GHK v INSTONIANS 18 August 2018

After an absence of not far short of eighteen months, GHK returned to the main pitch at Old Anniesland on Saturday when they hosted old rivals and good friends, the Instonians Rugby Club of Belfast. The visitors from Northern Ireland are at the start of their centenary season and the fact that they chose a trip to Glasgow and Old Anniesland in particular just highlights the depth of the relationship between the clubs.

With the OA playing surface looking like an Old Course putting green minus the undulations a very decent crowd had gathered to see how the two sides, who have both been climbing back up their respective league structures in recent years, would now fare when facing off against each other. A lively travelling support added to the occasion.

Before the fray….

Referee Scott Livingstone got proceedings underway with the visitors defending the pavilion end. GHK were quickly in to their stride with some assured fast handling and off-loading. Hugh Parker and Craig Rintoul were prominent in several of the early attacks. Instonians had seen little of the ball and their defensive structure was stretched in the opening minutes of the match. It was no great surprise when Danny Campbell crossed for the first score of the game after a trade mark sniping run. First blood to the OA XV.

Inevitably Instonians began to secure some ball of their own and imposed their own brand of direct, positive rugby on the hosts. A powerful pack was expertly directed by scrum half Paul Marshall. His performance at nine was one of the highlights of the day. Just after the quarter hour mark, Instonians were over for their first score after a well drilled catch and drive from a five metre line out.  Seven points a-piece.

The visiting backs showed that they were no slouches as they began to make inroads in to the GHK midfield defence. Some of the initial damage was caused by a couple of second row forwards and a driving number eight who drew in defenders. Two scores in fairly quick succession were claimed by the visitors. For the first, GHK got their defensive line wrong and for the second there was a bit of a misjudgement when attempting to touch down a grubber. Early season rustiness no doubt!

A further penalty extended the visitors lead to thirteen points. There was a feeling that it would do GHK a whole lot of good if they could get ensure that the next action on the scoreboard was not a further addition to the Instonians’ account. Thankfully, it was the home side’s turn to demonstrate that they too could work the line out catch and drive drill. It looked like Mark Smyth that emerged with the ball and seemed to getting the congratulations from his forward colleagues.

With the clock ticking down to half time, GHK snatched the lead with a cracking Danny Campbell try. It was another score of exceptional quality. At the end of a highly entertaining half GHK held a one point advantage 21-20.

GHK had a match day squad of twenty five and it was, quite rightly, the intention to try and give everyone as much game time as possible. There were a number of changes made at half time and indeed throughout the game. Inevitably it took a moment or two for the fresh legs to get up to the pace and intensity of the game. Instonians however, with a smaller playing squad on the day, kept changes to a more modest level. The driving play that had yielded rewards for the visitors did so again early in the second half with a well worked score. In this period the GHK penalty count seemed to be mounting and on another day it is likely that a card might have been shown. However, referee Livingstone may have been feeling generous.

Instonians had the edge in territory and possession. In addition, the GHK rhythm looked to have perhaps been a little unsettled by the changes to personnel as well as the control exerted by scrum half Marshall and his tireless pack.  Another try for the visitors with less than fifteen minutes to go seemed that it might have just put enough clear blue water between the sides. However, the influential Instonians number eight left the field with a head gash and he did not return. His absence may have been critical such was his impact on the game hitherto.

The visitors’ legs may have been starting to get that wee bit heavy, most of them had stayed on for the full eighty minute shift. Whatever it was, GHK somehow started to create a bit of space. Remarkably, two opportunist Tony Lopez tries in the last five minutes pushed GHK in to a one point lead. GHK gathered the restart, but under pressure from Instonians, a penalty was conceded. After a bit of debate/consideration it looked to be the case that the visitors were going for goal. However, the referee determined that the process was taking too long, and certainly exceeding the allotted sixty seconds, and intervened. The kick at goal was no more and a scrum to GHK was awarded. A bit on the controversial side indeed!  GHK won their own ball and it was duly hoofed in to the stand to bring to a conclusion a smashing game of rugby.

GHK 31   INSTONIANS 30

A great day at Old Anniesland on and off the pitch. The players on both sides deserve great credit for serving up such a compelling and entertaining encounter. It was more or less a draw. For the record, GHK take possession of the Balmaha trophy, at least for the next twelve months. Instonians won the tug of war and pretty well cleaned up in terms of the post match raffle prizes.

Many thanks to President David Croft and all of the Instonians’ party for making it a special day at our club. Good luck for the season ahead. You look well placed to be in contention at the top end of your league yet again.

After the battle…

Next GHK fixture – Friday 24 August away to Cartha in the cup. K O 7.30

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