Sat 3rd October
Ayr 12 GHA 3
Our first league match of the season was a fairly evenly contested affair with the wind blowing fiercely from one end of the pitch to the other making it the clichéd “game of 2 halves.
David Scott opened the scoring for GHA with a well struck penalty and we thought with the wind in our favour we could go on to put some points on the board before the elements turned to Ayrs advantage. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case as Ayr spent most of the first 20 minutes camped deep in our half as their older and wiser forwards used their strength to maintain us. Indeed, it was only a matter of time before they bundled over for an unconverted try to make the score 5-3 to Ayr We still had once last chance to go in front before the half ended but David narrowly missed a penalty.
In the second half we began brightly and started to take the ball towards Ayr as we tried to use our backs and superior fitness but all Ayr had to do was get the ball back and kick to the corners which they did to great effect. After another line out close to our line, we were awarded a penalty but inexplicably we decided to run it, Ayr sensed our folly and promptly stole the ball and scored under the posts given their kicker an easy conversion. Although we competed more in the opposition half after this point, we could not make the necessary breakthrough and so Ayr ran out 12-3 victors.
As a first competitive outing for the U18s this was not a bad start against one of the strongest teams in the league. With around 40 players to choose from to form 1 team and being able to virtually have the pick of the best Ayrshire can offer, Ayr will be a force this year. We are already looking forward to the return match later in the season when we should be more street wise at this level.
Forwards: McGinty, Ritchie, Mather, Shields, Barnett, McCaw, Carty and Renucci
Backs: Rutnagur, Scott, Carnan, Di Cosmo, Belch, Hamilton and Thomson
Replacements D Barrett, Brown, Gilchrist, Stirling, McMenemy, Campbell and B Barrett
Sat 10th October
GHA 0 Dumfries 27
In excellent playing conditions, GHA played against their old nemesis Dumfries at Braidholm and were given a valuable lesson in playing as a team. Dumfries were not that much better than us but they combined between forwards and backs beautifully and looked like a squad who were at the top of their game whereas we were somewhat disjointed at times.
We were not helped by the most unfortunate of charge down kicks in the first minute leaving Calum Templeton the easy job of scoring to put the visitors 5-0 up. Whether this contributed to the confidence of Dumfries or the nerves of our boys, its hard to know but suffice to say Dumfries went on to score a further 3 tries, 2 of which were converted, and 1 penalty to make the final score 0-27.
Their coach remarked after the match that he had a full fit squad to pick from and that most of them had played together for years and that they played at their best whereas we were missing a number of key players through injury and yet again did not have a settled squad.
One of the features of the 2 league matches so far is that we have a very young squad with only 6 or 7 of last years U18s and the rest coming from last years U16s. This puts us at a disadvantage as both Ayr and Dumfries had the majority of their squad playing their second season at this age level. Nevertheless, as we get more competitive games under our belt, there will be definite improvement when we meet these teams again in the return matches.
Forwards: McGinty, Ritchie, Mather, Hunter, Barnett, McCaw, Haughney and Shields
Backs: Rutnagur, Scott, Stirling, Belch, Carnan, Hendry and Thomson
Replacements: Wright, Brown, Conner, Di Cosmo, Renucci and Campbell
Sat 24th October
GHA 34 West Of Scotland 14
Our first U18 victory of the season was greeted by enthusiastic applause by the watching parents and other spectators and hopefully this will be the start of a good run for this young team.
Within the first 10 minutes we had breached the West line with 2 great tries from the backs. First Mark Carnan went over in the far corner after a great line of passes through the backs leaving David Scott to score an excellent conversion from the far touchline some 25m from the posts and then Rory Hughes made one of his lung bursting explosive runs to score in the same corner. This 12-0 cushion clearly lifted the confidence of the squad and they started to enjoy their play.
A lapse of concentration midway through the first half allowed the pacy West centre to burst through and score against the run of play and their kicker made the extra 2 points. At this point GHA realised there was still a game to be won and raised the tempo again. A neat and well rehearsed No 8 pickup move between Ross Carty and Josh Rutnagur resulted in a fine score for Josh to which David Scott added the conversion making the half time score 19-7 for GHA.
The second half went in the same vein as the first with GHA forcing the opposition back through some clever kicking from David and fine forward play. The forwards clearly started to believe in their own ability and took the ball to the opposition at every opportunity giving good clean ball to Josh at scrum half. This in turn meant our backs had plenty of time to do their stuff and thus it was no surprise when both Mark and Rory doubled their try score count early in the 2nd half. Both conversions were agonisingly short into the wind and left us 29-7 up having safely secured the bonus point.
Not to be outdone, the forwards again turned the screw on their opposite numbers and after a series of rucks and mauls in the bottom corner Paul Renucci forced his way through for a well deserved try which unfortunately was unconverted. As the coaches used all the replacements to ensure everybody got some quality game time, West roared up the pitch and with the last passage of play scored under the posts leaving their kicker with an easy conversion. The referee then blew his whistle to make the final score 34-14 for GHA.
A great performance by all the squad today and a real boost to their confidence and the coaches hope this will carry on for the rest of the season. One aspect needing worked on is the securing of the ball after it has been won in a ruck or maul as too often today this was lost as the referee deemed the ball out at the back and the opposition stole it before we could react. Nevertheless, well done to all as we started to look and play as a team.
Forwards: Mather, Ritchie, McGinty, Hunter, Shields, McCaw, Carty and Wright
Backs: Hamilton, Scott, Carnan, Rutnagur, Di Cosmo, Belch and Hughes
Replacements: (from) D Barrett, Brown, Conner, Hendry, Dunn, B Barrett, Renucci, McCallum and Campbell
Sat 3rd October