GHK v Highland RFC 8 December 2018
For large parts of the game against the men from the North GHK, if not dominating proceedings, were at the very least standing toe to toe with the visitors from Inverness. However, the familiar failing of conceding soft scores, particularly at critical times, meant that the home side finished their last game of the year on the big pitch pointless. It could have been oh so different.
GHK started well and ran through a few solid phases of possession without, if truth be told, ever causing too many alarms in the Highland rearguard. For their part, the League Two contenders did not seem to carry any obvious threat in attack in these early stages, but some slack defence allied to some decent pace out wide led to the visitors claiming two early scores giving them a handy cushion. An earlier penalty strike took it to thirteen nil.
GHK had not been dominated or anything like it, but they were already facing a Munro if not quite a mountain to climb.
The scale of the ascent got a bit more demanding when the Highland forwards worked a well drilled line out drive to cross for their third score with just over twenty minutes played. The Highland scrum half and kicker was out of range with all three conversion attempts or matters could have been worse for the hosts.
GHK continued to press and were nearly over with their own line out assault but the defence held out. GHK started and finished the half playing some pretty decent stuff but they had given a competent, tidy Highland side a generous head start. Given that the visitors had strung together a magnificent seven in a row victories prior to Saturday, the half time lead of eighteen points to nil looked ominous for GHK.
As with the first half, GHK resumed brightly and spent time in the Highland half. A couple of breaks by Fin Callaghan and Callum Bowie got in behind the first line of defence. GHK ramped up the pressure and really tested the red and green defence. The penalty count started to mount up. There were several chats between referee Milner and the Highland captain. It did rather look as though a number of final warnings had been issued. Quite frankly it was a surprise that no card was waved as there were multiple infringements by Highland as GHK battered the line.
GHK got their reward on the hour mark when Craig Rintoul drove over for a fine try. Kyle Henderson added the extras. The restart was tidily fielded by the immense Hugh Parker and off went GHK again to play the game in the Highland twenty two. There was a drive and determination about the home forwards and the game was taken to the opposition eight. Nick Hurn, Scott Bell and Andy McCulloch got stuck in despite their long front row shift.
Rory Taylor, who had seen little of the ball, reminded us of what he could do as he went close. The game was becoming stretched and that suited GHK. A couple of near things preceded Gavin McKirdy crossing for GHK second score. The trusty left boot of stand off Henderson slotted a superb conversion from way out wide right. Game on at 18-14 to Highland.
Two minutes later it was game over as GHK coughed up two scores that instantly eroded the hard earned points in the previous half hour. The final Highland score was particularly disappointing. Thereafter the match kind of fizzled out. Final score GHK 14 Highland 28.
A try count of five to two might suggest a reasonably comfortable win for Highland, but it was far from that. Their captain confirmed as much in his remarks in the clubhouse. Highland are clearly on a roll and they will undoubtedly be in contention for honours at the top end of the league come April. We wish them well.
For GHK it is another case of what might have been. Whilst again credit can be taken for running one of the top sides pretty close, there must surely be some frustration on the part of players and coaches to put so much in to a match and come out with nothing. Surely there is a win coming down the line shortly?
GHK player of the day – for another powerful shift step forward Jez Hanks. Great effort Mr Hanks.
Next week away to Peebles – correct, it doesn’t get any easier. However, GHK beat Peebles at OA in September so the boys can do it.