Saturday was perhaps the busiest at Braidholm to date. The activities began early with the Under 16 side defeating Kelso in emphatic manner in the National Cup Quarter Final. Our high flying Second XV prepared to tackle Stirling County and the 1st XV prepared to face Heriot’s. The clubhouse was very busy with the  very well attended Sponsors’  Lunch and the Old Aloysian’s lunch. Our sponsors are a vital part of this club, and their commitment and investment are deeply appreciated by all who hold GHA dear. As usual our superb bar staff kept the refreshments going with their lovely pleasant and welcoming manner.

It was a calm, mild day. The pitch again was in good condition and there was just a hint of the sun creeping out from behind the clouds. Both sides prepared carefully concentrating on short order drills before moving on to more expansive whole team run throughs. Heriot’s have begun to settle into the Premier League and are enjoying some success in recent matches. GHA are bedevilled by a long list of injuries which hampers cohesion and consistency. Recent matches have shown a tendency to undo very hard work with basic errors. Such errors are all the more frustrating for players and supporters because the whole squad and coaching staff are working very hard every week and have no shortage of skill and talent. A fittingly coordinated Minute Silence by both 1st and 2nd XV sides, was observed immaculately by all at Braidholm. It was poignant to consider that the shrill blast of the referee’s whistle was perhaps the last sound heard by thousands of young men (some younger than those playing today) as they scrambled over the top into the slaughterhouse of the Western Front.

The home side kicked-off and the ball went straight out which immediately handed the initiative to the visitors with a scrum on the halfway line. Heriot’s broke from the scrum and kicked through with the home side managing to put the ball into touch on their twenty-two metre line. From the lineout Heriot’s gathered and drove deep into the GHA defensive area. Keeping a tight hold on the ball the visitors made progress and Danny Dineen broke off near the line before feeding the supporting Callum Henderson who went over to score in the corner. After just two minutes the score was GHA 0  HERIOT’S 5. Graham Wilson put in a superb conversion from a difficult angle to add the two points. The score was now: GHA 0 HERIOT’S 7. This was exactly the type of setback which has plagued the home side in recent matches. The visitors were clearly buoyed up by this early success and in contrast it shook the home side to concede so early. Despite this setback, GHA thundered into their opponents half on the restart with great work in driving the ball from Messrs Ewing, Cunningham, Falconer (who was to ask questions of the visiting defence throughout the match) and Bogidrau. Aminio Bogidrau with George Baird working in consort at scrum half, would cause Heriot’s problems all afternoon. After five minutes of pressure from GHA and just as Heriot’s began to struggle, the home side conceded a penalty inside the visitors’ half which immediately took the pressure off Heriot’s and allowed them to regroup. The visitors seized the opportunity to force play into the GHA half and a knock-on spoiled a promising move. From a quick scrum ball, Aminio Bogidrau put in a lovely measured diagonal chip to the welcoming arms of Luca Bardelli. From well inside his own half, the Braidholm Express shot across the pitch in a blur, bending and winding his way through desperate Heriot attempts to stop him. To deserved roars of encouragement, Luca went over in the far corner to score. A narrow failure to convert made the score after around nine minutes: GHA 5 HERIOT’s 7.

The home side had recovered from the nightmare start and Heriot’s seemed momentarily unsettled by this score. However, the visitors restarted and the efforts of Sam Wallace and Callum Anderson around the GHA ten-metre area were rebuffed by a GHA defence moving quickly to the contact point. Efforts by Wallace, Jupp and McKnight were stopped in no uncertain terms by the tackling efficiency of Adam Kerr. The home side were moving well and showed a determination to take the game to Heriot’s. The visitors, to their credit, refused to buckle under some sustained and accurate pressure from GHA as we approached the fourteenth minute. All this endeavour by the home side was undone by conceding a penalty inside the visitors twenty-two area. The danger was cleared and from a long lineout throw (which overcame the lineout skills of Kerr and McCutcheon to steal ball and was used increasingly by Heriot’s) the visitors moved the ball with purpose only to be met by Kyle Dixon whose tackle ended the visitors’ progress. From the resultant pick up by GHA, Messrs Cavan, Graham, Ewing and Fox drove deep into the visitor’s half. This was a superb, concerted effort by the home side and Heriot’s were under severe pressure as we reached the seventeenth minute.

Deep inside the Heriot’s half with GHA on the front foot, a long pass by Aminio Bogidrau intended to bypass Heriot defenders, but just failed to find Amena Caqusau. As the sun came out, Heriot’s worked the ball through a combination of drives, recycling, and ball through hands deep into the GHA half. From a position of dominance, the home side suddenly found themselves struggling to cope with a foray deep into their own half by Heriot’s. To the dismay of the home support in a good sized crowd, Heriot’s completed the move with Sam Wallace scoring in the corner. Graham Wilson from another difficult angle put in a beautiful conversion which sailed through the posts to make the score after around eighteen minutes: GHA 5 HERIOT’S 14

This reversal came as a real surprise to the home support and had a dampening effect on the confidence of the home side. Heriot’s gathered the restart but found themselves around the ten metre area engulfed by GHA players who won back possession and McCutcheon, Cavan and Fox with Bogidrau and Lonergan in support were setting up a promising attacking move when Craig Robertson from around halfway, intercepted a pass and strode into the GHA half to score despite late attempts by GHA players to scramble back and stop him.

The try was converted and the score was now after twenty four minutes: GHA 5 HERIOT’S 21. Hardly had the match restarted when a penalty at halfway was awarded to Heriot’s who pushed play up to the GHA twenty-two area. The Edinburgh side secured the lineout and drove in tight formation towards the GHA line before a clever combination of passing between Messrs Martin and McKnight resulted in a further score for Heriot’s. The try was converted and from a promising position of attack from GHA only minutes before the home side now found the score: GHA 5 HERIOT’S 28.

Despite this further set back, GHA took the game back to Heriot’s on the restart. In fact once again with controlled and determined effort, the home side found themselves forcing the visitors back into their own half. They were awarded a penalty and with a kick deep into the Heriot’s twenty two metre area, from the resulting lineout take and drive , the home side through the efforts of the impressive Archie Falconer went over to score. A superb conversion by George Baird totally lifted the mood of the home support and the score after thirty four minutes of the half was now: GHA 12 HERIOT’S 28.

The home side were desperate to go for more and such was their skill and endeavour that a clearly rattled Heriot’s were driven back again into their own half. A combination of Bardelli and Kerr forced the Edinburgh side to rush a clearance kick. Despite winning a crucial lineout and clearing the danger up to halfway, GHA seemed determined to put the pressure back on Heriot’s as we moved towards the interval. Walker Graham made an important break through the Heriot ranks as visiting alarm bells began to ring. The visitors looking rather flustered conceded a penalty inside their five metre area and from the resulting kick to the corner the GHA pack in splendid close control, drove over the line to score to great local acclaim. The conversion meant that the half time score was now: GHA 19 HERIOT’S 28

It had been a frustrating half for all a GHA persuasion. Excellent approach work and promising attacking positions had been extinguished due to knock-ons, turn overs, wrong options, and several conceded penalties. On numerous occasions when the home side had worked diligently to build some dominance in the match, errors and carelessness robbed the home team of the advantage and allowed Heriot’s to recover and several times punish the home side. Despite this the match was finely poised and it was clearly felt that if the home side could cut out the errors and penalty concessions that they still would have a huge say in the outcome of this match. 

The second half began with another serious blow to GHA aspirations. A penalty conceded for straying offside inside their own half gave Graham Wilson a further opportunity to put points on the board for the Edinburgh side. Graham duly obliged and after two minutes of the half the score was now: GHA 19 HERIOT’S 31

Thus, at the very beginning of the half, the GHA had a further points differential to overcome. There can be no doubting the spirit of the home side as once again despite self-inflicted wounds they battled to force their way towards the Heriot’s line. Charlie Lonergan from Bogidrau and Graham, fought his way into the Heriot’s twenty-two metre area before being overcome and the ball quickly cleared by the visitors. The lineout at the twenty two offered the home side an excellent attacking position but at this crucial moment the ball was won by Heriot’s. Callum Anderson carried the ball for the visitors up to halfway before the ball was cleared. As we moved toward the seventh minute of the half, the home side were awarded a penalty and George Baird rifled the ball well into the Heriot’s twenty-two area. This time the home side secured the ball and again with unity of purpose and tight ball control drove through the Heriot’s defence to allow Archie Falconer to score his second try. The conversion attempt grazed the post and fell away, so the score was now: GHA 24 HERIOT’S 31.

Clearly this was pivotal time in the match. Hard work, skill and concentration had pulled the home side right back into the match. They had overcome early setbacks in both halves and the question for the home support was whether they could avoid any further shortcomings which were proving so costly. A huge effort with loud support from the home crowd saw GHA seize temporary control of the match and force the Edinburgh side deep into their own half, a concerted series of drives by Bogidrau, Cunningham, and Caqusau made ground and further efforts by Walker Graham and Luca Bardelli had Heriot’s struggling to stop the GHA momentum. GHA were awarded a penalty and with a kick to the corner the home side looked set to score from their lineout. However,r at this crucial moment, Heriot’s won the lineout and efficiently cleared the danger with a kick which took play past the Heriot’s twenty two metre line. There followed several moments of aerial “tennis” with the ball being kicked back and forth with no penetration and little effect. Heriot’s recovered their composure and attacked inside the GHA half. Yet another penalty was conceded by the home side and Graham Wilson with an excellent kick converted to make the score after eleven minutes: GHA 24 HERIOT’S 34. This penalty seemed to give an extra fillip to the visitors. They had survived a period of pressure from GHA and had then enhanced their differential. As we moved into the last quarter of the match it was the home side who found themselves defending in their own half. Callum Anderson seized on an opportunity to break inside the GHA twenty two metre area and in attempts to stop him the home side conceded another penalty. Heriot’s elected to go for a scrum perhaps confident now that they could create something positive from quick ball. Indeed, quick ball was fired through hands and Charlie Simpson comfortably made it to the line to score. A narrow miss from the attempted conversion meant as we passed the twenty seventh minute of the half that the score was now: GHA 24 HERIOT’S 39.

This last score seemed to deflate the home side, who struggled to find momentum in the last thirteen minutes. As play moved across the pitch with neither side penetrating, Heriot’s were awarded a penalty just inside the GHA half. After a brief consultation, the visitors playing now with confidence, elected to kick into the GHA twenty-two metre area. A simple take and drive tied the GHA forwards in to allow a released ball to be fired through hands to present Ross McKnight the opportunity to go over and score. A difficult conversion just failed and the score as we passed the thirty third minute was now: GHA 24 HERIOT’s 44.

The home crowd looked on in a bemused state. The home side had finished the first half strongly and seemed poised to take control of the second half before committing errors which allowed the visitors to shrug off the challenge and indeed extend their lead. With the match entering the last few minutes the home side gathered themselves for a final flurry and after surviving an attack from the Edinburgh side on their own five-metre area GHA bravely moved the ball through hands and made yardage into the Heriot’s half. Superb support play between the home side players allowed Fergus Johnson to feed Harris McLeod who flew through Heriot ranks to score. Aminio Bogidrau converted as the final whistle blew. The final score was: GHA 31 HERIOT’S 44.

Feelings of deep frustration descended on all a Braidholm persuasion whether on the pitch or in the stands. A great deal of effective hard work and skill and progress had been lost to a series of errors throughout this match. There is a mental resilience in this squad which allows them to overcome setbacks and an excellent work ethic to produce good rugby. This squad is committed and very hard working yet is suffering from a recent tendency to  create self-inflicted wounds which are proving costly. All at our club must redouble our efforts to overcome this situation quickly. Next week we face a very hard derby match against Hawks at Anniesland, before the return fixture at home on the 26th. 


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