GHK v Peebles 22 September 2018

Old Anniesland looked pitch perfect on a cracking autumn day when unbeaten Peebles came calling. It was hard to believe that barely eighteen hours earlier a crowd of the order of fifteen hundred had witnessed a great game of rugby between Glasgow and Strathclyde universities on the main pitch at Anniesland. The outcome of that game had gone right to the very last play of the match. The nerves of the home support would be hoping that today’s encounter would not be so finely balanced.

GHK kicked off attacking the pavilion end. The first act was to put the kick off directly in to touch resulting in a Peebles scrum on the half way line. That initial error was an isolated blip in a very positive early burst from GHK. Two scores in the first seven minutes gave the hosts a perfect start. Scrum half Hugo Anderson claimed the first try finishing off a Danny Campbell break. A couple of minutes later, Fin Callaghan went over wide right after a long range breakout in which Jez Hanks and Hugh Parker played key roles. 12-0 to GHK – a very satisfactory start.

Whether it was a sluggish start by the visitors or total control exerted by GHK, there was little seen from Peebles as an offensive force in the opening quarter. The Peebles account was opened eventually courtesy of a straightforward penalty from stand off Raeburn. However, right from the restart, GHK regained possession and when the ball was carried in to the visitors’ red zone, that man Campbell crossed over again for try number three with barely twelve minutes played.

The Peebles scrum looked solid and had a bit of a shunt on the GHK put in. However, tidy work from Hugh Parker and his smart link up play with number nine Anderson preserved home possession. The Borderers at last managed to spend a little time in the GHK twenty two. The home defence held firm and eventually over eagerness led to a GHK penalty. With most onlookers assuming that a clearing kick to touch would follow (with the aid of a helpful breeze), a quick tap took everyone by surprise. This time it was the rapid pace of Craig Rintoul that covered most of the ground and it was Rory Taylor’s turn to be up in support and the winger finished off a spectacular breakout. Bonus point try secured in the first quarter. It was breathless stuff.

GHK continued to dominate in most areas and when the Peebles back line looked to test the home defensive resolve, the OA men stood firm and kept the visitors’ attacking efforts at a distance from the try line. Indeed, it was GHK who added to their handsome lead when the tireless Matt Chan ran yet another smart angle and crossed for try number five. Even the most optimistic of GHK followers could not have imagined a thirty point advantage with half an hour gone.

It may have been that hard words were exchanged under the Peebles posts, but whatever it was the men in red and white staged a rally as the half came to a conclusion. GHK did their best to deprive their opponents of a morale lifting score, but with the vary last play of the half they drove over after a series of effective combinations.  Half time GHK 33-10 up.

A few changes and no doubt a few more rallying cries in the half time break saw Peebles, perhaps predictably, come blasting out of the blocks at the start of the second period. GHK again stood firm and looked to have the measure of the Peebles attacking efforts. However, the visitors were gaining more control of the game and it was very much in line with how the game was flowing when Peebles claimed their second try on the fifty minute mark.

GHK responded positively and within a couple of minutes had replied in kind with another score from the dangerous Finn Callaghan. This came about after a spell of patient, positive build up and when the time came the winger was put clear in space and did the needful.

Despite the wind at their back, Peebles did not dominate significantly in terms of territory, although they did look to have a little more urgency about them. An attacking surge by the visitors was halted by the referee’s whistle and what followed I suspect came as a bit of a shock to assembled crowd. The Peebles middle row was red carded and Mark Smyth saw yellow. Even post match analysis was not entirely conclusive. However, referee Burns clearly saw something significant and imposed the maximum penalty on the Peebles forward. Whilst there were a few flash points, it was not a dirty game but rather one that was keenly, abrasively contested.

Being a man down clearly did not inhibit or constrain the visitors in any way. They continued to press and probe and for the first time a few gaps were beginning to appear in the home line up and the odd first up tackle was breached. A try with ten minutes to go by scrum half Donald Anderson made it one score all in the private battle of the Anderson number nines.

A fourteen point advantage with time running out. There was still a fair degree of belief in the Peebles squad that they could do this.

Thankfully, GHK re-focussed and added a wee bit of extra steel to their defensive efforts against the depleted Peebles squad. However, the Borderers were running confidently and literally had the wind at their backs. As the clock ran down, Peebles conjured up a fourth bonus point score and in so doing made the GHK supporters shift uncomfortably in their seats. Thankfully, the last few plays of the game saw GHK stand resolutely firm in defence and they controlled enough phases of possession to allow scrum half Anderson to dispatch the ball in to the stand and thereby bring the curtain down on a sixty nine point thriller.

GHK 38 Peebles 31

For the second time in less than twenty four hours, it came down to the last play of the match in a one score game. Nail biting stuff but great entertainment. After a forgettable start, Peebles showed in flashes how they arrived at Old Anniesland as one of the league’s undefeated sides. They will no doubt regroup after today’s result and will almost certainly be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.

For GHK it was an important and well deserved win. The clinical finishing in that opening quarter was a clear statement of what this team can do. The fact that they were able to batten down the hatches when required was gratifying, but perhaps there will be a little concern at how such a substantial advantage was eroded. Nevertheless, an encouraging performance and a vital five points.

Many contenders for man of the match for GHK. Double try scorer Fin Callaghan again looked the part. Craig Rintoul was exceptionally lively, feisty even. Danny Campbell did as Danny Campbell always does. Even when he is a marked man he makes things happen. Up front the GHK line out was more like its old self. The scrum stuck to it and were not dominated in any way. Mark Smyth led by example and replacement Jack Burgoyne took his lead with a couple of bullocking barges of his own. Jez Hanks did all the grunting stuff and found time to be so prominent in the loose that you forget he was listed as a lock. Same goes for Angus Lindsay who slipped back in to very effective first fifteen service as if he had never been away. However, for yet another all action performance capped off with a cracking try the gold star goes to Matt Chan. Well done sir, you are making a habit of this.

A great twenty four hours for OA/GHK rugby was crowned with the news delivered by the returning warriors from Dalziel. Both the Mighty Twos and the GHK Students were victorious and apparently there are a few individuals who are doing their level best to make life hard for the selectors/coaches by way of some very persuasive performances. Competition for places is the best way of ensuring that standards continue to improve. Keep up the good work.

Next week – away to Dumfries – should be another cracker against one of the league’s foremost outfits.

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