GHA 24 Stewart’s Melville FP 22

A bright sunny day welcomed all to a very busy Braidholm. Keswick rugby club in a myriad of bizarre outfits arrived to play the famous Gazelles and Stewart’s Melville Ist and 2nd XV arrived for league duty. Despite the sun it was a cold day but the underfoot conditions were excellent on a pitch which continues to look good even after the number of games played on it so far this season. Both sides prepared carefully working at first in separate backs and forward units. The visitors have improved markedly since GHA’s convincing victory at Inverleith in the early weeks of the season. There was a quiet air of confidence amongst the visitors that they could continue on their winning ways. Curiously the preparation of the visitors lasted to just a few minutes before kick off. Late changes to the playing personnel forced Stewart Mel into a complete reorganisation of their back division.

Both sides were welcomed to the playing arena by some very young members of the Junior section who just managed to avoid being engulfed in huge club flags. Stewart Mels kicked off into the angular sun and the ball was capably taken by Grant MacDonald who was supported in a foray into visitor territory by messrs Mike Ryan and Jamie Auld. This trio were to continually take the game to the visitors all afternoon and constantly tied down the visitor’s defence. GHA had begun by pressing the visitors, running angles to probe for weaknesses with forwards and backs interpassing with considerable dexterity. After around seven minutes Peter Jericevich kicked up to the visitors twenty two metre area from a penalty. Some incisive short passing between Peter Jericevich and Andrew Goudie was stopped at the five metre line as Stewart’s Mel desperately defended. From the resulting scrum the GHA scrum half Jericevich tore through a gap in the defence to score. Andrew Goudie converted to make the score after ten minutes: GHA 7 STEWART’S MELVILLE 0.

The visitors were shaken by this early pressure and to their credit redoubled their efforts to blunt the continual probes by GHA. A clever chip through by James Edgar from halfway was eventually knocked on at the visitors ten metre line. There were signs that Stewart’s Mel were beginning to settle and they began to use their power in the scrum to drive the home side back. GHA forwards had to dig deep to hold their shape. A marvellous relieving kick by Nick McCashin took the visitors up to the GHA twenty two metre area which was matched by a quick lineout ball to Peter Jericevich who put boot to ball and took the game back to the visitors ten metre line as we reached the quarter hour mark . Whilst GHA won turn overs on the floor to the delight of the home crowd possession was lost through knock ons and spilled passes. The sun was causing the visitors difficulties in fielding high balls yet a huge kick by Nick McCashin brought play well into the GHA half. The visitors won the lineout ball and with accurate close passing scored through winger Ferguson. A narrowly missed conversion attempt made the score after fifteen minutes: GHA 7 STEWART’S MELVILLE 5.

Play moved up and down the pitch, both sides giving away possession at times with misdirected kicks. Once again James Edgar sliced through the opposition to be stopped on the five metre line. As we moved towards the half hour, the visitors took possession from a wayward kick by GHA and from the resulting pressure managed to break through tackles allowing Porteous to dot down to loud cheering from the visiting supporters. Michael Hanning converted the try to make the score : GHA 7 STEWART’S MELVILLE 12.

The visitors seized the initiative as the home side took time to recover from the blow of losing the lead. Stewart’s Mel began to change their tactics using their bigger forwards to win quick ball in the ruck and maul before their reorganised back division now settling ran the ball with crisp accurate passing. In a superb piece of support play Henderson broke through tackles to score. Michael Hanning converted to make the score on the thirty second minute: GHA 7 STEWART’S MELVILLE 19.

The visitors began to exert pressure on the home scrum and in thirty five minutes were awarded a penalty for a scrum infringement. The visitors elected to kick the penalty and Michael Hanning made the score : GHA 7 STEWART’S MELVILLE 22.

The remaining few minutes of the half saw the home side working very hard to regain territory and force the visitors back into their own half. Fine drives by Scott Plumridge, Adam Barnett and Ben Addison forced the visitors to defend deep in their own half. Just on half time GHA were awarded a penalty inside the visitors twenty two metre area for offside. GHA elected to kick and Andrew Goudie reduced the leeway by converting. Thus the score at half time was: GHA 10 STEWART’S MELVILLE 22.

It had been an interesting first half. Early pressure from the home side had given them the lead. The visitors responded and had taken advantage of several uncharacteristic errors to build a lead. The penalty converted by Andrew Goudie had given the home side a lifeline and the interval gave the home side the opportunity to galvanise themselves for a second period in which they would attempt to reverse the scoreline. The visitors for their part had begun to produce some fine attacking rugby but would have been concerned that they too were guilty of handling errors and poor touch kicking. The second period began with both defences managing to negate any breakthrough and play hovered around the half way line. Improved touch kicking by both sides reduced and cleared any danger to the try line. Nick McCashin was asking questions of the home defence and several times managed to break the first line of defence. However he was closed down lacking support and GHA won good turn over ball on half way and passed through the hands and then put a long kick to the try line. Grant Mollison chased the ball all the way and to the astonishment of the visitors overtook several players to touch down the ball just as it looked to be going over the dead ball line. As the home crowd cheered Andrew Goudie calmly placed the ball for the conversion and from a difficult angle reduced the leeway to :GHA 17 STEWART’S MELVILLE 22 .

As we moved into the tenth minute of the half both sets of players seemed to be momentarily overcome with anxiety as passes were dropped and missed. By fifteen minutes both sides seemed to regain some of their composure although the visitors had lost some of their earlier drive. Both defences tackled superbly realising perhaps that one mistake either way would see the game lost. GHA seized the initiative and with a mixture of interpassing between forwards and backs and crash balls from forwards were driving Stewart’s Melville back. In a cleverly worked break on the twenty eighth minute mark Grant Mollison made a determined bid for the line from inside the visitors half with support from forwards and backs. Desperate cover defence by Stewart Mels just stopped the full back scoring but his quick ball release was gleefully accepted by the outstanding James Edgar who went over to great cheers from the home crowd. The vital conversion was scored by Andrew Goudie to make the score: GHA 24 STEWART’S MELVILLE 22.

There was no wild celebrations from the home side merely a realisation that they had a tiny lead to defend. The visitors looked stunned by this reversal of their fortunes but to their credit came straight back at the home side. For infringements in the loose James Ferguson was yellow carded at a critical time. At this crucial stage in the match there began a number of scrums which required to be reset and this undoubtedly affected the ability of either side to put phases together.As we reached the last ten minutes the game was very finely balanced. The side that held its nerve would take the plaudits. There was desperate all consuming tackles as both sides sought to score. Stewart’s Mel threw wave after wave of attack at the home defence which stood firm and in fact turned over vital ball in the tackle to relieve the pressure.GHA were working hard to retain possession and move the ball through their forwards up the pitch. With just over five minutes left James Edgar spun,twisted and dummied his way from his own half right through the visitors defence. The incredible effort to avoid attempted tackles cost him his balance and he stumbled just over the line. The referee deemed that he had failed to touch down . Irrespective of the colour of the jersey such a magnificent piece of skill deserved to be rewarded. However GHA in these last minutes resolutely refused to give way and were carefully managing both time and the ball through some excellent take and drive by the forwards which denied the visitors the ball. A huge cheer greeted the final whistle as the home support stopped looking at watches and congratulated their team. Final score: GHA 24 STEWART’S MELVILLE 22.

This had been a fightback by the home side which stunned the visitors. It had required the whole squad to work very hard to force their way back into the match and to produce skill and technique to win the day.






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