GHK v Dumfries Saints 7 April 2018

GHK welcomed Dumfries for the final home league action of the season. As with the last three visitors to OA (Hamilton, Kirkcaldy and Peebles), Dumfries were still very much in the promotion hunt as well as having the small matter of a cup final to keep their season alive and to make sure that players’ thoughts were not drifting to holidays, golf and other diversions. Undoubtedly they would be up for it.

GHK kicked off and Dumfries secured possession enabling them to build a few phases and get their useful centre combination probing and looking for gaps. We did not have long to wait until that early threat was rewarded when, in their first visit to the GHK twenty two, Jack Steele cut through for a smart score, albeit one that was perhaps aided by a mis-read in the home defensive alignment.

The GHK response was swift and well structured. The ball was put through the hands and good ground was made. The Dumfries tackling was determined and secure leaving the home side to be limited to just the three points courtesy of a well struck James MacKinnon penalty. 5-3 to the visitors with a quarter of an hour played.

The Saints appeared to look that little bit more likely behind the scrum and had the happy knack of coming away with something from most visits to the GHK twenty two. A second try followed for the visitors and it was almost a carbon copy of the opening score. Well, if it worked the first time why not repeat the formula? The two points that were added were to prove crucial as the game unfolded.

Again GHK raised their game and a productive period was spent in the Dumfries half. In recent weeks GHK have bagged a few scores from the rolling maul and so it was again today as, from a lineout, a powerful surge saw Feargus Haston caress the ball over the line driven by his forward colleagues and a few extras. This was all the more remarkable as, in the initial stages, the visitors had a bit of an edge in the scrum, but that that too had begun to swing in GHK’s favour.

GHK would have been happy to get to the break with the score at 12-8 to the men from the South. However, another incursion to the GHK danger area resulted in try number three with barely a couple of minutes remaining in the half.

Half time GHK 8 Dumfries Saints 17

Defending the pavilion end, GHK started smartly and Tony Lopez went close. It was their turn to put the squeeze on the visitors. Drives led by Jez Hanks, Kieron Boles and Angus Lindsay sucked in the defence eventually creating space for scrum half Danny Campbell to seize his moment and cross for a well deserved score. Game very much on at 13-17.

GHK continued to look promising and a decent stream of possession was delivered up to the backs who looked to have found their rhythm. A few good field positions encouraged the home support, but a combination of stout defence and maybe trying to force that final pass scuppered the home efforts. There was always the threat from the Dumfries centres and by this time full back Sam Hiddleston began to get in to the act fielding a series of kicks and running the ball back through flailing tackles.

The fourth Dumfries try started as a result of one such return by the aforementioned full back, but GHK had opportunities to clear the danger before the score was claimed by number nine Jack Johnstone. That one could be properly noted in the ‘soft’ register. Back to a nine point advantage with about twenty minutes remaining.

Both sides continued to have a good go without immediately threatening the other’s line. Dumfries rather strangely opted to kick for goal with a long range penalty and also treated us to that rarest of sights, the attempted drop goal. Neither effort hit the spot.

The GHK forward ascendancy got them in to a dangerous attacking position. After a series of strength sapping scrums, the ball was kept close and Marc Smyth battered over for a well constructed try with two minutes to go. James MacKinnon added a lovely conversion. Two points behind with effectively the last play of the game to come. Sadly for GHK it was not possible to bridge that final gap and matters were brought to a conclusion when the Saints replacement scrum half launched the ball in to touch nearly making the New Anniesland fence. Much relief on the faces of the Dumfries support.   Full time GHK 20 Dumfries 22.

Well done to all at Dumfries whose exciting season just keeps rolling along. They have a few very big games in the next fortnight and we wish them well.

For GHK it was another very close run thing. There were a number of positives to take from the game. James MacKinnon probably had his best eighty minutes of the season. His confidence and decision making are growing which augurs well for his and GHK’s future. Rory Taylor was a forceful presence in attack and Tony Lopez was lively when given the chance to do damage in open space. Ben Frame at full back put in some thumping tackles.

It was another good forward effort that worked a significant edge in the scrum. Messrs Smyth, Boles, Forsyth, Haston and debutant Lewis Rowand  can be very content with their day’s labours. They were aided Angus Lindsay, Jez Hanks and skipper Hugh Parker who all tried to keep GHK on the front foot. In the end however, in a day of fine margins, GHK came up short and those two precious conversion points proved decisive.

Angus Lindsay was recognised by his team mates as being the GHK player of the day. That will do for me too. Well done Angus, another great eighty minutes.

Next week, last game of the season away to Howe of Fife. Never mind the Melrose Sevens, get yourself to Cupar for some real

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