NATIONAL LEAGUE 1
SATURDAY 30th SEPTEMBER 2023
GHA 27 DUNDEE RUGBY 10
By CHRIS NAIRN
A dull overcast day with little wind greeted those arriving at Braidholm on Saturday. There is a sense of frustration in the corridors of the club at the moment. Some inspired and excellent home form has not accompanied the Squad in their travels when facing away matches. Dundee arrived buoyed by victory last week and hoping to add GHA’ s scalp to their belts.
The club was saddened to learn of the passing of Steven Quinn last week. As his former teacher and school’s coach I took great pride in his blossoming into a Clarkston RFC First XV stalwart here at Braidholm. He will always be in our thoughts.
Both sides went through a battery of rehearsed unit and whole team drills on an excellent playing surface which would hopefully assist the playing of open attacking rugby. A small crowd assembled to witness the match and Dundee kicked-off with Fraser McKay (who would emerge as a crucial architect in much of the Dundee positive play all afternoon) placing a high and long kick towards the home twenty-two metre area. Efforts to move the ball away by the home side resulted in an untidy loss of possession and a scrum at the GHA five metre area. This gave the visitors an excellent, early platform to test the efficacy of the home defence. Messrs Harley and McKay contrived to fumble good quick ball from the scrum and in the resulting next scrum the home side drove the Taysiders off the pace and indeed won a penalty. The power and cohesiveness of the home pack in the set piece would prove to be a telling factor as the afternoon advanced. Andrew Goudie took play into the Dundee half and from quality lineout ball Messrs McCoss, Morrison and Luke McCutcheon worked the ball into contact. After five minutes, the home side continued to force Dundee to defend inside their own half and a combination of forward drives and clever back insertions were stretching the visitors defence. However, Dundee rallied, and they too began to probe when in secure possession and for several minutes only sharp defensive accuracy negated breaks by both sides in the midfield area. Gradually the home side began to settle into an attacking rhythm and a superb break by the ever dangerous Charlie Lonergan tore huge holes in the Dundee rear-guard. Desperate last minute tackles just prevented a try. An attempted clearance by the visitors was gathered by the home side with a delicate chip forcing play deep into the Dundee five metre area. Tremendous offensive tackling by Kyle Dixon forced the desperate Dundee defence into touch. The home side won the lineout and moved the ball across the pitch. A drive by GHA resulted in Michael Fox working his way cleverly through despairing tackles to score under the posts. The try was converted, and the score after ten minutes was GHA 7 DUNDEE 0.
GHA were attempting to establish dominance with a combination of effective set piece skills and swift accurate passing amongst the hard working backs with forward support. Dundee fought bravely to challenge the home side and the ball was moving across the pitch at speed. The home side continued to control the set piece and critically gained quality ball which allowed Messrs Lonergan, O’Keefe and Goudie to burst through the visiting first line defence. As we moved toward the thirteenth minute, Adam Kerr driving deep inside the Dundee twenty-two metre area was supported by his forward colleagues and together they drove the hapless Dundee players over their line to score. Whilst the conversion failed narrowly the score was now: GHA 12 DUNDEE 0.
The visitors were bravely trying to gain territory and began to kick a lot of ball in an attempt to put the GHA defence on the backfoot. Highly effective fielding by Messrs Dixon, O’Keefe and McCormick in particular, tended to blunt the effectiveness of most of these aerial assaults. As we passed the half hour a brief period of aggressive and dominant play from Dundee was brushed aside as the home side began to regain their control of proceedings. Marvellous combinations from Messrs Goudie, Morrison and Lonergan created panic in Dundee ranks and indeed the visitors conceded a penalty inside their ten metre area. GHA elected to kick the penalty and a lovely kick from the talented Ruairi O’Keefe flew over to make the score after thirty two minutes of the half: GHA 15 DUNDEE 0.
The home side were now in a very positive rhythm. Accurate execution of the basic skills, close support and choosing the right options were putting enormous pressure on the Dundee defence. As we headed for the interval, a blistering break by the flying Charlie Lonergan burst right through the beleaguered rear-guard of Dundee and to loud cheers of appreciation from the stand he weaved round a despairing last line tackle to score. Once again Mr O’Keefe, from a very acute angle, put in a lovely conversion to make the half time score: GHA 22 DUNDEE 0.
During the interval the crowd enjoyed the “drills” carried out by our ball boys Jonah and Miles Jericevich as proud dad Rangi watched from the stand. It had been a first half of some good rugby from the home side. There was pace, accuracy and commitment which had allowed GHA to establish a strong position of dominance by half time.
Just as the teams reappeared, a consistent drizzle began which would make handling a little more difficult and a slight drop in temperature did not help moving the ball through hands. The home side seemed intent on carrying on from their dominant first half display but clearly Dundee were not about to accept such a situation without a spirited response. Despite such intentions, the half quickly descended into a curious stop start untidy pattern. Neither side was able to establish any meaningful control and much of the play was scrappy and featured crabbing across the ten metre area with little effective movement by either side. GHA were in control in the set piece but loose play became uncoordinated and both sides indulged in an aerial contest to attempt to gain territory. Thus, we had several bouts of aerial tennis with little advantage to either side which further reduced the cohesion so evident in the first half. Gradually, as we reached the sixtieth minute, Dundee began to wrestle some control over proceedings and forced the home side to defend deep inside their own half. GHA conceded several penalties for being offside in the untidy breakdown and Dundee gathered the ball from the touchline kick to force the ball over in the corner. After sixty two minutes the score was GHA 22 DUNDEE 5.
The conversion was missed but the visitors seemed galvanised by this breakthrough and tried to build further incursions into the GHA half. Further pressure from Dundee did not alter the score and as we moved towards the final ten minutes of the match, GHA began to mount a more cohesive period of play. There were still numerous knock-ons and balls going astray by both sides and some good inter-passing by the GHA backs which cut into the Dundee half. There is a resilience about this Dundee side and back they came at GHA. After an exchange of kicks looking for advantage, Calum Nicol nicely placed inside the GHA half received an accurate pass and sailed through the surprised GHA defence to score. The conversion was missed, and the score was now: GHA 22 DUNDEE 10. As we entered the closing moments of the match a sudden resurgence of accurate and supported play by GHA forced play deep into Dundee territory whereupon Lewis McCormick burst through to score. The try was converted and the final score was: GHA 27 DUNDEE 10.
It had been a very odd second half; a totally different spectacle from the first half which had displayed some very good rugby and accurate and concerted play. Both sides rather lost their way in the second half and GHA will realise that such stop-start rugby will not secure success as the club attempts to improve its away-form. Coach Calum was pleased with the first half performance and felt play had become untidy in the second half but was delighted with the perseverance of the squad in their determination to secure the bonus point.
DUNDEE RUGBY: C.ELLIOT R.JACKSON C.NICOL K.D’AETH A.DENVER .FMcKAY G. HARLEY S.DOIG J.ROBERTS J.SHELLARD L.GRAHAM C.FRASER A.FLYNN C.NELSON S.GAULD T.HALL E.MacDONALD F.OVEREND C.BLACK C.O’HAGAN
GHA: K.DIXON R.O’KEEFE C.LONERGAN A.MORRISON L.McCORMICK A.GOUDIE F.McCOSS J.LOW R.CAMPBELL M.FOX A.KERR D.KILPATRICK O.LONERGAN-BLACK W.ALTON L.McCUTCHEON L.BARRON C.STIRLING S.CALLAGHAN R.MacFARLANE M.MacFARLANE
REFEREE: MR F.HOLLINS
ASSISTANT REFEREE 1 MR J CLARK
ASSISTANT REFEREE 2 MR I ROBIN