GHA RFC v Ayr RFC – Saturday 31st August 2002

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Glasgow Hutchesons’ Aloysians RFC, following the amalgamation of Glasgow Southern RFC and Hutchesons’ Aloysians RFC in 2002. The 2002-2003 inaugural season for GHA RFC began on Saturday 31st August 2002 at Braidholm, in the opening fixture of BT Division 2 League against Ayr RFC and resulted in a 23-20 home win.

15 Alistair Menzies

14 Rory Watson

13 Brett Beagley

12 Ross Armour

11 Barry Edgar

10 James Noonan

9 Raymond Au

1 Richard Nolan

2 Ross Finlayson

3 David Jamieson

4 Trevor Carmichael

5 John Mundell

6 Graeme Inglis

7 John Fitzpatrick

8 Andy Plastow

16 Iain Nelson

17 Gavin Mories

18 Austin Burke

GHA Match 1: Saturday 31st August 2002
Braidholm, Giffnock

In a match between a side widely touted as potential title winners and a new club appearing in its first competitive outing, an innocent watching could have been forgiven for assuming that the side destined for glory was the nascent GHA. They were quick, inventive, abrasive and tactically decisive against a plodding Ayr who, after they woke up long enough to indicate why they should perhaps be considered contenders, only frustrated their support more by going back to sleep. Travelling to the newly formed GHA with a couple of hard warm-up games behind them which had boosted their confidence, they left Braidholm with only a losing bonus point when five points could certainly have been secured.

In the opening quarter, the best thing that could be said was that Ayr kept their line intact with James Noonan and Andy Reid exchanging penalties. The home side contained the visitors, turning them over with frightening regularity whislt also posing a threat out wide which only desperate scrambling defence kept out. Noonan added his third penalty as the half drew to a close but it was Ayr who came to life in the final few minutes when Richard and Al Good broke into the home 22m. As the home defence was sucked in Ayr spread the ball for Stewart Magorian to cruise over for the opening try, much to the relief of the travelling support, Reid’s conversion put Ayr into the lead for the first time.

As the clock ticked into injury time the match became ever more topsy-turvy with Ayr forced back towards their own line only for Damien Kelly and Eddie Manawaiti to break clear. However, Reid’s clearing kick went straight to GHA full-back Ally Menzies whose counterattack ended with hooker Ross Finlayson held up over the line. Again the visitors hit back with Paul Burke and Manawaiti to the fore but with the line beckoning, Richard Good took the tackle with a three man overlap outside and the opportunity was lost.

There was a feeling that although they had much the better of the first half, GHA would eventually run out of steam but if Ayr were relying on that, they were in for a rude shock. Noonan was wide with a drop goal attempt a minute into the second half and with no. 8 Andy Plastow showing some masterly touches and GHA backs running incisively off Noonan’s promptings, again had the Ayr defence in trouble. On the other hand the visitors showed so little imagination in their attacks that the home defence mopped up with ease. That was unitl Ayr again sprung into life after fifteen minutes when a short lineout saw Joe Edwards put Kelly in space and the big lock was unstoppable from fifteen yards out. The conversion was unsuccessful. At this point Ayr should have consolidated but the lethargy which dogged their game crept back in and when Austin Burke put Plastow into space, the no 8’s superb pass out of the tackle saw Brett Beagley in for a deserved try. Noonan’s conversion, slotted at the second attempt, gave GHA the lead going into the final quarter.

A dubious call of forward pass was all that stopped Rory Watson adding to the GHA tally, then a terrible guddle from a lineout close to the Ayr line saw flanker John Fitzpatrick a fingertip away from a try. However, he had his reward for an outstanding performance moments later when a Plastow pass changed the angle of attack and with Beagley beating three tackles, the flanker was on hand to score. Noonan again coverted to give GHA a eight point lead. By now Graham Ferguson had moved from full-back into the fly-half slot for Reid who had been given a torrid time by the GHA back-row and he set Richard Good off into the home 22m. Some quick hands then saw the ball switched right for Kelly to claim his second try. Again the conversion was missed. As the game moved into injury time, Ayr were presented with four kickable penalties, with each one being run straight into the arms of a grateful GHA defence. It would be easy to criticise the decisions to run the ball but in the heat of the moment and with the referee unwilling to help, a kick to the corner would have been risky although a kick at goal would seem to have been the option when at least a draw would have been secured. As it was, the final whistle went with GHA pinching the ball for the umpteenth time.

GHA Head Coach Gavin Walsh commented:
“It was a great start for the new club and to beat the side tipped for the top is a great boost for us. Given Ayr’s reputation we have to be delighted with that performance.”

Ayr head coach George Beckenridge was sure that part of the problem was down to attitude.
“We were still living on last week’s win at Hawks, although we had stressed to the players all week how GHA would come out like greyhounds from the trap. We were really devoid of ideas on the field and so many of the things we have worked on just didn’t happen. Tactically GHA got it spot on and spread us wide and we should have been able to handle that but instead we let them dictate the game.”

Report Sources: The Scotsman, Monday 2nd September 2002 & The Ayrshire Post, Thursday 5th September 2002

Our sincere thanks go to GHA player and in-house GHA historian/statistician Sean Fisher and Crawford Photography for providing all the data and images from the day.

As we head through the 22/23 season, we will look back at some more memorable moments from the archives.

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