GHA RFC v Currie Chieftains, 4 December 2021

Thankfully, the foul weather which had confronted travellers along the M8 to Braidholm did improve, but it was a raw, cold afternoon and the pitch rather soggy. Before the match commenced, the passing of 26-year-old International Women’s Rugby player, Siobhan Cattigan was observed with a minute’s silence.

Within two minutes of the kick-off, AP McWilliam careered through the midfield to set up the visitors’ first scoring opportunity. Paddy Boyer nipped over from the resulting breakdown, and Gregor Hunter converted the try.

A few minutes later Currie went close again, but the strong GHA defence, prominent throughout, turned them over and they attacked the visitors with flair. A neat grub-kick opened a passage to the Chieftains’ line, although a knock-on 5 metres out, allowed Currie to clear.

Several probing kicks from Gregor Hunter moved play deep into the GHA red zone, and the visitors’ backs moved the ball sweetly trying to find gaps. James McCaig had a couple of good touchline runs before having to retire injured. Following a considerable amount of forward pressure, Graeme Carson finally burrowed over the line.

Gregor Hunter converted the score and added a penalty goal on 25 minutes, as the visitors could find no way through the home team’s defence. GHA frequently turned the tables on their opponents with quick counter-attacks, led by their fullback and runners in the wide channels. At this stage, and even though they were trailing by 17 points, GHA were looking the livelier of the two teams, and they scored an excellent try near the posts; it was converted, and the pressure continued. The home team should have added to their score, but the ball was skilfully held up by Currie over the line. Shortly after, GHA received a yellow card for what appeared to be a string of infringements. Although the Chieftains scrum was dominant throughout the contest, the visitors could not take any advantage of their extra man. Halftime score: GHA 7 pts, Currie Chieftains 17 pts. 

The Chieftains started the second period with a spring in their step, but unfortunately it didn’t last long. Once again GHA broke away with a passage of fast excellent handling which brought them a penalty goal. Most of what Currie tried to do in attack failed to come off due to inaccuracies, errors and possibly over-ambition in the arduous conditions. When the visitors did get into GHA territory, mistakes and a fine cover defence stopped progress. It was no surprise that Gregor Hunter took the opportunity to kick a penalty goal as his team struggled to secure decent possession or impose themselves on the fired-up opposition.

On the hour mark, and with the winter afternoon light fading fast, the Chieftains were under pressure. A rampant GHA team was running at every opportunity and the visitors were pinned deep in their own half. After Currie’s influential centre, DJ Innes was shown a yellow card for illegally stopping a breakaway, the second GHA try finally arrived when a dash to the corner flag outstretched the visitors defence.

The try was not converted, but for the remaining 15 minutes, play hardly moved outside of the Chieftains’ 22. A splendid rear-guard action, particularly from Adam Hall, Rhys Davies, Wallace Nelson and Gregor Nelson repelled waves of attack. With the line within GHA sniffing distance, a thumping goal-line tackle dislodged the ball from its carrier, and a magnificent Currie scrum allowed them to clear the danger. Although the Chieftains were still in their own half, they frustrated the opposition by retaining possession for the final minutes of the match.

For fans the main consolation from this Chieftains narrow win was the extraordinary defensive performance displayed in the final quarter. This showed another side of the skill and character of the team, quite in contrast to their usual free-running style.

Final Score: GHA RFC 15 pts (t 2, c 1, pg 1) v Currie Chieftains 20 pts (t 2, c 2, pg 2)

I.J.S. – 5.12.21.