GHA 13 Selkirk 20
A very cold day greeted all visitors to Braidholm on Saturday. The annual Clarkston dinner allowed many old friends to meet and enjoy time together before turning their attention to the last fixture in the first trench of Premier league fixtures. Only a point separated the two sides before Saturday. The border side were keen to extend their points lead over GHA and the home club equally determined to haul themselves back into contention for a higher position in the league table. Both sides in bitter conditions applied themselves during preparation to thoroughly becoming familiar with conditions which suggested that accurate execution of the basics would be an essential element of the game plan. A good crowd assembled for the match and there was a moving silent minute of Remembrance for Ken McKinley and Evelyn McMurtrie two revered members of the GHA family who passed away very recently.A guard of honour provided by our junior section welcomed the players to the pitch. The home side kicked off and Selkirk gathered and immediately ran the ball towards the half way line. Luke Pettie, and Scott McClymont attempted to burst through the home defence as the visitors were awarded an early penalty. Aaron McColm kicked the ball into the GHA ten metre area and the Selkirk pack began to rumble ominously towards the GHA five metre area. Another penalty was awarded to the visitors as GHA defended desperately to attempt to deal with this early pressure. For the first three minutes Selkirk tried hard to make their presence inside the home side’s five metre area pay dividends but the home side were awarded a penalty and were able to relieve the pressure with a kick from Adam Scott up to the GHA ten metre area. From the lineout, Milan Marinkovich forced his way forward and helped win a penalty for the home side. Ever aware Goerge Baird in his best sniping form, took a quick penalty and kicked through to the Selkirk twenty two metre area as the visitors rushed to regain their shape as the home side charged after the ball. However Selkirk rallied and cleared the danger and cleared the ball up to half way. Subsequently GHA were penalised for a high tackle and play moved towards the GHA ten metre line. As we hovered around the ten minute mark, Selkirk’s Pettie , Forrest and Renwick made yardage and the play once again moved to the GHA five metre area. Selkirk were using their powerful forwards to make yardage before releasing the ball to their backs which put the GHA defence under considerable strain..yet the home side were still managing to blunt the Selkirk advance although almost on their own goal line at times. Luke Mccutcheon made a break from the five metre scrum area which caught out Sekirk and a long kick by the GHA backs forced Selkirk to turn and rush back to defend. As we moved into the twelth minute play ebbed and flowed across the pitch most of the attacking play had come from Selkirk but there were signs that the home side were beginning to claw their way into this match and Selkirk began to look slightly frustrated that they had failed to breach the home defence.By the end of the first quarter we were still waiting for the first points on the board. The match had begun to settle down to a midfield exchange of attack and defence. The home side won a penalty deep inside their own half and Adam Scott put in a huge kick to lift the spirits of the home support and take play up to the Selkirk twenty two metre area. A majestic leap by Jamie McCarthy secured the lineout ball and the home forwards drove the Selkirk forwards back. Adam Barnett and Scott Carson took the ball further into Selkirk territory and forced the visitors to give away a penalty. Adam Scott with a fine kick opened the scoring after twenty two minutes to make the score: GHA 3 SELKIRK 0.
Strong defence and good team work had allowed the home side to negate the pressure from Selkirk and to take points from one of the few forays they made into their opponents half. Just after the restart a huge drive by the home pack drove Selkirk back and forced them to concede a penalty. This show of galvanised strength clearly rattled the visiting forwards and suddenly put GHA on the front foot. The penalty moved play up to just outside the Selkirk twenty two area. A catch and drive then release set up a lovely searing break by Ruairi O’Keefe which was only stopped on the Selkirk five metre line.Luca Merolle managed to clear the ball in the following loose play and play moved again up to the Selkirk ten metre line. As we approached the half hour mark there was some delightful and penetrating work by GHA’s MacKinnon, Hughes Mollison O’Keefe and Gillman which stretched the Selkirk defence and imbued the home side with confidence to run the ball at the visitors. In a superb break through a tiny gap Andrew Gillman caused panic amongst the visiting back line and sent a timed accurate pass to Ruairi O’Keefe to go over in the corner to great acclaim from the home support. The score after twenty nine minutes was: GHA 8 SELKIRK 0.
The difficult conversion failed and animated conversations amongst the Selkirk players suggested to the onlooker that the visitors realised that they were in a game where to show any degree of hesitancy of inaccuracy would be punished. As we moved towards the thirty fifth minute GHA attempts to consolidate and perhaps build on their score received a blow when Michael Fox was yellow carded. Selkirk put in a long kick which took play up to the GHA five metre area. Selkirk seemed to be recovering their early poise and accuracy and despite huge defensive tackles to prevent breaks by Selkirk, Ewan MacDougall burst through the home side defensive front to score. The try was converted and as we approached half time the score was now: GHA 8 SELKIRK 7.
The last five minutes of the half were untidy at times as both sides attempted to gain ascendency but were undone by rushed passes, knock ons and conceded penalties. At half time the score in an even match was: GHA 8 SELKIRK 7. Both sides had had some periods of ascendency in the first half but had failed to establish a dominant platform. As the weather became increasingly colder it was probable that mistakes from cold fingers might have a part to play in the second half.
Almost from kick off the ball went loose and there was a scrum on the halfway line. Selkirk clearly had sorted out any misfiring in their scrum at half time as a huge surge drove GHA off the ball.However the home side managed to clear the ball and win a penalty which also resulted in Peter Forrest being yellow carded. The home side chose to kick the ball up to halfway and were clearly intent on taking the game to Selkirk. From the resulting play a long loose pass from the home ranks was seized upon by Selkirk’s Luca Berte and a superb tackle by Andy Gillman prevented immediate damage to the GHA lead. However as Selkirk attacked and the home side tried to prevent quick released ball, the visitors were awarded a penalty . Selkirk with messrs McClymont and MacDougall taking advantage of a gap thundered forward and Josh Welsh gleefully received a pass and broke tackles to score after three minutes of the half. Aaron McColm converted and the score was now: GHA 8 SELKIRK 14.
This instant seizing of an opportunity to exploit a gap and take their chance gave Selkirk a renewed burst of confidence in what was always going to be a close contest. Despite being forced to play on the counter attack, the rapier thrusts of messrs Mollison and and Hughes were giving the visitors concern. GHA threw their efforts in to securing quality ball and worked hard to establish an attacking platform when not defending in their own half. The match tended to move across the pitch with moves breaking down due to defensive tackling or forced passes or knock ons. Adam Barnett , Mike Ryan and Jamie Mccarthy with support from the rest of the pack worked tirelessly to try and secure ball against a dogged set of Selkirk forwards. After twelve minutes there was a lovely cameo from messrs Mollison MacKinnon and Baird which put Selkirk on the back foot. The visitors however were giving as good as they got and drove play back towards the scoreboard end.Andrew Gillman and Andrew Hughes kicked though but the competent Selkirk defence rescued the situation. A discernible increase in the pace of the match tended to lead to balls going astray and knock ons. As we moved toward the final quarter it was clear that both sides realised that the game was still in the balance. Huge efforts by both sides led to an untidy and frustrating passage of play. However a brilliant break by Mollison and O’Keefe caused panic in the Selkirk rearguard and despite the visitors dealing with this probe, the home side led by Fox and Barnett secured the ball which flew out to Adam Scott who got in at the corner to score. The score after twenty four minutes of the half was : GHA 13 SELKIRK 17.
The conversion attempt failed. The home side rallied again prepared to take the game right to the wire. However Selkirk realising the danger to their lead were equally determined to control matters as we entered the final part of the match. Play moved between the two ten metre areas as precious time ebbed away to the frustration of the home side and the relief of the visitors. Penalties were being conceded by both sides as the match moved to a completion. In the closing minutes Selkirk mounted a number of attacks deep inside the GHA which the home side did well to stop. With time nearly up, GHA conceded a penalty in front of the posts which was converted by Selkirk to make the final score: GHA 13 SELKIRK 20.
It had been a close fought match with neither side really in ascendency long enough to control the pattern of play. GHA would rue the fact that the visitors were able to take their chances with aplomb yet could also look back on a match where they refused to concede defeat right until the final whistle.
GHA: A.GILLMAN, R.O’KEEFE, G.MOLLISON, A.HUGHES, A.SCOTT, J.MacKINNON, G.BAIRD, S.CARSON, H.CLARK, M.FOX, A.BARNETT, J.McCARTHY (c), M.MARINKOVIC, M.RYAN, L.McCUTCHEON – Replacements: L BARRON, T.BROGAN, E.HARDIE, J.ANDERSON, A.LAMB
SCORERS: T – O’KEEFE, SCOTT P – SCOTT
SELKIRK: R. COTTRELL, F.ANDERSON, J.WELSH, L.BERTE, N.ARMSTRONG, A.McCOLM, L.MEROLLE, L.PETTIE, P.FORREST, S.RANKIN, A.RENWICK, D.NICHOL, J.MacKAY, S.McCLYMONT, E.MacDOUGALL – Replacements: M.FRANCIS, B.RIDDELL, A.MacKAY, L.MARTIN, R.NIXON
SCORERS: T – MacDOUGALL, WELSH C – McCOLM (2) P – McCOLM (2)
REFEREE: MR F HOLLINS
ASSISTANT REFEREES: Mr S CUBITT MR M WILSON