By Chris Nairn

The recently enforced hiatus of matches over the last fortnight perhaps added a level of expectancy to this Braidholm match.  As always Kate Finlay keeps the Braidholm family fully informed with weekly briefings. Watsonians are going well in this hotly contested league and GHA defeated Highland over a fortnight ago to win their first match away from home this season. There was a good response from club members answering the call to provide food packages for our local food initiative. A crowd of over one hundred packed the club house for a festive lunch which followed on from the excellent attendance at the Gazelles lunch a fortnight ago. Outside the conditions were dreadful. Incessant rain and a biting wind did not bode well for a match of running rugby. A close examination of the playing surface showed overall that it coped well with the heavy rain but that there were areas of concern on which the referee would have to adjudicate. Both sides were keen to play after so much match inactivity.  The pitch was declared playable and under brooding and threatening skies- more in keeping with a Gothic horror film than Saturday rugby- both teams went through a very rigorous and fast paced period of preparation.  Brave Finlay, Philip and Otto from our marvellous Junior section provided a guard of honour and later ball gathering duties. A very good crowd assembled to watch the match in the stand and adjacent areas as Adam Kerr and Dario Ewing led the side out to acclaim on this their one hundredth appearance for GHA.

The home side kicked off with a long searching kick deep into Watsonian territory. The visitors fielded the ball and returned it to midfield whereupon the shrewd Andrew Goudie teased a chip into space searching for an opening in the visitor’s rearguard. As GHA won the ball in the loose and attempted to move the ball, a penalty was awarded to GHA for a high tackle at halfway. The resulting kick into the Watsonians half led to an Adam Kerr inspired catch and drive from the excellent throw of Ruairi Campbell. We are extremely lucky to have Messrs Campbell and Barron whose lineout throwing skills are a crucial part of GHA forward attacks. From the lineout drive, Messrs Kerr, Ewing Kilpatrick and Dixon forced their way further into Watsonians territory. A penalty was awarded to GHA for a high tackle at the visitors twenty-two metre area. Ruairi O’Keefe, with his customary calm and careful preparation, converted the penalty to give the home side the lead after four minutes- although he did receive a yellow card later in the half for an infringement which however did not affect his contribution on his return to action. The score was GHA 3 Watsonians 0.

It quickly became obvious that both sides would attempt to gain territory deep inside their opponent’s half with a range of kicks to set up pressure moves. In atrocious conditions it is a compliment to both sides that a contest developed between very accurate line kicking and very accurate defensive cover all afternoon!

From the restart Watsonians went high and long but the home defence cleared the immediate danger. However, with the promptings of Morris and Strachan, the visitors drove at GHA from half way with some very good work by Joshua Minty and Stuart Allison. Despite making yardage, play was called back to an earlier infringement at halfway and Watsonians kicked inside the GHA five metre area. From a quick catch and drive the visitors went over in the corner to score to loud cheers from the Edinburgh contingent in the stand. A superb conversion from Aaron Tait made the score after seven minutes: GHA 3 WATSONIANS 7.

From the restart the home side kicked low and long, but again excellent fielding negated any possible GHA advantage and play moved up to the GHA ten metre area. There were several minutes of both sides attacking through the middle of the pitch which resolute defensive work tended to blunt. As we passed the ten-minute mark the visitors were awarded a penalty and took play deep into the GHA half to roars of encouragement from the auld reekie faithful. GHA put up a desperate defence inside their five-metre area as the visitors looked to drive their way through. Several thrusts were stopped with point blank tackles rocking the visitors back on their heels. Taking inspiration from this, GHA won the ball and from deep inside their own half began to move the ball with menace at the somewhat startled Watsonian defence which only moments before had looked to score. Charlie Lonergan once again with great pace, strength and movement tore into space well inside the Watsonians half. A penalty was awarded at such a critical moment to the home side and Ruairi O’Keefe put in a kick which had Watsonians scrambling back to their twenty-two metre area. This allowed GHA to mount a catch and drive and after another searing break by Charlie Lonergan, a lovely move by Messrs Goudie and Ewing saw Dario break through a stunned Watsonian rearguard to score to huge cheers from the home support. The try was converted and after twenty minutes the score was: GHA 10 WATSONIANS 7.

A pleasing feature of the opening period was the determination of both sides to play attacking rugby in atrocious conditions. The game was becoming similar to a chess match with both sides countering moves and ploys by their opponents. Chief architect in much of the ploys and feints by hand and boot was Andrew Goudie, who asked questions all afternoon of the visitor’s defence. It is a credit to all the players that they seemed to adapt very quickly to conditions and produced a match which neither side could manage to control for any meaningful period. The visitors retained their calm approach and slightly increased the pace of their passes and contact. Watsonians forced their way into the GHA half and won a penalty which they converted to make the score after thirty minutes: GHA 10 WATSONIANS 10.

From the restart GHA went long but a huge return form Watsonians turned the home defence, and the visitors took play deep into Braidholm territory. Desperate and accurate defence by the home side managed to stop the progress of the visitors and the immediate danger was cleared. It was now becoming very clear that both sides were trying to feed off mistakes from penetrating kicks or kicks into touch which would allow further progress. As a result, an exciting match of cut and thrust held the large crowd enthralled. As we moved into the last ten minutes of the half Watsonians looked to put the ball behind the GHA defence and despite heroic tackling inside their own twenty-two metre area, Watsonians were awarded a penalty which they elected to kick and the score after thirty-two minutes was: GHA 10 WATSONIANS 13.

Suddenly the home side looked a little deflated by this development and Watsonians sensed that here was an opportunity to hit them hard before the interval. However, as half time loomed the home side regained their confidence and forced Watsonians to defend inside their own half. Another penalty was awarded, this time to GHA, and despite going close was not converted. This seeming setback did not affect the mental approach of the home side who began to seize the initiative from the visitors and force Watsonians on to the back foot, much to the delight of the home support. In desperate defence inside their twenty-two metre area,  the visitors conceded a penalty and Thomas Gracie was yellow carded for an infringement. The home side elected to scrum and from a solid setup Luke McCutcheon broke from the back to hammer his way through the Watsonian defence to score. The try was converted and the half time score was: GHA 17 WATSONIANS 10. 

It had been an exciting first half with a lot of good rugby played in awful conditions. Both sides were continually looking to find a way through resolute defences and the match was still far too close to call.


Watsonians opened the second half with a long kick, but the home side returned the kick which was gathered by Watsonians. The visitors began to move the ball and a delicate and well-placed chip over the on-rushing GHA defence almost saw the visitors take possession, but the slippery ball went loose. The home side, as we moved into the forty fifth minute, had started the half brightly and drove the Edinburgh side into their five-metre area where efforts by Josh Low and Daniel Kilpatrick just failed to get over the line. It was now a battle of wills in the driving rain. A superb diagonal kick from Andrew Goudie took play from his own half into the Watsonians twenty-two area where once again calm-assured fielding cleared the immediate danger. In fact, as we moved into the fifty-second minute it was Watsonians turn to put pressure on the home rearguard. The home side failed to effectively deal with a visitor incursion and from a penalty and subsequent catch and drive the visitors- to loud cheers from their support- went over to score. The try was converted and the score after fifty-five minutes was: GHA 17 WATSONIANS 20.

Despite this seeming advantage, it was evident to all watching that this match was far from finished and certainly there was no faltering in the efforts of the home side to mount an offensive posture to their visitors. It was becoming a game of very small margins and the team that could find something special would win the day. As we passed the sixtieth minute several very deft chips into space behind the visitors by Andrew Goudie were just missed by their intended recipients in dreadful weather. Such ploys were a worry for the visitors and there was an eagerness and alertness about the home side which suggested they were not going to accept the situation without huge efforts to change it. As we moved past the sixty-third minute there was an understandable tenseness developing  in the match. Following pressure from the home side, Watsonians kicked the ball out of play on the full and from the resulting lineout, GHA moved the ball with great dexterity and accuracy and totally flatfooted the Watsonian defence to set George Baird up for a run to the line- which he gleefully accepted to huge roars from the delighted home crowd. The try was converted and the home side on the seventieth minute had moved narrowly ahead: GHA 24 WATSONIANS 20.

This exciting match was still very much in the balance and the crowd began to nervously scan their watches to check the remaining time. Both sides continued to attempt to play positive rugby as they had done all afternoon and only resolute and decisive tackling prevented either side from adding to their score. GHA were determined to hold the visitors as much in their own half as possible and equally the visitors were just as determined to break out and attack. This led to a very tense but exciting concluding period of the match. As we moved towards the final few minutes, GHA engineered a lovely pass in space to Andrew Goudie following excellent approach work by the forwards. Andrew wrong footed just about everyone on the pitch with a decision to attempt a drop goal from just outside the Watsonians’ twenty-two metre area. The kick went over to scenes of joy in the stands and deep satisfaction on the pitch amongst the GHA contingent. Despite efforts by the visitors to claw back the seven points, the home side held on to record a superb victory in what had been an exciting and closely contested match with a lot of skill and endeavour present throughout by both sides in really poor conditions. Final score : GHA 27 WATSIONIANS 20.

Head coach Calum was pleased with the victory and observed that it had been a close match in very tough conditions with the home side really having to dig deep in the second half to secure victory.






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