GHA v Currie Chieftains
Tennent’s Premiership
Saturday 28th January 2023

Saturday saw the arrival of Currie Chieftains to Braidholm. The contrast in fortunes between the two clubs could not be clearer. High-flying, confident Currie arrived to face a GHA side who have struggled all season to produce a consistent vein of form to take them away from the relegation area.  The atmosphere at Braidholm was a mixture of hope and concern. Hope that the home team could find an eighty minute display of their undoubted skill and talents which they have produced too briefly on many occasions this season, and concern that the errors and frailties in execution which have plagued a very hard working squad of players since August would interfere with GHA determination to move forward. A bright sunny day greeted both sets of players with the pitch in very good condition. Such conditions suggested the possibility of an open attacking match perhaps comparable to the legendary eighty three pointer shared by the teams when they last met. As usual on match days, a cross wind arrived just before kick-off although thankfully not strong enough on this occasion to spoil the match. Both sides prepared carefully with concentration on ball retention and safe distribution drills, lineout security drills and whole team ploys.

Currie kicked off with a high searching kick into the GHA twenty-two area, a mix up in the home defence allowed the ball to bounce toward the approaching Currie forwards and Ryan Stewart gathered the ball and trotted to the line to score. The try was converted and within less than a minute of the match the score was: GHA 0 CURRIE 7.

This monumental setback sadly encapsulated the whole season whereby a GHA error often unforced is immediately punished by alert skilful opponents. GHA after this blow made a huge effort to steady themselves and from the restart took the game to the visitors. GHA were awarded a penalty at halfway and Christian Townsend took play up to the Currie twenty two. The home side led by Messrs Ryan, Ewing and Falconer drove the Currie forwards back. The visitors conceded a penalty and Christian Townsend electing to kick for goal put points on the board for the home side. After five minutes the score was: GHA 3 CURRIE 7.

 Currie, stung by this riposte by the home side, attacked from the restart with Gregor Hunter receiving quality ball from his forwards to take play up to the GHA twenty two with an accurate kick. Currie throughout the match with a powerful pack were able to secure and screen tidy ball to buy  time for Messrs Hunter and Christie to work their magic behind the scrum. Currie applied pressure through running the ball then recycling and going again. A huge defensive effort by GHA held the visitors inside the GHA five-metre area. Currie sensed opportunity and looked to use bulk in the back line with withdrawn forwards to burst a way through a brave home defence. As we approached the ten minute mark GHA desperately tried to prevent going further behind from the constant pressure. Currie inside the five metre area tried a number of clever ploys to stretch the GHA defence and indeed were awarded a penalty try for illegal ball interference which prevented a score. Fergus Johnston was given a yellow card for this misdemeanour. The score was now: GHA 3 CURRIE 14.

Currie were now in control of the match and the home side were struggling to find a platform. Further pressure from a well-marshalled drive saw the visitors cut through the GHA side to score again. The try was converted by the impressive Gregor Hunter to make the score after sixteen minutes: GHA 3 CURRIE 21

Despite the growing deficit, GHA bravely took the match to Currie who were settling into  a controlled confident display. A brief period of aerial tennis saw play move between the ten metre areas with little benefit to either side. The home side were the first to return to playing sensible rugby and in a delightful move begun by Christian Townsend with a deft pass on halfway the ball went to Luca Bardelli who, with customary feints and scalding pace, totally flatfooted the Currie defence to run through and score to huge cheers from the home support who recognised the skill of young Luca but also the resilience of the whole GHA side. The try was converted and the score after twenty one minutes was: GHA 10 CURRIE 21.

Supporters of both sides in the stand and surrounds began to wonder if this was going to be another pulsating high-scoring match. For a short period of the half neither side was dominant and some hugely effective tackles from Messrs Adam Barrett and Dario Ewing blunted attempted breaks on halfway from the visitors. However Currie began to re-establish dominance, their powerful pack securing quality ball from lineout and loose which allowed them time to build moves as GHA tried bravely to stem approaches from the visitors. As we approached the last ten minutes of the half there suddenly broke out another bout of kicking between sides to no advantage and the game became scrappy for several minutes, lacking direction and control. Currie gradually re-established some control over proceedings and with a clever combination of drive, pass and recycle forced the home side on to the back foot. Facing a powerful, skilled pack and constantly having to tackle to attempt to stop such power is draining and Currie were excellent at maintaining the pressure and critically making ground. In a flurry of action GHA won scrum ball but contrived to lose it which allowed the ever-alert Currie side to scoop the ball up and allow Adam Hall to go over to score. The excellent kicking of Gregor Hunter converted the try and the score after thirty minutes was now: GHA 10 CURRIE 28

Currie had responded decisively to the brief GHA period of pressure. As we moved towards half time there was a visible assuredness about the Currie players in their movement and support for each other. The home side once again tried to make inroads to the Currie defence, but the visitors read well the chips, and drives from the home side and deflated any inroads much to the frustration of the home side and its support. Half time was reached just after one of several supposed clearance kicks by the home side was charged down.

It had been a very difficult half for GHA. Currie with a devastating score inside the first minute clearly had the psychological advantage and their confidence grew in the half. GHA refused to buckle and gamely tried to break down the Currie defence which was very organised and effective.

GHA began the second half with early attempts to break the Currie rear-guard following the kick-off. A clever move involving Messrs Kerr, Townsend and Dixon made slight progress until stopped at the Currie ten-metre line.  The home side battled for every ball and to an extent knocked Currie out of their established rhythm forcing play into the Currie half. However, the old failing of conceding penalties at a crucial moment reappeared and the home side conceded a penalty which allowed Currie to dissipate the immediate pressure. As we moved to the tenth minute of the half the GHA side made a concerted effort to gain control of the direction of play. Huge efforts by Stirrat (who was constantly involved, tackling and trying to break) Fox, Townsend and Ryan pushed the visitors deeper into their half and they conceded a penalty in their attempts to quell GHA pressure. Townsend took play up to the Currie twenty-two. Whilst the lineout was initially lost by GHA, they managed to regain possession and following a scrum, Fergus Johnston shot through the Currie defence to score. Christian Townsend converted to make the score after eighteen minutes of the half: GHA 17 CURRIE 28.

Currie, stung by the refusal of the home side to simply fall away, redoubled their efforts from the restart. Mike Ryan gathered the restart inside his twenty-two metre area and strode forward to engage the Currie forwards. The ball went forward and following a scrum GHA forced play with an accurate kick up to the Currie ten-metre area. Currie seemed to sense now was the time to raise their game to negate this resurgence in home ranks. Brave tackling by Messrs Ventisei, Stirrat and Barron blunted the initial thrusts, but Currie with controlled inter passing and close forward work forced the GHA side back deep into their own half. Currie maintained the pressure and control of the ball before releasing Ewan Stewart to score. A superb conversion by Gregor Hunter made the score after twenty one minutes of the half: GHA 17 CURRIE 35. From the restart, Luke McCutcheon took the ball into the Currie defence after making yardage. The home side were yet again rallying to the cause in hand and further efforts by Townsend, Stirrat and Bardelli tore through the Currie defence. Luca Bardelli who caused consternation in Currie ranks with ball in hand weaved his way further inside the Currie half. Currie conceded a penalty and seemed to lose concentration for the moment. This was sensed by Fergus Johnston who quickly took the penalty and flew past startled and flat footed Currie players to score. The conversion was missed narrowly and the score after twenty seven minutes of the half was now: GHA 22 CURRIE 35.

The rest of the match was played in a contrast. GHA were desperate to score another try to gain a bonus point (which would be vital in the relegation battle) and Currie, irked by the attempts of GHA to break them down, looked to break and score again. The home side made huge efforts through everyone in a GHA jersey individually and collectively to get over the line. However the Currie defensive line, well marshalled and excellent in their tackle execution, blunted all the efforts of GHA to score again. Perhaps the match and indeed the season so far was summed up by the last move of the match. Well inside the Currie half a promising move which might have led to a score for GHA broke down when the ball was knocked forward.

The final score was: GHA 22 CURRIE CHIEFTANS 35

Deep disappointment settled on Braidholm after the match. A nightmare start had been put to one side as the home side battled to gain a foothold in the match. Huge effort and skill were expended by the GHA players. Throughout this difficult season they have had to cope with players, especially in the forwards, who are considerably more powerful which has put the home side at a disadvantage. Whatever the fate of GHA this season I applaud their tenacity, bravery and skill and a total refusal to buckle when in trouble.





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