GHA 38 Howe of Fife 26

A beautiful sunny day greeted both sides for this eagerly anticipated league match. Matches between these two clubs are always keenly contested and are often close encounters. Saturday’s match was to be a very close encounter with the outcome uncertain until late on in the match. This was a busy day at Braidholm with the President and Captains lunch and the visit of a French touring side to play the famous Gazelles. A good crowd assembled as both sides went through their preparation. Scanning the respective preparation activities there was a striking contrast between the home preparation and that of the visitors. Howe concentrated on practising a number of set lineout moves and showed a penchant for running the ball inside  to the forwards before passing to the backs. In contrast the home side ran through their drills with some quick recycled ball and very slick and accurate passing. This contrast in styles was to be evident throughout the match.

Howe of fife kicked off with a long kick deep into GHA territory. As the visitors followed up the kick GHA immediately ran the ball through the backs deep in their own defensive zone. However after just over a minute the home side gave away a penalty for an illegal tackle and Cameron Ellison put the ball over to give Howe a superb start. GHA 0pts HOWE of FIFE 3pts.

The match moved from end to end with the pattern being established even this early of GHA running the ball wide and Howe preferring to bring the ball inside to allow their strike runners to attack the centre of the home defence. After five minutes a superb break by Andrew Spowart took GHA deep into the visitors twenty metre zone before a timely tackle ended the chance for GHA to score. Both sides defences were tested and in particular there was some excellent tackling by GHA to negate any forward movement by the visitors. A feature of this defence was the willingness of messrs Jamie Auld and Scott Plumridge to assist their colleagues in knocking down the Howe ball carriers. With twelve minutes on the clock Howe made a huge effort to drive the home side back into their own half and the resulting pressure resulted in two penalties being awarded to the visitors the second for an offside against GHA was within kickable range and Cameron Ellison made no mistake and converted the penalty.  The score was now GHA 0pts HOWE of FIFE 6pts.

These scores settled Howe but GHA refused to be rattled and took the game to Howe whose turn it was to put in some effective defensive tackling. A great combined break by Ben Addison and Grant Mollison was ended by a forward pass. Clearly GHA were going to stick to their tactic of recycling the ball quickly and passing through the hands to allow fleet of foot Spowart, Hamilton Potter and Mollison to test the capabilities of the visitors wide defence. However Howe when in possession came straight back at the home side and only a superb tackle by Grant Mollison prevented Ben Mitchell scoring for the visitors. As the game ebbed from end to end GHA pushed hard to score. In the sixteenth minute a long pass was intercepted by James Lawrie who sped away to score slightly against the run of play. The score was now : GHA 0pts HOWE of FIFE 11pts.

The visitors missed the conversion. The growing maturity in the home side was evident as they diligently went about attempting to get on the scoreboard Ben Addison , Ross Findlay and Jonathan Hamilton-Potter in particular making several breaks which made inroads into the visitors half and set up an attacking position. From one such position in the five metre area of Howe Ross Findlay seized an opportunity to squeeze through  a flat footed defence to score. After just over twenty minutes the score was now :GHA 5pts HOWE of FIFE 11pts.

The try was not converted. GHA were working hard to take the ball into contact recycle and set up plays. Scott Carson made a telling drive into the heart of the visitors defence and the ball was swiftly passed through the hands to allow the flying winger Andrew Spowart to use his speed to go over in the corner. The home side and indeed their supporters received a huge fillip as Peter Jericevich converted from a difficult angle. The score was now : GHA 12pts HOWE of FIFE 11pts.

The close score perfectly reflected the tightness of this match with neither side at this stage able to dominate completely for any length of time. Certainly GHA with their quick recycling tactic and fast accurate passing seemed to be confident that their execution of the pass could pay dividends. Howe continued to push the ball inside and bring their powerful ball carriers into the equation. Solid and effective tackling by the home side blunted this ploy exemplified by one Andrew Goudie tackle on a much bigger opponent which drove him and his side back . Half time arrived with the score : GHA 12pts HOWE of FIFE 11pts.

It had been an intriguing first half, a contrast in approach with both defences working very hard to limit opportunities for their opponents. The late surge from the home side had unsettled Howe and the break offered both sides a chance to recharge the batteries. A very close match was going to be decided by a mistake or a piece of creativity.

Both sides sensed that a score for them would give them some control of the game. GHA mounted an early attack into the visitors half through some clever angled kicking by Andrew Goudie. Howe of Fife stood firm and cleared their lines . Andrew Spowart had to act quickly to stop a bulldozing attempt by the visitors second row to break clear. In the resulting ruck Ben Mitchell of Howe was yellow carded for illegal play. GHA were now looking to add to their narrow lead and to take advantage of their opponents being a man short. In five minutes  Grant Mollison ran through a startled Howe defence and put the ball under the posts to a huge cheer from the home support. Peter Jericevich converted and the score was now: GHA 19pts HOWE of FIFE 11pts.

Undaunted back came Howe at the home defence and a superb cover tackle by Grant Macdonald prevented the visitors reducing the leeway.  The match was still in the balance and Howe took confidence from a very good converted penalty by Cameron Ellison to make the score after eighteen minutes of the second half: GHA 19 HOWE of FIFE 14pts.

There was suddenly some mistakes creeping into GHA’s game and the home side gave away another penalty for diving into the loose. Howe chose to kick to the corner and secured good lineout ball  and forced the ruck towards the home side’s line where Grant Steadman went over to huge applause from the visiting support. The try was not converted and the score stood at after twenty minutes :GHA 19pts HOWE of FIFE 19pts.

With the match on a knife edge the game swung from end to end with GHA pushing the ball wide through the promptings of messrs Jericevich and Goudie. From around half way Charlie Lonergan received a great pass and flew by several desperate attempts by the visitors to stop him only to be tackled just short of the line and Howe cleared the danger. Back came GHA and Grant Mollison finished off an excellent passing move by scoring which was converted from a difficult angle by Peter Jericevich. With twenty three minutes on the second half clock the score was now: GHA 26pts HOWE of FIFE 19pts.

Whilst this score took GHA into the lead it was still a very close match. Resolute defending by the home side personnified by one mighty tackle by Seitaro Usuda which knocked his powerful opponent back yards quelled Howe’s desperate attempts to get back on the score sheet. In the twenty seventh minute of the half careful and accurate passing by the home backs resulted in Charlie Lonergan setting off from half way and with blistering pace shot past the visitors defence to score to great acclaim from the home support.  Peter Jericevich from far out converted the try to make the score at twenty eight minutes into the half: GHA 33pts HOWE of FIFE 19pts.

Whilst the scoreboard and indeed the clock seemed to conspire against a Howe fightback the visitors refused to give up hope . It was time for a calm measured approach from the home side to see out the match but GHA gave away a penalty as a result of pressure from the visitors. In a well rehearsed move Graeme Steadman scored from 5metres which was converted. The score as we approached the thirty sixth minute of the match was now: GHA 33pts HOWE of FIFE 26pts.

With time nearly up a quite superb break and feint by Andrew Goudie misdirected the Howe defence who were left struggling as Grant Mollison ran over in the corner. The score almost on the final whistle was :GHA 38pts HOWE of FIFE 26pts.

The conversion was missed but vital league points and a bonus point had been garnered by the home side whose tackling and passing to the wide areas carried the day.

GHA: G.Mollison A.Spwart B.Addison R.Findlay J. Hamilton-Potter A.Goudie P.Jericevich G.MacDonald R.Angus S.Plumridge J.Auld R.Jenkins S.Carson S. Usuda J.Leslie
Reserves: T.Ritchie C.Baird W.Graham M.Houston C.Lonergan

Scorers: T – Mollison (3), Findlay, Lonergan, Spowart C – Jericevich (4)

HOWE OF FIFE: S.Gray B.Mitchell C.Willison F.Ellison E.Cruickshank C. Ellison, S.Lathangie (c), A.Whittle C.Crawford G.Henderson G.Steedman  D.Groat C.Mann A.Wilson J.Lawrie
Reserves: E.Bisset R.Henderson L.Kirkwood A.Harley J.Todd

Scorers: T – Steadman (2), Lawrie C – C. Ellison P – C. Ellison (3)

Referee: Mr. George Pounder
Assistant Referees: Ms Catriona McCracken & Mr John Hawryluk-Beaton.

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