Team Manager Stan Buchan reports on the Club XV’s Tennent’s National League Division One 21-21 draw at Gala:
A wet day in Galashiels brings back bad memories for this reporter of Aitken, Lawrie and Cunningham, Macaulay and Smith, Dickson, Leslie, White and Berthinussen and invariably getting ground down up front by this pack.
A couple of generations later and our young team went out confident of breaking their away hoodoo against a Gala team missing former Watsonians captain Martin Christie.
The pitch was in good condition considering the rain we had experienced overnight and a healthy crowd showed up at Netherdale for the entertainment. We were soon on the attack with good intent showed by the backs, but the first real piece of menace came from our scrum as we managed a mighty heave to send the Maroons backwards at a rate of knots, another former Myreside man, Euan Doods was able to save Gala on this occasion but we anticipated that this part of the game might yield dividends.
Soon afterwards, scrum-half Donald Kennedy was over for the first try and full-back Kerr Stoddart calmly converted to move us to 7-0 up. Gala to be fair tried to handle the ball on every occasion, but their hands were not on the same wave length as their vision.
Knock-ons played to our scrum and from one of these Stuart Allison at 8 broke and made ground to give us a platform inside their ‘22’. We patiently went through the phases and it was fitting that having started the pressure, Allison was the man to finish it off with our second try, again converted by Stoddart and with 19 minutes showing on the clock we were 14-0 up.
Gala came back and most of the second quarter was played between the half-way line and our ‘22’, but we looked secure in our defensive efforts until with 40 minutes on the clock, Gala were awarded a penalty which they kicked to touch and then won the resultant lineout.
Their drive came to nothing, but their backs held onto the ball and went over on the stroke of half-time. The try was converted and we went in at 14-7 in our favour.
Our first real attacking move in the second half brought about a glorious try for skipper Chris Bell as we carved up Gala with some great back play. Stoddart playing well, converted and we moved out to 21-7 ahead.
Gala then had a second-row player yellow carded, harshly in my view, for a deliberate knock-on. From the resultant penalty just on Gala's 10 metre line we opted for a scrum when perhaps a kick to touch would have afforded us greater opportunities.
The scrum was won, but the resultant move broke down with no real gain in territory. From then on Gala grew in confidence and their passes began to stick, we made no inroads on the scoreboard whilst their player was in the 'sin bin' and to add to our disappointment we back chatted to the referee on a couple of occasions, once when the ref had awarded us the penalty which he promptly reversed!
This allowed Gala to gain territory and whilst their scrum toiled their lineout was secure and they rumbled over for a try which they converted. The score was now 21 - 14 and we needed possession and field position, instead we had instances of poor kicking, poor ball retention and a misfunctioning lineout.
When we should have been going for our fourth try, we got ourselves bogged down, seemingly unable to regain control of a match which we had let slip from our grasp.
Gala scored a third try and converted it and were now in ascendancy, back they came and from a lineout near our line, we thought they would try again but we stole it and instead of booting it upfield and clearing the danger, we attempted to run it up the sort side and put through a grubber!
Ball back to Gala and they tried again and won a penalty, stand-off Dean Keddie, who had kicked well all day, pushed it wide. From the ‘22’ drop out, Gala regained possession and moved into our half, Keddie tried a drop goal and fortunately one of our players got a hand to it and it was deflected and the game came to an end.
Coaches and players were not happy with the result and saw it as points lost rather than points won despite having a poor away record this season.
This augurs well for the future as we need a critical process to understand what we are trying to do, where we are going and how we get there and in this process we should be honest with ourselves and learn from our mistakes as opposed to clapping each other on the back and saying at least we didn't get beat.
No game this weekend as we are out of the Scottish Cup already after our opening day defeat at Highland. The second XV are away at Preston Lodge for those aficionados who wish to see a game.
Team: Kerr Stoddart; Corann Henderson, Matt McPhillips, Thomas Klein, Van Kacori; Chris Bell (C), Donald Kennedy; Connor Wilson, Ali Ross, Guy Kelly, Ciaran Kinnear, Charlie Fullarton, Tom Richardson, Callum Lauder, Stuart Allison. Subs: Connor MacLeod, Josh Law, Ollie Hinks, Finlay Broomfield, Jack Ferguson.
Words by Stan Buchan
Image by Graham Gaw, more here