DUMFRIES v GHK 29.09.2018

For the visit to Dumfries the absence of a couple of the regulars from the GHK starting XV was perhaps offset by the return of Lewis Brock and Alex McGuire to a GHK pack that had a more than useful look about it. The hosts have been on an upward curve in the last couple of seasons with promotion and silverware in the form of the 2018 BT National League Cup being evidence of their progress and achievements.

Dumfries kicked off into a stiff breeze. Not phased one bit by the elements, they took the game to GHK and capitalised on an early opportunity for three penalty points. From the restart, initial hesitation in the home defence hinted at an immediate opportunity for GHK to apply some pressure of their own, but some less than convincing tackling cleared a path for a Dumfries breakout that returned play deep in to Glasgow territory. The home side spent most of the next ten minutes or so in the GHK half but thankfully the defence had upped its  game somewhat.

Despite the advantage of that helpful wind, no-one in GHK colours seemed prepared to try and make use of that aid to play the game in the hosts’ twenty two. It did seem a bit odd. Eventually, a powerful GHK breakout gained a decent field position and they then set about the business of trying to breach the Dumfries line. With the GHK scrum and jumpers having a clear edge, the visitors enjoyed plenty possession. Despite a few close things, the return for this period on the front foot was a mere three points from a well struck James MacKinnon penalty.

Dumfries replied in quick time with the opening try of the day which was followed up by another penalty. A ten point advantage that was all too easily earned. Further damage was inflicted to the GHK prospects when the lively Dumfries threequarters capitalised on a GHK spillage and some clinical finishing saw try number two claimed by the home side. A challenging day just got more difficult.

On the half hour Scott Bell took to the field making his GHK debut replacing Mark Smyth – no mean task. The Glasgow scrum continued to hold the upper hand and a welcome recruit to the front row union contributed to that effort. The last ten minutes of the half were encouraging if ultimately unproductive for the visitors. 20-3 to the hosts at half time.

Facing that stiff breeze GHK continued with the good work that they had demonstrated in the closing stages of the first period. The penalty count was mounting against the eager home defence. The Saints first up tackling was excellent and like all good defences they took it right to the line and occasionally a bit beyond. With GHK perhaps looking the more likely to claim the opening score, one moment of slackness was punished by the hosts and try number three was efficiently executed. The gap was stretching.

GHK continued to dominate in terms of possession, territory and penalty awards (in their favour). Indeed, there was some suggestion that the successive penalty offences by Dumfries was now well in to double figures. That normally is dealt with by a flash or two of the yellow, but not today, well not yet.

The GHK backs enjoyed plenty ball, but a combination of the aforesaid defence and GHK not having their best day in terms of crisp passing and line breaks, it was no surprise when the first GHK score did materialise it was scored by flanker Matt Chan on another smart angle.

It was more of the same as GHK pressed for another score that might just create a wobble in the confident Dumfries rhythm. That overdue yellow card was eventually administered. Sadly, GHK could not capitalise and two further episodes of sloppiness allowed Dumfries their bonus score and another for good measure. Neither of these tries were short range run ins and both owed much to the striking talent of the Dumfries back line. However, having been alerted to the danger of the home threequarters, expertly marshalled by the superb Jack Steele, GHK must rue giving them so many assists.

Skipper Nick Hurn put in a powerful eighty minutes and did indeed lead by example. It was he who crossed for GHK’s second score with the last play of the game. Again, the home defence was for giving nothing away cheaply, but some composure through a few phases of play created the space for Captain Hurn to cross the line.

Full time Dumfries 41 GHK 17

Another hard day on the road for GHK. There will be disappointment that they contributed significantly to their own difficulties by offering up chances to a side who were very well equipped to capitalise on anything that was sent their way. No doubt the coaching team will have identified a few areas where improvement can be achieved. On the positive side, GHK carried a noticeable edge up front and that must augur well for the challenges that lie ahead. Lots of possession and territorial advantage can hopefully be converted in to points.

Particularly fine efforts by the front five and great to see Nick Hurn stay the course. Matt Chan was, as usual, voted man of the match by the opposition – and yes he was rather good. Behind the scrum, there were some good signs from Gavin McKirdy and Robin Coates put in a decent shift. Kyle Henderson had a very positive half hour. However, for a real one hundred per cent effort, Jez Hanks gets the vote for player of the day. Well done Mr H.

Next week Stewarts Melville at OA. Pre match lunch not to be missed. Scottish rugby legend Finlay Calder will be in attendance as will possibly the most famous piece of silverware in Scottish/World  rugby, the Calcutta Cup. There will also be a presentation of a cheque to the Doddie Weir Foundation. See the GHK website for details – ( a few) places still available. Book now!

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