GHK v Preston Lodge RFC

Visit Scotland could not have organised a better day for GHK’s jaunt along the M8 and East Lothian was looking, and feeling, positively Mediterranean as GHK and Preston Lodge took to the wide expanse of Pennypit Park. Could they possibly serve up a repeat of the dramatic high scoring encounter when the sides met at OA in November? Then, the thickness of a post had denied PL a very late victory when a match winning penalty attempt came oh so close.

The visitors were led on the field by Gordon Reid who was wearing the GHK jersey in a competitive match for the last time before heading off to the world of the referee. If he makes half of the contribution to the whistle that he has made to the playing cause at GHK over the last several years he will make quite an impression – and surely a positive one.

PL play attractive rugby and from the off they were right on the money with backs and forwards combining, making ground in a structured and positive way. It was an encouraging start for the home side and indication of their threat was underlined when, in the first few scrums, the GHK eight seemed to be stuck in reverse. There was a lot of pressure on the visiting pack in the early exchanges.  However, they are a resilient bunch and buckled down to some fairly demanding defensive chores and managed to quell the early offensive efforts of their hosts.

The GHK lineout was a secure source of good possession and eventually good field position was gained. Danny Campbell slipped his marker in the centre and put Marc Taylor in to space out left and, well you know the rest, try in the corner, 5-0 to GHK. The dose was repeated five minutes later, this time with Cammy Hughes making the break and feeding the flying winger Taylor. MT had much to do with a tackler and covering defence in the area, however a deft chip over and full speed ahead engaged saw the winger get to the ball just in time for his second score of the day. As he touched down he was shadowed by the fleet footed Gregor Hollerin who was in attendance just in case.   Given how the first few minutes had panned out GHK would have to have been very happy to see themselves ten points to the good.

PL continued their composed and effective game plan and got on the scoreboard with a penalty. If anything they ramped up the scrum pressure and there was a feeling that once they got in to the red zone it could be pretty challenging for the visitors. Again though GHK battled on with Mike Borthwick combining well with scrum half Aird to ensure that somehow GHK ball was protected. However, eventually PL were rewarded with a score after a period of pressure to draw level with half an hour gone.

The home side kicked on and some crisp handling followed by a cracking angle carved a gaping hole in the Glasgow defence and PL were over for try number two. Seventeen points without reply for the East Lothian men. The tide had well and truly turned. Once again however, the dig of the GHK side was exhibited as they clawed their way back deep in to home territory and with the last play of the half they were rewarded with a penalty that Danny Campbell converted keeping their hosts well in sight at the break.  Half time Preston Lodge 17 GHK 13

For most of the first half GHK appeared to have remained on the right side of the law in terms of penalty awards but as the second period unfolded they appeared to have been transformed in to serial offenders and two quick penalties restored the home side’s ten point advantage. Worse was to follow when, moments later, after failing to deal with an up and under, some smart handling by the PL backs saw them under the posts for the first try of the half. As they trotted back for the restart GHK were on the wrong end of a 30-13 and surely must have been wondering how did we manage to do that. With less than ten minutes of the half gone it was pretty close to game over for the visitors. Thankfully, there was a plan being hatched for a remarkable recovery.

First, after a series of composed phases of possession, Callum Kerr put Rory Taylor in space and the replacement winger closed the deal with a fine score in the corner. Moments later that man Kerr helped himself to a great individual try as the somewhat shell shocked PL defenders failed to lay a hand on the powerful flanker as he crossed the line. Back to a five point lead to the home side.

That lead was stretched to eight as a penalty award was slotted over by the very assured Preston Lodge scrum half. They kept up the pressure and another GHK offence saw Danny Campbell sent to the bin. In fairness both sides did appear to be on the end of a few last warnings from referee Lee Fish. The numerical disadvantage looked to have galvanised the visitors as they spent most of the following ten minutes deep in PL territory. A series of line out drives saw GHK come very close and eventually their diligence was rewarded with a classic catch and drive and ball carrier Gordi Reid claimed the score. Mike Martin took over the conversion duties and closed the gap to just the one point.

The GHK pressure was sustained and it was PL’s turn to get their ‘go to jail’ card as their continued infringements were rewarded with a yellow. The GHK scrum had stuck to it and had for most of the half achieved parity with their hosts whose early dominance had been nullified. GHK looked the more likely side at this time and it was no great surprise when Callum Kerr battered over to give GHK the lead and the Mike Martin conversion took the lead to six points with about nine minutes to go.

The see saw nature of the game was continued in to the last stages of the match. The GHK support would have been hoping that some possession/territory in the PL half might have produced one more perhaps clinching score, but PL had other ideas and reverted to their controlled structured rugby. The resurgent GHK scrum was put to the test with a series of scrums close to the line, as was the fringe defence. A number of home assaults were held up perilously close. There was some brave and sensible Glasgow defence.

Having faced down the forward onslaught, GHK had to deal with the PL runners who had demonstrated drive and cutting edge all day. There was a craft and power about the home backs and eventually they carved out a chance and a try was scored way out left. With the score at 39-38 in favour of the visitors, the PL scrum half lined up the conversion. This was the man who hit the post at OA back in November. This time he was a couple of feet wide and GHK retained the slimmest of advantages. Sighs of relief all round.

The restart was the last play. PL did not panic and went through the phases. GHK brought the defensive ‘A’ game and let nothing past in those tense closing moments. A knock on in midfield brought cheers from the visitors, players and supporters alike, and the referee called time. 

Preston Lodge 38 GHK 39

Over the two league encounters GHK beat PL with an aggregate 68-65. It goes without saying that both matches could have gone either way. Two bonus points for PL from today’s proceedings was probably scant reward for their contribution, whilst GHK packed another five league points in the bag to take back west.     

Fine performances from many today. Captain Parker led by example and his line out dominance was critical. The front five in general, including replacement McGuire, got to grips with the impressive PL scrum and gave a good platform. No one shirked defensive chores when the call came. Callum Kerr would be a tired soul on Sunday after a serious shift in attack and defence. Mike Martin kicked smartly and used the wide open spaces of Pennypit to good effect. Rory Taylor made an immediate impact and the GHK backs generally carried threat with ball in hand all playing their part in the ten try thriller.

GHK man of the match – sorry double try scoring Kerr and Taylor, but it has to be the wee man with the big heart and generous helping of rugby nous, the retiree – Gordi Reid. Good luck with the whistle and thanks for the memories. All that remained for Gordi was to survive the return bus journey…..and for the supporters to enjoy the President’s cheese board. Mange tout Henry!

Next week Biggar at home – last home game of the season.

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