, though, as we dominated the game from the first whistle. Sangy opened the scoring after seven minutes, trotting in under the posts after some great interplay between Ross at 9 and Number 8 Denis. Cash converted to make it 7-0.
Sangy should have doubled his tally ten minutes after that, a great pop pass from Cash after a scrum allowing Donald to burst through the GHA midfield. Cash then missed what looked like a fairly easy penalty on the 20 minute mark.
We did, however, put more points on the scoreboard a minute thereafter, Denis touching down after the forwards drove over following a lineout close to the GHA line. Cash missed the conversion to leave the score at 12-0.
We continued to dominate possession thereafter, but struggled to turn that possession into points, with poor decision making and passes either going to ground or into GHA hands (prompting El Presidente to suggest that the red in the GHA strips was confusing our players – am not convinced!)
Despite the lack of points, we still managed to string together some nice handling moves, with Sangy and outside centre John Coutts linking well.
The floodgates finally opened shortly before half time. Cash kicked a penalty on the 30 minute mark, then, 5 minutes after that, another driven lineout saw flanker Ben Wilson flop over the line (above). Five minutes after that, and Matt Morrell scored what may prove to be one of the tries of the season, collecting the ball straight from kickoff and motoring his way through pretty much the entire GHA team to score under the posts (below). ‘Shades of Matt Duncan’ was the (rather more plausible) suggestion from El Presidente this time!
Cash converted both tries then added a further penalty to make the score 32-0 in our favour at the break, with GHA having barely threatened our line in the opening period.
An injury to Mike Hanning during the first half had led to John Coutts replacing him at full back, Matt Hannay slotting in beside Struan in the centre. There was further movement on the bench before the second half was very old, a knee injury to Willie leading to him being replaced by Greg De Villiers (formerly of Trinity Accies).
The second half proved to be a pretty turgid affair in comparison to the first, as we concentrated on stopping GHA from scoring and GHA, in turn, started to get their act together. Home captain Andy Henderson and prop Matt Kidd started to carry the ball well and GHA began to enjoy a decent amount of possession, while our defensive focus meant that the second half was fully 25 minutes old before we got into the GHA half.
Captain Cash, who had strolled through the game like the class act that he is, then strolled through the GHA defence on the 67 minute mark to score under the posts. The score had been set up by more effective ball carrying by Struan and Sangy. Cash converted to make the score 39-0.
There then followed a period dominated by yellow cards and substitutions. The cards went to two GHA players and Adam Howie, while Fraser Strachan (ex Currie) came on at 9, Gordon Campbell (ex GHA) came on at 2 and Stuart Macdonald replaced Ruaridh Stewart in the row. Struan went off with tight hammies and, just to add to the confusion, Ross Samson ended up on the wing, desperate for a try and demanding the ball at every opportunity!
It was Stuart who claimed our final try, following a great midfield break from Alan ‘Banger’ Whittingham, with 5 minutes left of the half, although Matt Morrell was adamant that he touched down in the corner just before the final whistle (the ref decided Matt was held up). Cash’s conversion of Peter’s try made the final score 44-0.
After our rather flat performance against Currie a couple of weeks before, the comfortable win at Braidholm came as a very pleasant surprise, with all of our new recruits looking like they can bring real quality to their respective positions.
John, Banger and Matt particularly caught the eye among the backs, while Ben and Denis put in a great shift in the back row. The players voted Denis their man of the match, and you can see why that might be the case – as Kev Brown pointed out afterwards, Denis gets to balls on the deck so quickly that he makes Sangy (normally an expert in that area) looks positively tardy!
The fact that GHA were both understrength and newly promoted means that we shouldn’t get too carried away with Saturday’s result – Boroughmuir will be an entirely different prospect – but, at the same time, it would be wrong to downplay the potential that’s already evident in our new look team.
When we really start to gel as a unit, then the fun will really start!