Match Report v GHK RFC | Saturday 19 January

Match Report v GHK RFC | Saturday 19 January

No acronym quips, no family connections that I am aware of and no Jacobite theme – that’s all history. Just a report on a match against a team that we effectively brushed aside last time round. This time, however, nothing could have been further from the truth. GHK came to play running rugby, and they certainly did that with plenty of gusto despite losing out to a (perhaps) slightly better SM side.

SM kicked off towards the castle, GHK retrieved, and, right from the start, attempted to run out of their own 22. Each thrust was, however, well marshalled, and this eventually persuaded them that a better option might be to clear their lines; this was, however, unsuccessful, as the ball landed nicely into Freddie Roddick’s hands. He duly took off before offloading to the number 14, who had a bit of work to do before touching down in the corner. It was a difficult kick for Happy as it glanced off the post – but this was the only one he failed to convert. With less than 5 minutes played, SM 5 GHK 0. A promising start?

Following the restart the SM forwards made some ground before Euan Bowen kicked long downfield, resulting in the first lineout of the afternoon within GHK’s 22. Again they illustrated their appetite to run rather than kick for field position, although SM regained possession and moved upfield once more after some fine interplay between backs and forwards and another lineout in our favour (this time 10m out from GHK’s line). Clean and quick ball provided James Ferguson with the opportunity to power over and Happy was successful with the conversion. 10 minutes in, SM 12 GHK 0.

Once more at the restart the forwards collected well, with Thor, Willie, Doug and (latterly) Dave Allan making the hard yards, resulting in a scrum at the half way line – GHK’s ball this time. A great drive by the SM pack pushed their opponents back, putting them on the back foot as they tried to avoid our clutches. The result was a lineout in our favour, from which good technique and quick ball from Fraser Strachan allowed Matthew Watson to cover a good bit of ground, well supported by Freddie. Happy was also involved, offloading to his cousin Momo who set things up for another attack. A long, ambitious weighty pass unfortunately fell nicely into the hands of GHK’s number 13, who pinned his ears back and ran the 50 meters for GHK’s opening try of the afternoon. This was successfully converted to make it SM 12 GHK 7 with 15 minutes played.

What a difference a score makes to a team who were previously under the cosh, and, with their new found confidence and vigour, GHK were off again, trying to run out of their own half. They were, once again, thwarted by the presence of a robust SM defence, and, in particular, Joe Bailey, who made a ‘good’ nuisance of himself all afternoon. GHK then reverted to kicking once again but the touch finder was well fielded and dealt with by the back three. Good hands from Freddie and Connor then allowed us to make more progress; although a score didn’t result, we were, at least, showing a pleasing desire to play positive rugby.

A scrum at the half way line then lead to a penalty to GHK, despite SM’s tremendous drive. At this stage GHK were starting to find some rhythm in their play and enjoyed a spell within SM’s half – but they lacked the penetration they were clearly seeking, primarily due to SM’s defensive efforts. The penalty then came SM’s way and a clearance kick gave us more control. GHK were enjoying more possession and using the width of the pitch well, though mistakes were beginning to creep in as we continued to close them down quickly.

The scrums were certainly going SM’s way, although an injury to Connor McKay (who was having his usual belligerent afternoon in both the set piece and open play) brought on the first change. Given the strength in depth of our pack, particularly in the front row, it wasn’t long before the forwards were, once again, driving through their opposition.

Following a scrappy period, GHK managed to gain and hold on to possession and put themselves in a good position some 10m out from the SM line. Our defence has to be commended, once again, as it wasn’t long before the tables were turned, and, after good hands and pace from the back three, this time Freddie was in for the try, again converted by Happy. With about 35 minutes on the clock, SM 19 GHK 7.

With a decisive lead established once more, we kept up the pressure, another massive drive by the forwards illustrating their prowess – the confidence running through the Stew Mel ranks was clear to see. With this platform, Momo was soon given the opportunity to claim one for the pack, which he duly did just before half time. Happy’s boot added the extras once again to make it SM 26 GHK 7 at the break.

With a fairly significant lead already, we seemed to start the second half with a momentary lapse of concentration; this was immediately exploited by the rather more focussed GHK players, and, within a minute of the restart, our otherwise intransigent defence was breached as the visitors scored an unconverted try. 41 minutes gone, SM 26 GHK 12. This gave more confidence to GHK and it was not long before they played some more good attacking rugby to score again, the successful conversion making it SM 26 GHK 19 with 55 minutes played.

SM were startled that they had conceded two tries in a relatively short period but they then appeared to settle back into the second half, aware that GHK were certainly ‘having a go’. SM were not enjoying as much possession as they would have liked but they continued to attack whenever possible, effectively moving the ball wide both left and right and varying play as Fraser orchestrated proceedings. Matthew was making some decisive breaks, but, regrettably, his afternoon soon came to an end, allowing the experienced Dave Hampton to move into the number 13 position while James shuffled out to the left wing.

SM were still under a bit of pressure within their own 22 at this stage, although a scrum gave them the opportunity to fight back – which they did, replacement Jamie Sword putting his physique to good use. Ball retention was key at this stage, and, as a result, Thor lead the charge with his fellow forwards. There was no stopping Ruaridh Mitchell from 5m out. 65 minutes played, SM 33 GHK 19.

With the clock ticking and GHK aware that two converted tries would result in a draw (or that one would give them a losing bonus point), the fight back was on, although, to their credit, SM managed to corral their spirited opponents and kept them within their own 22. Play was frantic, with phases of relentless attacking, and our sixth try almost came via a nicely weighted pass to the number 14, who sprinted for the corner looking for his second of the afternoon. Sean’s foot was, however, adjudged by the esteemed linesman to be in touch. Whilst it pains me to say this, it was the correct decision – 100% correct! Final score SM 33 GHK 19.

It was an exciting game, and all credit to GHK, who never threw in the towel and demonstrated remarkable fitness levels as they attacked relentlessly once in possession. In particular, their point scorers – number 13 Finlay Callaghan and number 12 Danny Campbell — deserve great credit.

Games are, however, won up front, as they say, and the SM front row, whether starting or from the bench, deserve to take a collective bow. I witnessed a dummy, a sidestep, a Fijian-style offload, and, to trump it all, a trademark, uncompromising drive to the line. Well done Chris, Doug, Connor, Ruaridh and Kyle. They were, of course, well supported by their fellow forwards in what is becoming a very strong pack.

Five tries and a bonus point and second place in the table does feel good – but let us not forget that there is a slight advantage here, in terms of the number of games played, which cannot be overlooked. A stiff test is looming at Peebles on Saturday. Eliminate mistakes and keep the penalty count down and we should be okay!

Here’s hoping for a reasonable travelling support to help keep the momentum going.

Kevin Murchie

Match photo c/o Jackie MacKenzie

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