Annual BALL & Match Report
Stewart’s Melville vs GHA National League Division 1
Let’s start with an admission: I may have jinxed this one. In the clubhouse before the game, I told the young McNie about a dark day when a team from the west with three letters in their name beat us by (I think) 97 points to 3 at Inverleith, the supreme irony being that we had opened the scoring with a penalty that day.
While Saturday’s game was against a different team from the west – GHA rather than GHK – and the scoreline wasn’t quite as painful, the second half on Saturday certainly wasn’t pretty to watch, as the men from Braidholm (coached by former Inverleith favourite Euan Clark) ran in 54 points without reply.
There were a few changes in our ranks this week, most of them in the backs. Stewart Hagart replaced Mike Hanning at 15, Craig Davidson replaced Sean Murchie on the wing and we had a completely new centre pairing of Dan Witko and Neil Bowie rather than Messrs Crawley and Hannay.
There was a more settled look to the pack, where Craig Willis started at hooker and Jamie Hodgson replaced Thomas Spowart in the Boiler Room.
The first half was a fairly cagey one, with GHA opening the scoring after 3 minutes when centre Addison darted over near the posts after a scrum on our 5m line. The evergreen Peter Jericevich added the extras to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
After our lacklustre start at Stoneyhill the previous week, it was pleasing to see us come out fighting against GHA, with the forwards showing far more cohesion as they took the ball on. Our pack duly rumbled over in the Inverleith clubhouse corner after 10 minutes to make the score 7-5 to GHA, with that man Rappestad claiming the score.
The next 10 minutes saw attacks from both sides, although many of our forays into GHA territory seemed to break down due to inaccurate tactical kicking on our part. GHA grew in confidence as the half wore on, with full back Grant Mollison looking like a real danger man. We defended manfully, though, and did cause GHA some problems at scrum time. It was, however, GHA who claimed the next score, Jericevich playing in Mollison to make the score 12-5 for GHA with 28 minutes gone.
GHA had missed a penalty prior to their second try and, when they were awarded a further penalty close to our line late in the half, showed their confidence by opting to run it. A series of penalties then followed as our scrum started to creak, with a penalty try looking increasingly likely. We held out, though, and it remained 12-5 at the break.
GHA had been the better side, but it was to our players’ credit that they had prevented the visitors from converting possession into points. Sami Paulson, in particular, had put in a power of work – he may lack the Marvel comic book looks of big Thor, but he’s no less a player than his fellow Swede.
You’ll forgive me if I don’t dwell on the second half, as there wasn’t much in it to interest Stew Mel fans reading this. It’s hard to explain quite why we shipped so many points, though the fact that the game went to uncontested scrums not long after the restart must have had a lot to do with it.
Cammy Taylor had replaced Paul Dixon late in the first half, then Cammy came off injured barely 5 minutes into the second half. Dave Devlin replaced Cammy, and the scrums necessarily ceased to be a contest.
While our scrum hadn’t been a thing of beauty in the opening 40 minutes, we had, at least, asked a few questions of the GHA pack, slowing up service to their pacy backs. When things went uncontested, the GHA backs started to enjoy some silver service from Jericevich at the base of the scrum.
Replacement GHA hooker Usuda – a solid citizen, as Bill McLaren might have said – claimed the first try of the second half (19-5) then winger Potter scorched up the wing on the 10 minute mark (26-5). Usuda claimed his second try after 20 minutes (33-5) then the excellent Jericevich got in on the act shortly after that (40-5).
With the bonus point long since secured, GHA really started to chuck the ball about, with sub Spowart claiming a brace and winger Edgar a try to take the score out to 59-5. Stand off Goudie then rounded off the scoring to make the final score 66-5.
You won’t be amazed to learn that there were precious few high points from Stew Mel in the second period, although the players are to be commended for sticking to their guns in the face of the visitors’ onslaught. We weren’t helped by Rappestad being rather harshly yellow carded for obstruction after 55 minutes- by the time the big Viking got back on, the damage had very much been done.
A bad day at the office, then, but we just need to put it behind us, learn from our mistakes and work towards the derby at Raeburn Place this weekend. We’ll hopefully have a few of our more battle hardened players back by then, as we struggled to maintain the communication, decision making and accuracy needed to thwart a well drilled GHA team who put pace and width on the ball at every opportunity.
GHA are, in fact, something of an example of what we should be capable of this season once everything clicks – they don’t have a massive pack, but their forwards work as a dynamic unit to provide their dangerous backs with plenty of ammo.
Real masochists can watch highlights of the game on the Scottish Rugby TV YouTube channel, accessible via the main SRU website; GHA’s captain Ben Addison has, at least, got some nice things to say about the pitch at Inverleith!
Finally, a reminder that the club’s annual Ball takes place at Murrayfield on Saturday 5th November. This is both an important fund raiser for the club and a cracking night out – please see Nick McCashin to secure your tickets as soon as possible.
Stewart’s Melville RFC 5 vs GHA 66