Lasswade v GHK 13 January 2018

After last week’s fine win over Preston Lodge, GHK’s hopes of fielding an unchanged xv were dashed on Saturday morning as Mark Smyth’s Achilles had not recovered. Ten minutes after kick off Rory Taylor’s hamstring issues caused the in form centre to head for the sidelines never to return.

As is the way of it with most teams who have been on the wrong end of a caning the week before, Lasswade were quickly out of the blocks, securing plenty possession and doing their best to soften up the heart of the GHK defence. It did rather look as though the OA side knew what was coming and their defensive lines, first and second up tackles were secure.

It was thought that perhaps the hosts might have an edge in the scrums, and whilst on occasions they might have had a bit of a nudge, scrum half Anderson and Captain Darcy worked some very slick combinations at the back of the scrum and good ball was secured. From such possession it was GHK’s turn to test the home defensive set up and the hosts were not found short in that department.

Midway through the half GHK pulse rates quickened a little when it looked as though Danny Campbell was about to open the scoring when he intercepted a midfield pass and the clean heels were visible to the scrambling defenders when referee Alex Pratt called him back for an infringement moments earlier. It was the closest thing to scoring action in the first period that really was an exercise in honest endeavour, seriously solid defending but not much cutting edge. GHK had weathered the early Lasswade assaults and when they got in to some decent field positions themselves, a couple of kickable penalties were turned down. Sadly the quick tap/kick to the corner options produced zero points.   Half time arrived with the scoreboard inactive.

The second half commenced in much the same format as the first. Lasswade started well and play was centered in the GHK half. Repeat infringements saw a yellow card awarded to home centre Kyle Smith. Being a man down seemed not to matter as the fourteen looked to have the slightest of edges. Lasswade at last had what seemed like a shot to take the lead with a penalty about thirty/thirty five metres out on the good of the posts for a right footed kicker.  It was pulled wide. A bit of a let off indeed. Ten minutes later another shot at goal was missed by the apparently normally reliable home number ten. An hour gone and not a point in sight.

GHK seemed to have more pace behind the scrum. A couple of openings were created but final passes were disappointing. The home line was never really under too much threat. The early changes and injuries meant that it was a long day for the GHK squad and replacements were used of necessity as opposed to perhaps being able to make an impact. Going in to the last quarter Lasswade were able to make changes in the front and back row which rebooted their physicality for the closing stages and provided an extra edge.

With fifteen to go Lasswade got in to good position in the GHK twenty two and a series of scrums edged ever closer to the visitors’ line. A clean strike and the Lasswade eight edged forward. The partisan home support were howling for a penalty try, even though all that was happening was that the GHK scrum was retreating albeit slowly. A couple of metres from the line number eight Jamie Graham picked up and forced his way over escorted by his middle row and the rest of the pack. It was perhaps always likely that this game might be settled by something like that. As the Lasswade crew rejoiced, a touch line referee queried if picking up at the base of a scrum and driving in to the bodies in front was a legitimate score? It mattered not. The scoreboard had not in fact seized up. 7-0 to the Midlothian men.

GHK tried to get back in to decent position to launch a reply. The home defence held firm and pressure and perhaps not the best execution by GHK meant that home line was never actually under serious threat. Lasswade played that last seven or eight minutes quite smartly, bossing possession and keeping the OA men in the wrong area of the pitch. A penalty award gave GHK one last chance to kick for position. Sadly touch was missed and the ball was punted into touch by the home scrum half. All done.   Lasswade 7 GHK 0

A bit of a disappointing day for GHK but a losing bonus point is better than nothing. In fairness, Lasswade have been comfortable at the top end of the league and last week’s reversal at Dumfries was being put down to no rugby since November. GHK competed well and matched the hosts’ defensive efforts blow for blow. The cutting edge that was evident last week was missing and when breaks were made the support was perhaps a yard off the pace. The Lasswade defence offered very little space to work in. However, the guys deserve much credit for a seriously hard shift against a side that will not lose many games at this venue.

Hugo Anderson and Hugh Parker had fine games. There was the usual driving, tackling and general grunting from Hanks, McGuire and McCulloch. Ben Fordyce was exceptional. However, for another excellent shift and on a couple of occasions being the nearly man for GHK, Nick Hurn gets the star.

Doesn’t get any easier for GHK next week when table topping Kirkcaldy come calling to OA. The Fife juggernaut would seem to be rolling relentlessly to the League Two title, but GHK ran them very close indeed at Beveridge Park earlier in the season. I am sure that GHK will be up for the challenge.

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