TENNENT’S PREMIERSHIP – THE BREATHING SPACE CUP
Saturday saw a welcome return to Braidholm for all of a GHA persuasion and our first footers Selkirk.
A rather mild day, with the sun appearing at first, greeted the players as they went through their respective preparations. There was a chilly crosswind which as usual gathered force just before the kick off! Selkirk are building a useful ability to win matches away from home although, by their own admission, home form has not been so rewarding. GHA have struggled to find a match rhythm and have been inconsistent in their performances.
Neither side has been involved in competitive action since early December. GHA keeps members and supporters informed about events thanks to the smashing “Weekly Diary” and the club also now provides a rather neat tabletop advert to inform visitors of upcoming events. This was the inaugural match which will be played annually between GHA and our Borders friends. The ‘Breathing Space Cup’ highlights the vitally important work carried out by Breathing Space, an organisation dedicated to raising awareness and providing support for mental health and wellbeing
The home side kicked off with a long, high searching ball which was eventually cleared under pressure by Jack Hamilton up to the Selkirk ten-metre area. From a carefully crafted lineout ball, GHA swiftly interchanged passes to allow Kyle Dixon to carve through the astonished visiting back line to score. George Baird converted and the score after one minute was: GHA 7 SELKIRK 0.
Such a sublime move is typical of what this team can produce when on song. GHA gave no respite to Selkirk and from the restart made their way into the opposition’s half. A roar of anticipation went up as the Braidholm Express, Luca Bardelli, took the ball in midfield and flew through the Selkirk ranks and shot over to score, much to the delight of the Braidholm support and to the genuine appreciation of the visiting Selkirk fans. Luca’s speed is in addition to a resolute and determined tackling ability and excellent game vision. The try was converted and after just about five minutes the score was: GHA 14 SELKIRK 0.
Such a devastating setback might upset some teams, but the Border lads are made of sterner stuff and quickly settled to the task in hand. Selkirk gained possession following the restart and moved the ball with confidence through their backs. Stout GHA defence seemed to stymie the visitors deep inside the GHA half but from a take and drive at the lineout the visitors scored to make the score after eight minutes, following a successful conversion: GHA 14 SELKIRK 7.
Both sides attacked the respective defensive lines as play moved across the pitch around the half-way point. Driving play by Messrs Fox, McCutcheon, Kerr and Morris forced the visitors to defend deep inside their own half. Play became slightly ragged as the home side tried to maintain control of the ball. Jonny Morris was given a yellow card for an infringement and Selkirk used the resulting penalty to take the game into the GHA half. A well-crafted lineout take and drive forced GHA on to the back foot and as the ball was released by Jack Hamilton, the extra man was utilised fully by the Borderers as Josh Welsh, in plenty of room, went over to score. Another superb conversion by Craig Jackson made the score after fifteen minutes: GHA 14 SELKIRK 14.
The home side could reflect on the contrast between their concentrated efforts to punch a hole in the Selkirk rear-guard and the ruthless and efficient way their opponents scored when in a player advantage. As the match moved past the twenty-minute mark, both sides struggled to get their set piece plays working properly and were guilty of lineout throws which were deemed not straight. This continually robbed both sides, especially GHA, of the momentum that they were building. There were further forays into both halves, but the defensive strength of both sides negated real progress. Accurate clearances also tended to take play back to the ten-metre areas of each team.
Very heavy rain thundered down as we approached the interval and the light began to dim. A penalty attempt by Selkirk just failed to score. We reached half time with the sides even and with neither side able to command control of the match for any period of time. Certainly there was a huge improvement in the number of penalties conceded by the home side although there was still work to be done on ball retention. GHA kicking from hand had been effective and had prevented further incursions by the visitors.
Selkirk kicked off the second half and Amena Caqusau gathered and shipped the ball to George Baird who kicked deep into the Selkirk half. The visitors gathered and moved into an attacking phase as they went into their ten-metre area. However, the home side were awarded a penalty and George Baird- with a kick from just inside the Selkirk half -gave the home side the lead. The score after a minute of the half was: GHA 17 SELKIRK 14.
The visitors regrouped and set about retaining possession in a combination of mini drives, feeds to the backs, and then recycling and going again. Some superb tackling by GHA forced the Borderers to swing across the pitch to seek a way through. There followed several minutes of rather untidy play as both sides attempted to keep moves alive in the tackle by a loose pass. Selkirk however began to exert some control over proceedings and pushed a defiant GHA defence back into their own half. From a lineout on the GHA ten-metre line, Selkirk worked the ball forward before breaking out and despite huge efforts by the GHA rear-guard, managed to break the home defence to score. The try was converted which made the score as we approached ten minutes of the half: GHA 17 SELKIRK 21.
Again, the home side could reflect on the fact that the visitors had shown an ability to finish off chances that were the result of patient and effective build up play. However, GHA have a huge amount of resilience in their armoury and took the match to Selkirk. Much of the rest of the half showed a huge determination by GHA to find a way through an often stretched but always secure Selkirk defence. Several promising attack situations engineered by a very hard working home side came to naught as a result of misjudged passes, knock-ons or the loss of possession at a critical juncture. As GHA went through their moves and ploys, Selkirk found it increasingly difficult to get out of their own half. After twenty five minutes, Selkirk’s Calum Henderson was yellow carded for an infringement which seemed to offer a huge opportunity for the Braidholm side to press home their man advantage. Selkirk, to their credit, tightened their resolve and ensured that every tackle counted, continually turning back the GHA advances. Brave attempts were made to break the visitor’s defence by utilising both a large number of players working independently and in group formation, but all were blunted by a confident and very well organised defence. The last ten minutes of the game showed frantic efforts by the home side to find a way through. However, the Selkirk back line held firm with more than one or two very scary moments for them. The final score was: GHA 17 SELKIRK 21.
The disappointment on the faces of the GHA players told its own story. However, there were signs of advancement in defeat. The home side gave away far fewer penalties than has been the norm this season, there was an improvement in ball retention in drives forward, the speed of engagement, and overall impact of tackles was impressive. As always, they gave their all and I sense a smouldering determination amongst this squad to continue to hone the basics, minimise the errors and build progress.
SELKIRK : C.ANDERSON L.FERGUSON R.COTTRELL C.JACKSON J.WELSH A. McCOLM J.HAMILTON L.PETTIE B.RIDDELL Z.SZWAGRZAK J.HEAD A.COCHRANE D.NICOL S.MCCLYMONT M.JOB J.BETT K.THOMSON C.TURNBULL E.McVICAR C. EASSON
GHA: C.KING L.BARDELLI C.LONERGAN K.DIXON A.CAQUSAU G.DRUMMOND G.BAiRD E.CAVAN L.BARRON M.FOX A.KERR H.McLEOD J.MORRIS D.EWING L.McCUTCHEON A.FALCONER C. NORRIE A. BARNETT F.JOHNSTON A.BOGIDRAU
REFEREE: MR C LAZENBY
ASSISTANTS : MR G REID MR I HEARD