GHK v Preston Lodge, 6 January 2018
Someone referred to it as ‘stir crazy Saturday’. Well, that may well have been the reason for a very decent crowd gathering by pitch 4 at Old Anniesland to witness GHK take on Preston Lodge in the first BT National League Two business of 2018. A goodly number of supporters had made their way through from Prestonpans to support the East Lothian side suggesting that stir craziness could be a widespread affliction.
Any notion that there might be some lingering festive sluggishness in the players was quickly dispelled as both sides traded blows looking sharp to exploit the slightest gap. The first scoring opportunity fell to PL but what looked like a very kickable penalty was pushed wide. However, five minutes later the visitors took the lead crossing for a try out right albeit with a hint of forward pass in the build up.
After a tidy start and that initial reverse how would GHK react? Thankfully the answer was very positively. Three rapid fire tries from Cammy Hughes, Rory Taylor and Robin Coates saw the OA XV take the initiative. The third of those tries came from a PL restart and involved a catch, spin and break by Mark Smyth culminating with Robin Coates having enough gas (just) to make the line.
Back came PL and after a spell of close quarter drives their reward was an unconverted try after the home defence had been sucked in. GHK ramped up the pressure one more time. The forwards were winning plenty ball and with major threats behind the scrum gaps were being found in the visitors’ rear guard. There is no one better than Danny Campbell at exploiting any hesitancy in a defence so it was perhaps entirely predictable that he was the man to turn the screw with a couple of cracking tries in the closing minutes of the first half. A yellow card added to the gloom for PL.
Half time GHK 31 Preston Lodge 10
The second half saw GHK defending the pavilion end. The home side bossed possession and territory in the opening quarter hour. The intensity was sustained and PL upped the penalty concession count. However it was almost at the midway point of the second period before Danny Campbell completed his hat trick with another score that demonstrated his power, pace and eye for a deadly angle.
It was PL’s turn to score immediately from the restart keeping GHK within sight almost. From nowhere GHK started to have a few problems in the scrum and after a penalty or two a card followed. It looked like an opportunity for the visitors but they were penalised at the very next set piece much to the disbelief of the travelling support. A quick tap, a length of the field breakout and a touchdown by Cammy Hughes set the seal on a good day for GHK.
The last scoring action of the day saw PL get their fourth and bonus point score. As the temperature plummeted the referee called time and a brisk march to the warmth of the clubhouse followed. Final score GHK 43 Preston Lodge 20
A very satisfactory day for GHK. Some excellent rugby and no sign of much in the way of rustiness. A fine squad effort even though all the home scoring was done by the lads that frequent the positions outwith the forwards. Numbers ten, eleven, twelve and thirteen (that is Hughes, Coates, Campbell and Taylor) monopolised the tries and looked seriously dangerous every time they were in space.
The home forwards were dominant, more than holding their own in the tight and making multiple hard yards through some powerful driving and offloading. All eight along with subs Ben Farmer and Feargus Haston got through a mountain of work laying the platform for the speedsters outside.
GHK player of the day? Pick any one form nineteen. But for ‘setting the tone’ and a very mature eighty minutes Ewan Stewart gets the nod. Well done sir. Well done all.
Updated 22:09 - 7 Jan 2018 by Hugh Barrow