Hamilton Bulls v GHKRFC  14 October 2017

Off the back of  a couple of narrow defeats against sides that might very well be in contention when end of season prizes are being handed out, GHK made the short-ish trip to along the M74 to take on a Hamilton outfit who looked to be running in to rather decent form as evidenced by their victory over pace setters Dumfries on their own patch last week.

Injuries and unavailability were reflected in a GHK line up that was much changed from last week’s bruising encounter with Biggar. James MacKinnon started at number ten for the first time in league action and Fraser Gosse was restored to the centre. His partnership with Danny Campbell looked to have great potential.

Hamilton, who themselves had problems with injuries and call offs, started well and moved the ball around with purpose and threat. However, it was to the visitors that the first scoring opportunity fell, but Danny Campbell’s penalty was pulled wide.

There followed a prolonged period of non stop action that left the spectators breathless so goodness knows what it was doing to the players’ stamina and resilience. The most remarkable feature of this episode was that neither line was breached which was testament to the defensive determination of both sides.

Territorially Hamilton were gaining an edge and after a further period of pressure the first try of the day was claimed by the hosts wide right. A very fine conversion followed to give a seven point lead after half an hour.

GHK responded well getting in to good positions but were unable to finish things off. They were however letting their high flying hosts know that they were very much in a contest.

With a couple of minutes of the first half remaining GHK were penalised at scrum time midway in their own half. The scrum went down and a re-set might have been called, but a penalty it was and the Hamilton stand off coolly slotted over.

Half time –  Hamilton 10  GHK 0

GHK turned round with a gentle breeze to assist their efforts. It was the visitors’ turn to spend an extended spell in their twenty two. The Hamilton defence was stretched and gaps opened up. One of those was spied by Captain Hugh Parker who powered over taking a couple of defenders with him.  A great start to the second half.

Hamilton would have hoped for some relief from their own restart, but they were frustrated in that regard. The momentum was with GHK and the game returned quickly to the hosts’ half of the field. The pressure ramped up and with GHK in a threatening position ten metres out, the home defensive efforts crossed the line and a card followed.

GHK looked to capitalise on the numerical advantage by taking a scrum rather than take three points. After a couple of surges when defenders were sucked in, James MacKinnon was over by the posts. With an hour gone GHK had turned round the half time deficit. 12 – 10 to the OA outfit.

From the restart, Mark Smyth was adjudged to have challenged a Hamilton player in the air and for his trouble he was yellow carded. The reliable boot of the Hamilton ten did the rest with another impressive conversion of the penalty. The GHK lead had lasted all of sixty seconds.

It had been a non stop game with both sides looking to outdo each other in terms of lung bursting runs. The effect of this was that, as the game moved in to the last quarter, a few more gaps were beginning to appear. GHK had put in a power of defensive work and maintained a remarkably high standard, but Hamilton seemed to have the slightest of edges at this critical stage.

With nine minutes to go Hamilton broke through and stretched their lead courtesy of an unconverted try. A six point advantage with the gloom descending over Laigh Bent.

GHK rallied but without ever being able to play the game deep in Hamilton territory. It was rather harsh that, with the last play of the match, the hosts, thanks to a couple of very fleet footed, elusive runners, touched down under the posts, taking even the losing bonus point away from GHK.  Final score   Hamilton 25  GHK  12

A much improved performance from GHK and another game that could have resulted in an away victory. Having turned round the half time deficit GHK looked to be in the ascendancy. The card to Mark Smyth was unfortunate. It was a close call but yellow was how the referee saw it and we have no complaint. In Mark’s defence, there was no malice and he claimed to be off the ground competing for the ball. At worst his timing was out by a fraction. Thankfully the Hamilton player, who initially appeared to be mortally wounded, recovered a la Lazarus. Had GHK been able to sustain that early second half pressure, who knows?

Angus Gray and Ewan Stewart performed outstandingly in the middle row in the tight and in the loose. The GHK scrum more than held their own and the line out was more like the source of secure possession that we have come to admire.

James MacKinnon continues to impress at half back. Blair Forsyth made a number of threatening intrusions. The return of Mike Martin added a new dimension and brought the best out of those around him.

A close call for man of the match for GHK with many guys turning in possibly their best all round performances of the season thus far. However, for a powerful shift in all departments Alex McGuire gets the star. Well done to the happy hooker.

Thanks to all at Hamilton for the warm welcome and hospitality and for allowing us to win the star prize in the raffle. We shall try to reciprocate. Good luck for the rest of the season.

GHK now face the last of four very challenging fixtures that involved the two sides that came down from BT National 1 and a couple of others who always seem to be equipped to challenge at the top end of the league. The final instalment of this quartet takes place at Balgray next Saturday when Howe of Fife come to call.  It is one of the few remaining 3.00 kick offs and that will allow those who wish to take in the Warriors game to then beam themselves up to Balgray to support the troops in this important fixture.

For those who are not Scotstoun bound, there is a pre match lunch at Balgray. It would be good if as many GHK supporters as possible (and indeed any others) could get along to join us for lunch. What better way could there be to put you in the mood for what promises to be another close encounter. We are remaining at Balgray after the match for players’ food and a post match cocktail or three hopefully in celebration of a GHK victory.

Lunch reservations to alan.j.dunipace@ntlworld.com

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