GHA Gazelles 32 Cartha QP 3 XV 7
With the scheduled opposition, Loch Lomond, unable to play, the Gazelles took on Cartha in a re-arranged league fixture.
The difference in pre-match routine was marked while the Cartha squad were running grids, the Gazelles were sorting out the usual positional problems, specifically, who could fill the hooking role until Jim Clarke could get there.
Step up to the mark then Graeme Carpenter, and with this surprising but effective stop-gap, the game kicked off. Against expectations, it was the home side which immediately took control. Using the mighty pack to full advantage, four tries were notched up before the visitors were out of the starting blocks.
Steady pressure on the Cartha line led to a penalty. Carpenter tapped quickly and fed Iain Grierson, and the big farmer, with the even bigger Andy Freeth in tandem, ploughed over for the first score.
Next up was the Gazelle party piece a lineout on the Cartha 5 metre line, a clean catch by Harkness, and a huge surge from the pack to drive over with Martin Booth in possession of the ball.
The third try followed in 25 minutes, that man Grierson getting his second from plundered Cartha lineout ball.
And five minutes later, Andy Freeth, operating at No. 8 on his debut, added the fourth, picking up from the scrum base to run in. Opinion is varied as to the exact distance he ran, suffice to say it was more than 5 metres, less than 50.
Three conversions from Gus Innes topped the points up to 26 without reply, at which stage Cartha had their best phase of play, but their sustained attacks met resolute defence, and so went without reward.
The GHA half-time talk centred on re-taking control of the game, but after the re-start, it was the visitors who struck first, from a quick break out in loose play, their kicker adding the extras with a difficult and well taken conversion.
This was to be their only score. With the giant GHA pack dominating scrum and lineout, the home side steadily put a stranglehold on the game. When Cartha mounted an attack, they were scythed down by the Exocet that is Scott Pickens, by the by the new centre pairing of Shields and Armstrong, or by the wings coming up in aggressive defence. Pickens was denied over the line, but the pressure eventually told and Cartha conceded two penalties in quick succession. Innes took the points from both, much to the irritation of the opposition who knew that the clock was running down.
As the game drew to a close, Cartha tried some long range speculative kicking, all of which was mopped up and returned with interest by Arthur McLean.
As the whistle sounded, the gathering gloom was in direct contrast to the mood of the home side, who were justifiably pleased with the days proceedings. Good rotation of the pool of 18 players had resulted in a well taken victory, despite the lack of recent games.
A final word for referee Egor Mukhin, who controlled the game well, and whose gentle persuasion of a few of the old stagers ensured that the game never strayed far from good humour.
A. McLean ( R. Banning 40 mins )
I. MacGillivray ( A. McLean 60 mins )
G. McLachlan ( R. McFarlane 40 mins )
G. McGregor ( A. Freeth 55 mins )
J. Harkness ( J. Clarke 20 mins )
A. Freeth ( J. Harkness 40 mins )
GHA Gazelles 32 Cartha QP 3 XV 7