GHA 41 Gala 27
This match against the famous Maroon jersey attracted a good crowd on a busy day at Braidholm. The Old Aloysian lunch was well attended on a dreary and wet Saturday. The main pitch although heavy underfoot presented a good playing surface and with some deft pre match forkwork was ready for the encounter. Gala had before Saturday only suffered one reverse at home last weekend and they were clearly intent on returning to winning ways. GHA had beaten Falkirk the week before and in the latter stages of that match had put together some fine rugby. Both sides prepared thoroughly and in particular there was a discernible edge to the home forwards set piece preparations. Gala have reshaped their team as a number of players have left the club since the end of the season. Mine hostesses Lyndsay and Amy provided welcome sustenance for the supporters at the Braidholm Boozer.
GHA kicked off and immediately Seitaro Usuda gathered the ball in the loose and drove into the Gala defence. Gala were penalised for being offside and Andrew Goudie pushed play up to the visitors twenty two metre line with a kick to touch. From the resulting possession Andrew Goudie took a short pass and went over to score after only two minutes. The try scorer converted his try to make the score GHA 7 GALA 0.
The visiting side were clearly shocked by this early setback and worked hard to overcome this deficit. From the restart Gala mounted a furious drive deep into the GHA half. A knock on by the home side gave Gala a good attacking position. However after several resets the referee awarded a penalty to GHA which allowed the home side to relieve the pressure with a clearance kick into the Gala half. As we moved towards the sixth minute a superb break by Andrew Goudie turned the visiting defence and he was ably supported by Scott Carson and Adam Barnett. Despite Gala clearing the danger it was obvious that quick ball from messrs Preston and Goudie was causing concern in the visiting defensive ranks. Gala attempted to run the ball at the GHA defence and in particular C Russell and C Pate made inroads. Scott Carson won the ball in the loose and the resultant quick ball drove the match towards the Gala half. However as we moved on to the tenth minute only strong tackling by Andrew Spowart prevented his opposite number J Turnbull from breaking free. Gala still seemed unsettled by the power and skill being displayed by the home side but continued to try and find a way through a resolute home rearguard. C Keen attempted to break the impasse in midfield with a well supported run but again the home defence was alive to the danger and won the ball in the loose to turn the pressure back on to the visitors. The match was being played at a hectic pace . Gala gave away a penalty in midfield and Andrew Goudie kept the pressure on by kicking into touch inside the Gala half. The lineout was secured and skillful hands saw James Sutherland penetrate the visiting defence before passing to the supporting David Corbenici whose clever footwork took him past despairing defenders to score. Andrew Goudie converted and the score after sixteen minutes was now : GHA 14 GALA 0.
The home crowd sensed that they were watching a special performance from GHA and the visiting supporters looked at each other with a sense of shock. There was a calm confidence being displayed by the home side who would need no reminder that a similar impressive start in the Granite City had not been sustained. Gala from the restart began to employ F Welsh as a crash ball carrier in midfield with support from B.Reavely. Several penetrating runs by the visitors came to nought as the ball was knocked on or went loose. As we approached the twenty minute mark GHA attacked from the half way line with the ball being spun quickly through the back line. Good defensive marking meant that as the ball arrived in the hands of Sean Murray he still had an opponent to beat with several other Gala players rushing to stop him. In a very clever move, Sean chipped the ball over his opponent and controlled the ball over the line to score in the corner to great acclaim from the home support. A very difficult conversion attempt from the line failed and after twenty minutes the score was: GHA 19 GALA 0.
Gala were stung into action and drove back at the home side with their forwards and backs working in tandem to release quick ball and probe for gaps in the home defence. From a scrum inside the GHA twenty two metre line as Gala sought to get on the scoresheet, David Corbineci broke from the scrum before setting up a recycled ball for a long kick by Andrew Goudie which took play right up to the visiting twenty two metre area. In an instant GHA had turned a defensive position into an attacking one. As we moved towards the thirtieth minute there was several minutes of long touch kicking by both sides which resulted in little practical penetration by both sides. After the thirty third minute following several attempts to reset a scrum GHA were awarded a penalty for an early push. Andrew Goudie decided to attempt to convert the penalty from just outside the Gala twenty two metre area. The home stand off promptly slotted the ball between the posts and the score was now: GHA 22 GALA 0.
Gala sensed that the match was beginning to turn away from them and put in a huge effort as we approached the interval. The maroons drove the home side back and with some lovely interplay between J.Turnbull and C.Russell put the latter in for a score in the corner. The very difficult conversion was just missed and the score was now: GHA 22 GALA 5.
The interval arrived to give everyone time to catch their breath after what had been a pulsating first half. GHA seized the initiative from the start and had clearly unsettled the visitors with a first half of skill and power. However the late try by Gala served to warn the home side that the visitors would not meekly accept defeat and indeed would undoubtedly come back at GHA after the interval.
The second half began at the same hectic pace that had been the norm during the first forty minutes. From the start there was a clear determination by the visitors to establish control of the proceedings. Huge drives by B Reavely and his team mate J Chambers pushed the home side back. Despite this penetration GHA were holding their line with effective tackling. Indeed Ben Addison made a vital interception as Gala headed into the home half and used his speed to carry play up to halfway. This was a much more confident Gala side who began to ask questions of the GHA resolve. Several minutes passed with both sides attempting to break into the twenty two metre area only to find both defences determined to prevent such incursions. Gala were now enjoying their best spell of the match so far and only a thumping tackle by Ben Addison bolstered by the support of messrs Barnett and Corbenici stopped a break out by a totally rejuvenated visiting side. Seconds later Seitaro Usuda put body on the line to totally stop a surging break by B Reavely. However as we entered the tenth minute of the half Gala were awarded a penalty for offside and G Hunter accurately kicked to touch to take play up to the GHA five metre line. The Gala supporters roared their encouragement, heartened by this offensive display by the maroons. Gala won the ball and again displaying some lovely quick passing put G Hunter in at the corner to huge acclaim from the travelling support. Again from a very tight angle G.Hunter just failed to convert and the score after eleven minutes was : GHA 22 GALA 10.
It was the turn of the home support to show concern as Gala attempted to control the match. In fifteen minutes after intense pressure a cleverly worked ball from the loose through the back line allowed C.Russell to score. The try was converted and the score after fifteen minutes was now: GHA 22 GALA 17.
What had been an exciting encounter to date now promised to go to the wire. Despite conceding there was no signs of panic amidst the home side rather a rueful look from several players to the touchline followed by a grimace which suggested that GHA were not prepared to slip out of the match. Tensions began to surface as players exchanged pleasantries and following an incident A Emond was yellow carded at a critical time in the match. Both sides were ringing the changes in an increasingly attritional match as both sides fought desperately for control. GHA ran a short penalty following the yellow card and seemed to catch Gala on the backfoot. Liam Cook gathered the ball from the loose and fed Tony Brogan who took the ball into contact and critically set it up for quick release. As the ball flew through the hands of the home side deep inside the Gala half, Andrew Spowart chased through a kick ahead which had wrongfooted the visiting defence and used his speed and ability to control the ball and score. The conversion was missed and the score after twenty two minutes of a pulsating second half was: GHA 27 GALA 17.
GHA now seized the initiative and tremendous forward driving with excellent close support by the half backs took the home side inside the Gala twenty two metre area. A superb pop up pass to Dario Ewing bought him enough time to allow him to dive over the line to score. Andrew Goudie with a huge kick converted to make the score after twenty seven minutes of the half: GHA 34 GALA 17.
Both sides refused to take a step back and there were some ferocious tackles made by both sides. Almost immediately in this astonishing match, Gala hit back with a concerted drive through the home half and putting C Russell in at the corner. The try was not converted and the score was now: GHA 34 GALA 22.
Play swung to both ends of the pitch and it was GHA who forced the visitors to defend in their own half as the home side used a powerful set of forwards and ever alert backs to force play into the five metre area. Incredible efforts to get the ball over the line were met by equally determined defence and the somewhat chaotic scene was only curtailed when the referee after lengthy discussions with his assistant awarded the home side a penalty try under the posts. Thus as we moved toward full time the score was GHA 41 GALA 22.
Tensions erupted several times as we moved towards the final whistle. With almost the last move of the match Gala scored again with a superb run by J.Turnbull who drew in the home defence before feeding G.Speirs who went over to score. The conversion was missed and the final score was : GHA 41 GALA 27.
This had been a tremendous effort by both sides, neither of whom was prepared to give way at any point in the match. GHA had displayed a superb skill set allied to great power at the set piece and in the loose which frankly seemed to stun the visitors. Both sides had dominance in the second half but GHA were determined they would not allow the points to return to the Borders.
GHA : G.MOLLINSON, A.SPOWART, B.ADDISON, R.FINDLAY, S.MURRAY, A.GOUDIE, J.PRESTON, S.CARSON, S.USUDA, A.BARNETT, J.MCCARTHY, R.ANGUS, J.SUTHERLAND, D.CORBENICI – Reserves: D.EWING, T.BROGAN, A.KERR, A.GILLMAN, L.COOK
SCORERS: T – CORBENICI, EWING, GOUDIE, MURRAY, SPOWART, PENALTY C – GOUDIE (4) P – GOUDIE
GALA: G.SPEIRS, J.TURNBULL, G.HUNTER, A.EMOND, C.RUSSELL, D.KEDDIE, E.GUNTER, M.CHRISTIE, J.CHAMBERS, C.KEEN, C.PATE, B.REAVELY, C.WEIR, F.WELSH, R.IRVINE – Reserves: L.RODEN, G.WATSON, T.WEIR, R.TOD, L.JOHNSTON
SCORERS: T – RUSSELL (3), HUNTER, SPEIRS C – HUNTER
REFEREE: MR C CLARK
ASSISTANT REFEREES: MS M HAY MR D MCKERVAIL
Photo Credit: Colin Robinson