Match Report v GHK RFC | Saturday 21st September
There were no real changes to the starting lineup from last week’s victory over Kirkcaldy, although the bench saw a welcome return for Alex Wainwright and Doug Randall. The GHK team, on paper, looked significantly different from the one we played and defeated twice last season. This, was, however, also a markedly different performance from our visitors on the pitch and their emphatic win was well deserved. Despite every effort, Stewart’s Melville were unable to implement their game plan and struggled to gel as a team, despite some good individual performances.
GHK started proceedings and kicked off towards the Castle. 1 minute 24 seconds later, SM were penalised for offside and the 3 points were taken. The kick that didn’t find touch at the restart allowed GHK to continue their assault and it wasn’t long before they were over the line for the first try of the afternoon with less than 10 minutes played. SM 0 – GHK 10.
Some astute kicking by GHK gave them more territorial advantage as they continued to attack with fluidity, moving the ball well out wide. SM did, however, manage to turn the tables, gaining possession and, with recycled ball, earning a chance to attack, with Happy breaking through. With options either out to Sean on the wing or Momo inside, he chose the latter – after all, blood is thicker than water – allowing him to canter in under the posts. Approximately 15 minutes played, SM 7 – GHK 10.
Up until this point GHK had enjoyed most of the possession although some improvement was apparent from SM. A reasonable passage of play ensued, despite being under the cosh, with some good breaks by Jamie McGurk and Darren Miller, and, with GHK knocking on, SM had a scrum not far from the halfway line. The ball was, however, lost in contact thereafter and the advantage reversed in GHK’s favour. Their scrum was successful and again they moved the ball wide, eventually winning a penalty. A successful line out saw them drive over from 5 meters to score their second try. 20 minutes played, SM 7 – GHK 17.
SM then enjoyed a period of possession, but, whilst trying to utilise the width of the pitch, slow ball and the pressure they were under prevented significant progress, with a penalty against them adding insult to injury. GHK cleared their lines, and, although SM managed to steal the ball at the line out, a resultant knock-on gave GHK the benefit of a scrum; they were then back in the driving seat once more, with SM finding it difficult to get out of their own half. Another knock-on, a scrum and a drive saw GHK breach the line once more. Approximately 30 minutes played, SM 7 – GHK 22.
Unfortunately the kick at the restart went straight out, and, with a scrum at the halfway line, GHK won a penalty as SM were adjudged to have collapsed the set piece. More pressure then came from the line out and scrum but a penalty in SM’s favour at last allowed them to clear their lines. There was a bit of repetition in the pattern of play whereby SM were managing to get out of their own half and gain reasonable field position – only for malfunctioning line outs, knock-ons or infringements to give GHK back the advantage. With the majority of possession coming their way once more, GHK exploited the width of the pitch once again, some quick ball through the hands bringing the away team another try as half time loomed. SM 7 – GHK 29.
As the second half got underway, the wind at SM’s backs may have given them some advantage but the dominance of the visitors was still beginning to show. SM were, however, still up for the fight and nearly made it over from 5 meters out before some of the impetus was lost and GHK survived. The respite was, however, short lived, and, with another attempt from the same distance, SM were successful, Scott Alldritt dotting down. That made the score SM 14 – GHK 29 with around 45 minutes played.
There was still hope at this stage of a comeback of sorts and Joe Bailey, who had come off the bench, repeated his feat from the previous week and burrowed over. With just over 55 minutes played, that made it SM 19 – GHK 29. SM were, at this stage, enjoying a little bit more possession; this allowed them to attack, with Matthew Watson cutting through a few defenders and a penalty coming in our favour. A wild kick gave possession back to GHK, however, and, this time, after a line out and 5 metre scrum (uncontested), GHK were over again – with about 70 minutes played, SM 19 – GHK 34.
At the restart there was more pressure on the SM line, relieved only when a penalty came our way. GHK were, however, the beneficiaries of an interception shortly thereafter, bringing the score to SM 19 – GHK 39. As time petered out, GHK, now totally in control, had the opportunity to vary their play, whether with ball in hand or via tactical kicking. Just to make our afternoon complete, even the bounce of the ball wasn’t going our way, with GHK scoring an opportunistic try and the last of the afternoon. Final score SM 19 – GHK 44.
It was a tough afternoon for SM against a team that were undoubtedly better and more organised. It was GHK, not us, who enjoyed the wide pitch as they repeatedly moved the ball efficiently and effectively through their hands to earn the overlap. I recently read from a well known rugby correspondent that you have to earn the right to go wide. GHK did that on Saturday and did it well. Whilst I think we had also earned the right to go wide, we needed to execute it as efficiently as they did!
Having watched the Scotland game on Sunday morning, there was always the temptation to compare and contrast the two – but that would be unfair – Scotland were rudderless! I am sure we will, as always, learn from this comprehensive defeat. As said, there were still some good individual performances and the team continued to fight to the bitter end when it would have been so easy to throw in the towel. Once again the penalty count, for whatever the infringements were (I don’t fully understand), has to be a consideration going forward.
Our scrums were, by and large, solid, and the forwards’ effort was commendable. Joe Bailey is more than just an impact ‘super sub’ – he is an 80 minute man, in my view. The front row of Chris, Connor, Darren, and, latterly, Doug did well in the set piece and the loose and it was good to see Momo giving his cousin the support he needed. Our defence was, once again, good for the most part and Fraser’s probing kicks helped our cause – but, all things considered, we were always up against it.
A long trip to Galloway on Saturday beckons and, hopefully, despite the journey, we can get back on track.
We sit in 8th spot at the moment. We have won 2 and lost 1 but are still below two teams who have only won one game! Maths was never my strong point but I will confer with my future daughter-in-law for clarification.
Still a very long way to go!
Match photo c/o Keith Ferguson