GHK v Dumfries BT National League Cup Saturday 10th March 2018
With Dumfries handily placed for promotion and having beaten GHK quite comfortably in a recent league fixture at home, they probably travelled in confident mood and duly booked their place in the semi finals of the BT National League Cup. However, although eventually prevailing they were made to fight hard by a GHK side who will feel that they contributed hugely to their own downfall and still almost managed to snatch victory at the end.
In some ways the game was played out in microcosm within the first two minutes. GHK kicked off, did really well to regain possession, played some good rugby going through the phases before spilling the ball in contact gifting a long-range score to Dumfries with their first touch. 0-5
At this stage of the competition, games are officiated by a team of match officials who, on this occasion were not only ‘miked up’ but also supported by an SRU assessor and a performance reviewer – no pressure on the officials then!
As has been the case in a few games recently, such as Wales v Scotland last week, the first scrum feed – by GHK – was penalised as not straight but all other scrum feeds in the game were subsequently straight – must have worked then!
Perhaps surprisingly, GHK had the upper hand in the scrums throughout the game but didn’t really make the advantage pay, although the home side’s first points of the day did come from a scrum penalty which Danny Campbell duly stroked over.
GHK continued to play some good stuff without ever really threatening the line and another possession easily turned over resulted in Dumfries’ second try taking them to 10-3 ahead.
The visitors’ third try was at least created by a fine run by their full back although the hole he ran through seemed to appear rather too easily. This time it was converted and Dumfries led 17-3 at the interval with the elements in their favour in the second half.
GHK began the second half brightly and the referee, having issued what looked like a final warning to both teams, sent a Dumfries miscreant to the side-lines for a 10-minute breather. GHK elected to kick the resultant penalty which seemed a questionable decision given the man advantage, a dominant scrum, a 14 point deficit and a strong wind against. Anyway, the kick was missed and when, shortly afterwards, a yellow card was given to GHK’s Mark Smith, Dumfries made no mistake and took their lead to 20-3.
GHK were now running and passing with more purpose and vigour and a good line out drive led to the ball being fed to Danny Campbell who managed to evade the cover to go in under the posts. Duly converted for 10-20 but time running out.
A further Dumfries penalty stretched their lead and despite persistent GHK pressure the home side were only able to manufacture one more try before the referee brought proceedings to a halt. Final score GHK 17 Dumfries Saints 23.
Dumfries deserved their win, having taken most of the chances which came their way but GHK will feel that a couple of expensive errors maybe cost them in the long run. As usual, lots to be positive about in GHK’s performance. A young inexperienced side who put in a good shift defensively and never gave up. The pack, missing a few regulars, had the better of the set piece and grafted in the loose. The backs stuck to their task, always looking to create something, although handling wasn’t as sharp as on some occasions this season.
In terms of man of the match I think a joint award to the five who performed so well in the front row across the eighty minutes is a fair shout.
Updated 22:41 - 12 Feb 2018 by Hugh Barrow