2009/2010: Scottish Premiership Two



Do. Anderson15C. Binnie
 Da. Anderson14R. Jericevich
S. Gee13N. Cassie (c)
C. Borthwick12M. Dunn
 N. Hogarth11R. O’Keefe
 N. Warnock10J. Noonan
 F. Strachan9A. Gillman
W. Aitken1G. Warnock
R. McConnell2J. Low
A. Clark3A. Kelly
D. Harvey4M. Gurran
M. Thompson5R. Jenkins
D. Brown6J. Auld
D. Sangster7J. Pinder
J. Oakes8P. Harkins
N. Clark16M. Kidd
S. Irvine17O. Gilmartin
A. Smellie18D. Stoddart
 C. Hunter19A. Rushforth
Da. Anderson, OakesTryCassie
Warnock (3)PenNoonan (5)


Jim Noonan kicked five penalties to get GHA their fifth win a row, squeaking past Peebles by the narrowest margin at a very merky Gytes.

Last weeks hard fought win over a physical Kelso side took its toll on the GHA squad and they headed south to Peebles with 7 forced changes. Influential forwards Ian Nelson and Ian Smith were missing as well as top try scorer Ross McClymont and inside centre Martin Dunn. This was to be a real test of the strength of GHA’s squad. Returning from a broken hand was Jamie Auld who had a major part to play in the game as did promoted winger Rangi Jericevich who forced his way into the squad following excellent performances in the 2nd XV. There were also late call ups for Gregor Jones, Patrick Hilley, Matt Kidd and Olly Gilmartin all of whom have represented the 1st XV at different stages of the season.

GHA put pressure on Peebles from the kick off and a series of probing kicks from James Noonan kept them on the back foot. A penalty 30 metres out after five minutes gave GHA a 3 – 0 lead. A short period of Peebles pressure followed although the GHA defence was more than a match and eventually forced the error. A lovely kick for Noonan allowed Chris Binnie and Ruairi O’Keefe to put pressure on the Peebles winger and force the penalty. Another successful strike from Noonan put GHA 6 – 0 up.

There followed a cat and mouse period of the game with neither side managing to take control of play. The GHA scrum turned the Peebles front row to demonstrate that the forward battle would not be easy for them. Andrew Gillman sniped down the blind side from a turn over and reminded Peebles that they could not take their eyes off him for a second. Other than that there was some pretty aimless kicking from both sides which didn’t really suit either team’s style. The best attacking move of the game came from the GHA backs following an excellent driven lineout broke down when the final pass was delivered a fraction too early to Jericevich who ran out of room.

Peebles gradually began to exert pressure through their superior kicking and challenging the GHA lineout. Eventually a penalty in front of the posts allowed them to get into the game 6 – 3. GHA extended their lead to 9 – 3 with another Noonan penalty following a precision kick from Noonan and good pressure at the Peebles lineout. It was a short lived moment of breathing space however as Peebles kicked a penalty three minutes later to close the gap to 9 – 6.

Peebles seemed to be getting the upper hand and another threatening attack from a charged down kick was only thwarted by O’Keefe’s quick thinking and physical intervention. Peebles standoff Warnock was becoming more influential and seemed to be finding more holes to put his willing runners into. However GHA lack nothing in the guts department and their defence held firm. On the stroke of half time, and definitely against the run of play, the Peebles backs made a crucial error under pressure which allowed Niall Cassie to pick up the loose ball and sprint home from the halfway line. Noonan converted for a 16 – 6 half-time lead.

Peebles started the second half at breakneck speed and it was all GHA could do to keep out the waves of attack. To the fore was Andy Rushforth who put in a series of crunching tackles. The resistance was short-lived however and only four minutes into the half Peebles opened GHA up in midfield and put winger David Anderson under the posts for a superb try. The conversion added meant GHA’s lead was cut to 16 – 13.

Following another sustained Peebles attack Andy Kelly was very harshly sent to the sin-bin. Peebles elected for the scrum and Number 8 James Oakes controlled the ball beautifully for the touchdown as they drove GHA’s seven men over the line. The conversion was crucially missed but Peebles were ahead for the first time 16 – 18.

It took some committed GHA defence to stop Peebles taking advantage of their numerical supremacy with another catch and drive close to the line, a relieving penalty allowed Noonan to move play out of the danger zone. A quick tap from Gillman put Peebles under pressure and when they regained possession and kicked up field Noonan was hit by the Peebles winger Neil Hogarth so early that the referee had no option but to send him to the sin-bin.

Ten minutes later the Peebles scrum half Fraser Strachan was also sent for a 10 minute rest. He deliberately killed the ball following a galloping 60 metre run from lock Mike Gurran. Noonan kicked the resultant penalty and GHA retook the lead 19 – 18. A searing blindside break from Gillman caught Peebles asleep. He fed Jericevich who carried the ball deep into Peebles half; his neat chip caused Peebles to concede another penalty. Noonan missed his only kick at goal of the day.

Still down to 14 men Peebles launched a sustained attack which ended with GHA conceding a penalty in front of the posts and Peebles again took the lead 21 – 19. With two minutes left on the clock GHA won a scrum against the head and Noonan’s drop goal attempt was charged down by the offside Peebles midfield. The referee signalled the penalty and Noonan took no time to place the ball and knock it over GHA 22 – Peebles 21. A frenetic final few minutes ended with GHA forcing Peebles to try and attack from their own line to no avail. The final whistle was met with relief by all GHA players and travelling support.

The result means GHA have now won their last five league matches and with the usual odd mixture of results round the country they have climbed to fourth place in the league and are only two points behind Gala in third. Next week is the last game before Christmas and GHA entertain Haddington at Braidholm in a 2pm kick off. It would be good to see a big crowd at home for another critical league encounter.

Source: Bill McMurtrie

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