GHA 14 Currie Chieftains 38

The first match in GHA’s return to the top tier of Scottish club rugby saw Currie arrive at a very busy Braidholm intent in laying down a marker in what will be a very combative league. A revamped informative programme was available to the healthy crowd on a beautiful afternoon. The Braidholm Boozer did a roaring trade looking very smart in its club red paintwork decor. Bob Auld as usual kept the attendees at the Sponsors lunch in stitches with his superb Play Your Card’s Right game show.

Both teams prepared carefully going over a number of set drills and ploys. There was a distinct air of determination emanating from both squads, conscious of the need to make a positive start in what will be a demanding season. The home side kicked off and as Currie gathered inside their own half they immediately took the ball into contact. Despite being stopped on half way and GHA recovering possession a brave drive by Scott Plumridge into the opposition forwards resulted in the visitors securing possession and swiftly running the ball through hands to allow the speed and accuracy of pass to allow Charlie Brett to elude the chasing home defence to score. The conversion was narrowly missed and the score after three minutes was: GHA 0 CURRIE 5.

The home side went for a long diagonal restart but the ball was gathered and fed to the very capable Gregor Hunter who cleared the danger and took play up to half way. Currie were setting their stall out early driving GHA on to the back foot with a combination of close forward drives, recycling from loose forays and impressive paced passing of the ball through the backs. A critical aspect of the Currie approach was the tremendous support the ball carrier received after making the initial break on his left and right shoulder. This throughout the match allowed the visitors to engage the tackler and still off load the ball to maintain advancement and momentum.Currie were awarded a penalty inside the home twenty two metre area and Gregor Hunter kicked to the corner. The visitors captured the line out ball and drove as one at the home defence. A short pass to the impressive and experienced Matais Argiro allowed him to blast his way over to score. The try was converted by Gregor Hunter and the score after six minutes was GHA 0 CURRIE 12.

The speed of execution of moves and ploys by the visitors and their accurate and unified approach to the basics was to make it very difficult especially in the first half for the home side to gain meaningful possession of the ball despite competing at every opportunity. As we approached the tenth minute Currie again capitalised on possession to allow Charlie Brett to come inside from his full back position and make inroads into the home twenty two metre area. Despite stopping the initial surge the home side were penalised for straying offside in the loose. In what was becoming a recurring theme, Currie kicked to the corner and from the resulting catch and drive the Currie forwards drove over to score, Poole being credited with the touchdown. The try was converted by Hunter and after twelve minutes the score was GHA 0 CURRIE 19.

Despite the score the home side refused to buckle and sought ways to match the speed and confidence of the visitors. On the fifteenth minute the home side rallied with a lovely break from midfield by Grant Mollison which found space inside the Currie defence. However the visiting defence regrouped and turned the ball over to Currie . Gregor Hunter controlling progress at stand off put in a diagonal kick deep into GHA territory. Currie gained possession of the loose ball and a combined charge to the line by messrs Davies and Dee fed colleague Hunter who knocked on with the home defence scrambling to cover. The resulting scrum on the home side’s ten metre line saw the ball fed to messrs Mollison and Scott who found space to carry a threat into the Currie half. The break was stopped but the forward momentum generated by the home side was cheering the home support and a penalty was awarded to the home side. The award was quickly taken and caught CUrrie on the wrong foot. Jamie MCCarthy took the ball on and was stopped on the Currie ten metre line. There were signs that the home side were beginning to come to terms with the pace and intensity of this level of rugby as we reached the end of the quarter there were several minutes of scrappy play as both sides negated progress on the half way area. However, Currie found their shape again and the orchestrator in chief, Gregor Hunter took play into the GHA half with a well placed kick. From the resulting set piece a well worked break by Fergus Scott and Steven Hamilton tore through the home ranks before offloading to Steven Hamilton who went through to score. Gregor Hunter put in a superb conversion to make the score after twenty two minutes: GHA 0 CURRIE 26.

Despite the scoreline GHA continued to make Currie work hard to overcome dogged resistance and no little skill in a match played in hot conditions and at great pace. As we approached the half hour, Currie maintained the initiative and pressed the home side into their half. GHA worked hard to prevent further inroads but a confident Currie went further ahead when Rhys Davies broke away following a penalty inside the GHA half to score. The try was converted and the score as we reached the interval was GHA 0 CURRIE 33.

It had been a brave performance from the home side facing a very confident side with a good mix of experience and talented youth. Their speed of action and accuracy in all that they did constantly forced the home side on to defensive duties despite the work of the home forwards and promptings of half backs King and Gillman. An animated half time discussion amongst the home side at the interval saw the GHA side return to the fray determined to make an impact on the match. Currie seemed slightly taken aback by the ferocity and skill demonstrated by the home side as forwards and backs combined to make inroads to the Curry half. After seven minutes collective accuracy by messrs Gillman, and Ewing led to a break by Adam Scott with support from messrs Gillman and Lonergan deep into the Currie half before a lovely sleight of hand allowed Ruairi O’Keefe to receive the ball and crash over the line to loud cheers from the home support. An extraordinary conversion attempt from Adam Scott drunkenly fell over the bar to make the score after ten minutes: GHA 7 CURRIE 33.

This score lifted the spirits of the home side who returned to the fray with renewed fervour.Despite this, a huge tackle by Ruari O’Keefe was required to blunt a promising move by Currie at halfway. Clearly the fierce pace of the first half was lessening and GHA were growing more comfortable in the match as the half wore on. Currie were adept at securing loose ball and opening up any opportunities that became available. The degree of support by Currie players at all times in the match was impressive and meant that when a move by the home side broke down the visitors immediately forced GHA to defend well supported breaks which blunted the momentum the home side was trying to build. Charlie Lonergan put in a huge tackle in midfield to knock back a ploy by the Currie backs but the visitors regathered and forced GHA to turn on their heels and defend again inside their own half. The home side refused to buckle and continued to try and build through their forwards , alternating with diagonal kicks by the backs, amongst them Ruari O’Keefe behind the Currie defence. As we headed towards the half hour mark there were some well supported thrusts by messrs Barnett and McCarthy who continually looked to find a way to set up good attacking positions in the Currie half. Scott Carson added his presence to the situation as the home side began to ask questions of the Currie defence. However after a period of solid effort by the home side, Currie won possession on half way and in a beautiful patch of play passed the ball through hands at speed to release Fergus Scott to go over in the corner. The conversion was missed and the score after half an hour was: GHA 7 CURRIE 38.

Despite this set back GHA again took the game to the visitors and in the closing minutes of the match found themselves inside the Currie half. Some powerful work by forwards and backs together released the ball and in a lovely passage of play messrs McCarthy, Carson and McCutcheon set up Charlie Lonergan who flew through a gap before feeding Andrew Gillman to score. The score and subsequent conversion was greeted with a roar of appreciation by the home support as the final whistle blew. The final score was GHA 14 CURRIE 38.

This had in ways been a baptism of fire for the home side especially the less experienced players. It is clear that at this level the speed of thought and execution of play is paramount.This experience will surely benefit the home side. There are no illusions that this will be anything other than a hard season.However there was a determination and work level on display from GHA players and no little skill to suggest that GHA will hopefully grow into this testing environment in the matches ahead.

GHA: G Mollison; A Scott, C Lonergan, A Hamilton Potter, A Purewal; C King, A Gillman; T Brogan, L Barron, S Fisher, A Barnett, J McCarthy,  S Plumridge, D Ewing, M Marinkovic. – Subs: E Cavan , S Carson, L  McCutcheon , R O’Keefe, J Craig.

Scorers: T – Gillman, O’Keefe C – Scott (2)

Currie Chieftains: C Brett; S Hamilton, A Hall, A Harley, A MacLean; G Hunter, C Lessels; G Carson, F Scott, M. Argiro, M Poole, M Vernel, J O’Brien, D Dee, R Davies. – Subs: G Williamson, C Ramsay, H Ferguson, W Nelson, J Patterson.

Scorers: T – Argiro, Brett, Davies, Hamilton, Poole, Scott C – Hunter (4)

Photograph: Craig Watson

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