Falkirk 28 GHA 26
Conditions were advantageous to two sides which have a penchant for running rugby. Whilst overcast the pitch was firm and there was very little wind to affect any kicking ploys employed by either side. 95 players represented GHA on this afternoon at various venues which is a superb effort from all the playing members of the Braidholm club. Both sides took to the field through a guard of honour by the home sides junior section. The prematch preparation had seen both sides concentrate on support of the ball carrier in the tackle and securing the ball at the breakdown. There was little physical difference between the sides and both teams were determined to build on their success of the previous weekend.
Falkirk kicked off and Andrew Goudie cleared the danger with a solid touch kick. Within three minutes GHA had declared their intention to run the ball at the home side and began to engage their forwards in moves up the inside channel of the Falkirk defence. Michael Scott broke through the middle of the Falkirk defence only to be stopped by a superb tackle. James Edgar launched a penetrating break well into the Falkirk half and only a desperate tackle prevented him passing securely to Ross Findlay who could not hold the pass and the danger was cleared. This was a bright confident opening by the visitors who were asking questions of the Falkirk defence. There was some powerful breaks by Michael Scott,Jamie Auld and Paul Harkins which Falkirk did very well to prevent leading to a score. After five minutes of what had been an impressive whirlwind start by the visitors Scott Plumridge went over to score after intense pressure on the Falkirk line. The conversion was missed and the score stood at : FALKIRK 0 GHA 5pts.
Despite this advantage Falkirk began to assert their power in the scrum and GHA gave away a penalty as they slipped their binding under pressure. From just inside the GHA half Liam Brims converted the penalty with an excellent kick to make the score after nine minutes : FALKIRK 3 pts GHA 5pts.
The assured goal kicking of Liam Brims and the inability on the day for GHA to gain parity in the scrum was to have a huge impact on this match. GHA returned to the task in hand and the backs and forwards were working very well together to win clean ball in the loose and run moves from the possession. In eleven minutes Ross Findlay in an excellent piece of quick thinking secured a loose ball just inside the Falkirk half and the ball was quickly recycled to Andrew Goudie who with a deft hand fed James Edgar who swept past the Falkirk cover defence to score in the corner. Murray Houston from a tight angle added the conversion to make the score: FALKIRK 3 pts GHA 12pts.
Falkirk remained calm and worked their way towards the visitors half with some smart passing between their backs and forwards interspersed with some angle kicking behind the GHA defence which had to be scrambled clear. Falkirks power in the scrum allowed them to win quality ball even on the GHA put in and clearly the home side were growing in confidence with this vital aspect of the match under their control. At around the twentieth minute sustained pressure by the home side resulted in a break from hooker Andrew Simpson to score. The try was not converted and the score stood at :FALKIRK 8pts GHA 12pts.
The game was finely balanced with both sets of backs enjoying periods of dominance with their respective forwards in support. This was shaping up to be a match between two talented sets of backs . The visitors would have to find a way to neutralise the power of the home sides scrum as it was becoming clear that Falkirk would use their superiority in this area at every opportunity. Falkirk were awarded another penalty for a scrummage infringement by the visitors midway into the visitors half. Harry Russell took a very quick penalty and flew past the GHA players still regrouping to score wide of the posts. Whilst the difficult conversion was missed the score was now FALKIRK 13pts GHA 12pts.
As the game moved towards the half hour mark GHA showed signs of coping better in the scrummage area and they seemed to take renewed confidence from this fact. Some clever interplay by messrs Houston and Goudie set Andrew Spowart away only for him to be tackled inside the Falkirk half. This time an over eager Falkirk player was penalised at the break down for an infringement. From just outside the twenty metre line Murray Houston converted to make the score after thirty four minutes: FALKIRK 13pts GHA 15pts.
The tightness of the score reflected the performance of both sides with neither able to achieve a long period of dominance in the match so far. Falkirk were awarded a penalty for a scrummage infringement just inside the GHA half. The improved resistance by the visitors in scrummaging had lessened. From a fair distance Liam Brims converted the penalty to make the score after thirty four minutes : FALKIRK 16pts GHA 15pts. GHA took the game to Falkirk but despite some clever intrusive play by Grant Mollison with support from a combination of Andrew Goudie and Michael Scott, the home side held firm. Several attacking moves by the visitors broke down as passes went astray or were knocked on. As half time approached GHA were penalised several times for infringements in the scrum which Falkirk readily accepted putting boot to ball to push ever close towards the GHA try line. In the seconds before half time Falkirk won another penalty for the visitors illegal driving at the scrum. From a lengthy kick just inside the GHA half, Liam Brims converted to make the score: FALKIRK 19pts GHA 15pts.
As some of the crowd moved to the warmth of the clubhouse, GHA mounted an astonishing attack with just about everyone in the team handling the ball. This move although stopped by a surprised Falkirk side led to a line out on the edge of the home sides five metre area. In the ensuing breakdown Falkirk were adjudged to have strayed offside and Murray Houston converted the penalty to make the half time score FALKIRK 19pts GHA 18pts.
Half time gave both sides the opportunity to reflect on what had been an interesting first forty minutes. Neither side had managed to gain the ascendancy for any length of time. Both sets of backs were engaging each other in some excellent mismoves and both were strong in the tackle. A nagging doubt for GHA supporters was the fact that Falkirk were dominant in the scrum and GHA had given away a number of penalties as they desperately tried to hold their footing against a powerful pack. Falkirk s forward set piece dominance had not been so evident in the loose where GHA were a match for their opponents. The visitors stormed into the home half as the second half got underway. Some effective support play by Dario Ewing and Calum Braid followed by a clever chip into space behind the Falkirk defence took the visitors up to the Falkirk 20metre zone.
A feature of solid GHA lineout play was the clever options continually chosen by Murray Houston which was causing Falkirk problems in defence. However play soon swung back up the pitch to the GHA half and it took a good touch clearance by Andrew Goudie after five minutes of the half to bring a respite however temporary to the visitors. GHA regained a tenuous ascendancy over the next five minutes mounting a number of attacks from quickly recycled ball with Grant MacDonald prominent in surges into the home sides defence. Such was the intensity of the tackling by both sides that a number of balls were spilled in the tackle. As we passed the ten minute mark GHA were adjudged to have collapsed the scrum and from just inside the GHA half. Falkirk had made a huge effort at the set piece in what had become a marked tactical ploy by the home side side. Liam Brims converted the penalty to make the score: FALKIRK 22pts GHA 18pts.
GHA refused to panic and clearly felt that they could still turn the score round. They mounted several attempts to break through the home defence but the game tended to move crab like across the middle of the pitch as each side tried to find a way through stubborn defences.GHA were awarded a penalty on the twentieth minute mark and Andrew Goudie produced a howitzer of a kick to take his side from his own half to deep into the Falkirk half. Whilst the home side rebuffed the advances of the visitors minutes later Andrew Goudie this time placed a deft angled kick to the wing behind the onrushing Falkirk defence to provide the opportunity for a clever pick up by Charlie Lonergan to score in the corner. The try was not converted and as we moved to the twenty fifth minute was now: FALKIRK 22pts GHA 23pts.
Both sides realised that mistakes now could prove very costly in what was a game on the knife edge. With just under ten minutes left to play GHA were penalised for an infringement in the loose. Liam Brims from a distance with which he had become familiar in this match converted the penalty from just inside GHAs half. The score was now: FALKIRK 25pts GHA 23pts.
GHA mounted a furious coordinated assault against the home defence and were awarded a penalty for not releasing the player on the floor. Despite this being a pressure kick with minutes to go, Murray Houston calmly converted the award to make the score : FALKIRK 25pts GHA 26pts.
In the dying moments of the match as the light began to fade, Falkirk made a huge effort to run the ball with forward support at GHA. Just inside the GHA half the home side were awarded a penalty for GHA not releasing man and ball in the loose. This was a huge pressure kick and Liam Brims matched his opposite number in calmness as he converted the award amidst much cheering from home supporters. The score was now FALKIRK 28pts GHA 26pts.
This was the final score as the whistle sounded for the end of the match moments later. It had been a hard fought contest and was perhaps a game GHA were unfortunate to lose but perhaps did not quite deserve to win.
FALKIRK: M. HALL, K. ROWE, A. HAMILTON, G. GILLILAND, A. RENNIE, L. BRIMS, H. RUSSELL, J. McKENNA, A. SIMPSON, L. SKINNER, S. MCCULLOCH, D. STODDART, G. BRODIE, A. INWOOD, J. EAGLESHAM
Reserves: G. SIMPSON, A. McNAB, C. HAMILTON, J. ADAMSON, G. DEMPSEY
Scorers: T – RUSSELL, SIMPSON P – BRIMS (6)
GHA: G. MOLLISON, J. EDGAR, B. ADDISON, R. FINDLAY, A. SPOWART, A. GOUDIE, M. HOUSTON, T. BROGAN, S. USUDA, M. SCOTT, J. AULD, P. HARKINS, S. PLUMRIDGE, W. GRAHAM, G. MacDONALD
Reserves: D. EWING, C. BRAID, L. MAVUNGA, C. LONERGAN, C. BINNIE
Scorers: T – EDGAR, LONERGAN, PLUMRDIGE C – HOUSTON P – HOUSTON (3)
REFEREE: MR S TURNBULL