GHK v WEST 3 February 2018
With both sides having a few selection issues, it was two much changed sides that took to the field at Old Anniesland for this local BT National Two derby. It was an important match for both sides as they looked for a few precious extra points with the season entering the decisive period.
GHK got off to a great start dominating territory and possession in the early stages. A number of early penalty concessions by West highlighted that is was the hosts who had the early edge. A kickable penalty opportunity was declined but the men in red and yellow stood strong in defence and eventually secured a bit of ball and enjoyed a few attacking moments of their own.
There was pre match uncertainty as to the comparative strength of the competing scrums. It was evident from the first locking of horns that GHK held a significant and material advantage up front and this was probably one of the deciding features of the game. Even when Alasdair Howie had to leave the field in the early stages, replacement prop Kieron Boles simply turned up the heat on the Milngavie men.
With a quarter of the match gone and the scoreboard blank, GHK still looked the more likely. However, as the game progressed, and decent field positions came to nought, the home support were no doubt asking themselves if it was to be one of those days. Having said all that, the West defence was certainly up for it and were conceding nothing.
It was a first half late show in terms of scoring as GHK claimed the lead. Robin Coates, who had a good day finding touch, put his forwards five metres out on the left. A clean Hugh Parker take was followed by a thunderous drive and Alex McGuire grounded the ball. Danny Campbell added the two.
From the restart GHK looked to have secured clean ball but a penalty infringement saw West deep in to the GHK twenty two. It was the hosts’ turn to defend as the West line out too produced good ball. The GHK defence was resolute and in their desperation West infringed again. Having been give a warning by referee Ruaridh Smith a yellow card was given to centre Sandy McCallum.
GHK capitalised on the numerical advantage almost immediately. With the reorganised West defence scrambling, the ball was moved right to Tony Lopez who still had a bit of work to do to get to the line. With a step and a bit of power the winger broke the final covering tackle and was over in the right corner for try number two. The conversion fell just short. Half time – GHK 12 West 0
In the second period, if anything, the GHK advantage up front became more of a feature, disrupting the West put in and providing a very positive platform for the home backs who were getting in to the swing of things. The centre partnership of Hanks and Coates made a lot of ground and created space for threatening runners outside.
When required, the home defence was up to the task and any occasional threat was quickly and effectively snuffed out. The tackling was out of the top drawer. Anything West might get was not going to be conceded easily.
Behind the scrum, the backs may have been a bit more evenly matched, but with GHK taking the lions’ share of possession and with the game becoming a bit more stretched, it was the OA side that looked a bit more likely. Danny Campbell, today at number ten, was finding more space to exploit and linked well with his backs. It looked as though another score was likely and it fell to that man Campbell to make it in to the tightest of corners wide right only just evading the committed West defence. The try was the result of some strong running and selfless support play that involved half a dozen home players.
Back came West but by this time the GHK defence really did have the measure of their opponents and the ‘nil’ points against seemed as important as any notion of a fourth bonus point try. With a few minutes to go and play on the edge of the home twenty two, GHK, in the form of captain Parker, saw a gap and went for it. When the first tackle was broken HP had the best part of seventy metres between himself and the West try line. The defence gave chase but a long striding, arching run saw the number eight make it home with the chasers barely gaining any ground. Try number four and job very much done for GHK.
Final score GHK 22 West of Scotland 0
A result that gives GHK a whole lot more confidence going in to the last quarter of the season. They had edge over West in most departments and particularly up front where the visitors had experienced major selection/availability issues in the lead up. That said, the GHK eight were clearly in the mood. Good luck to West for the rest of the season. We look forward to resuming battle in the next campaign in BT 2.
A good few standouts for GHK today. Tony Lopez had probably his best eighty minutes of this season. Blair Forsyth was solid and secure. Jeremy Hanks looked very comfortable in the centre. The front row, all five of them when you include Messrs Boles and Smyth, bossed the scrum and thereby created a major advantage. Angus Lindsay and Ross Steven were very busy and productive. However, for another line out master class, a resolute defensive performance all capped off with a memorable try, for the second week in a row, Captain Hugh Parker is our man of the match.
Next week Dumfries at OA in the BT National League Cup – kick off 2.30
PS The kick off on Saturday was brought forward to allow us all to watch the Scotland match. It seemed like a good idea at the time.