Stewart’s Melville v GHK Saturday 9th October – Match Report

This was always going to be a tough fixture as these two sides have proved well-matched in recent seasons with both seeking to play open, attractive rugby. With GHK missing no fewer than seven of the previous Saturday’s listed starters to add to the challenge and Stew Mel’s programme notes indicating that they were close to full strength – with the possible exception of not having Scott (Gregory’s wee brother) Aldritt available – the task looked even more daunting.

A solid start was clearly the first requirement. Sadly, GHK, not for the first time this season, failed to deal with an opposition kick off with Stew Mel not only gathering their own kick but quickly being awarded the first of a number of penalties which they kicked to the corner and, with ominous looking ease, drove over the resultant maul. With a successful conversion it was 7-0 to the home side with barely two minutes registering on the splendidly bright electronic scoreboard.

Conditions were conducive to the running game that both sides sought to play – mild, dry and calm and, to their credit, GHK settled to the task after their poor start and began to work their way back into the game with occasional flashes of real quality being shown by their outside backs – further details of which later.

It took until the 25th minute, however,  for GHK to register their first points which came as a result of an infringement by the home side after a good spell of pressure from the visitors giving Danny Campbell a straightforward penalty which he duly slotted for 7-3.

The referee and GHK’s captain, Craig Rintoul, were clearly not in total agreement with all of the former’s decisions. In these cases, there is only going to be one winner and Craig’s chat was rewarded with not only a loss of a number of metres but 10 minutes enforced rest as he saw out the end of the first half and beginning of the second from the touchline. Using the extra man to their advantage, Stew Mel kept the ball in the forwards and finished a series of drives by going over near the posts just before the end of the half to make it a 14-3 lead at the interval.

There followed long passages of play where both sides tried all they knew to break down the opposing defence with GHK perhaps showing the greater ambition and higher quality in the backs with Danny Campbell and his two wingers Ben Hutton and Jack Sommerville – the latter keen to make an impression on his return to his former club – all showing their skills. It was indeed, the latter named of the wingers who was in position to finish off a good attacking move to go over near the corner to bring the scores closer at 14-8 with a little over a quarter of the match to go.

Having worked so hard to get back into the match, it seemed that GHK switched off as the home side were able exploit rare lapses in the Glasgow side’s defence to quickly regain a cushion with a converted try for 21-8.

The best of the scores was yet to come, however, when, with little looking on, GHK’s replacement back Ali Olivier, using his skillset honed in sevens, spotted a gap behind the first line of Stew Mel defenders and chipped neatly into it. Full back Campbell responded with a similarly excellent execution of a difficult catch in mid-air before offloading to the ever-dangerous Hutton. The winger still had plenty to do but a swerve, sidestep and acceleration saw him outstrip the remaining defenders for a real try of the season contender. Unfortunately, the kick was missed and, despite both teams’ best efforts, there was no further scoring securing a deserved win for the home side but no bonus point for either side.

For those who follow on Twitter, we can only apologise for the report at the time that Ben had beaten his ‘Nan’ rather than his man. (Thanks are due, of course, to the wits who speculated on why his grandmother was in the opposition or, alternatively if he had, in fact, evaded a peshwari!).

The advantage that Stew Mel had in the tight scrum, although diminished somewhat as the game progressed, was probably the decisive factor, although GHK will rue not being able to make more of the advantage they had in the line out where Hugh Parker again reigned supreme giving them the advantage in terms of overall possession.

Resorting to cliché, the visitors have plenty to be positive about albeit with a few ‘work-ons’. The starting fifteen and replacements all put in a real hard-working shift. Mention has already been made of the back three – all three carried a threat every time they touched the ball. Charlie Campbell, making his 1st XV debut at scrum half performed with composure and formed a very solid partnership with Jordan Kerr. Both centres, Gavin McKirdy and Craig Gossman had their moments in attack and were resolute in defence with Craig being rewarded as the GHK coaches’ choice for this week’s ‘Edinburgh Gin’ Man of the Match Award.

In the pack, captain Rintoul led from the front, perhaps being unlucky not to have gained a few more turnovers and his back row colleagues David Patterson and Hugh Parker both worked tirelessly. Although the front five were up against a very strong Stew Mel unit they sought to make up for the scrum issues by carrying and tackling strongly throughout.

Silver Linings and Reasons to be Cheerful

  1. Despite this first reverse of the season, GHK remain top of the league on points difference as nearest rivals Dumfries also suffered their first loss.
  2. It was a pleasure to watch two teams playing hard but very fair rugby with clear respect for each other and for the spirit of rugby.
  3. Notably at least two players from either side had previously played for the opposition before work or studies took them across to the other side of the country: Jack Sommerville and Cian Smith both having previously played at Inverleith and Niall Hall and Kyle Henderson being recent recruits to the home ranks from GHK.
  4. Although visiting committee numbers were down on the usual contingent, it was great to see a good few GHK supporters make the trip to the far east.
  5. Those of us fortunate enough to be at the pre-match lunch were treated to the usual Inverleith hospitality, courtesy of Stew Mel President Simon Breeze and his committee.
  6. We have a return fixture to look forward to, both on and off the park, on the last Saturday in January at Old Anniesland. Get it in your diary now!
  7. GHK 2nds won their match with Glasgow Accies and the GHK Students XV had another big win, maintaining their position as league leaders.

Onwards to the next challenge – a home match against Preston Lodge next Saturday. Be there.