A weekend to put behind us, &move on.
The club put out three senior mens teams, and lent players to Skye Rugby who are in their inaugural season. Our women’s 1st XV didn’t have a fixture this week.
So the numbers participating in our senior rugby section are great. That is one of the positives to come out of this weekend as well as the 3rd XV’s improved performance against Ross.
Highland RFC 3-21 GHA RFC
The 1st XV welcomed GHA to Canal Park for the first time on Saturday. Up until last weeks loss at Watsonian’s GHA were the only team to have beaten Highland this season.
GHA, who were relegated from the Premiership last season, gave Highland a lesson in rugby at Braidholm earlier this season. GHA’s performance, especially in the first 20 minutes of that game delivered some of the best club rugby I’ve seen played against a Highland team.
Having said that GHA hadn’t won a match on the road so far this season. So Highland were looking to show that they had learned lessons from the first game and put in good performance in front of a home crowd.
The best we can say is that Highland didn’t concede early, which has been a source of frustration for a while. Indeed Highland got on the score board first in the 14th minute, through a Scott Fraser penalty when GHA were caught off side on their 22. Highland 3-0 GHA.
However, it clearly looked like GHA drew up their blueprint for their win after studying the video from Highlands loss at Watsonians last week.
Their defensive organisation, line speed and first up tackling blunting Highlands attacks.
The Highland set piece has been a good source of ball in the earlier rounds, but this was’t the case last week and the problems continued this week.
The taller GHA team were challenging at almost every lineout, disrupting Highland ball and making the occasional steal.
Similarly the Highland scrum was under pressure. In this game our good scrums held steady, but mostly Highland were struggling to hold and were going backwards. Meaning both Callum Carson, and later Callum MacPherson, as well as scrum half Hugo Crush had to deal with messy ball.
Highland’s best plays usually came from fielding GHA’s kick and launching from deep. There were occasional half chances for wings Dan Corr and Magnus Henry together with full back Adriu Muritoki – but these were shut down by a Highland error or tenacious GHA defence.
Highlands best chance at a try came through Adriu Muritoki. Adriu made a run from around the home 22, then kicked and chased. The tracking defender only just beat Muritiki to the ball and knocking it dead for a goal line drop out.
As for GHA they were making ground more easily, with Highland Coach David Carson urging his team to get off the line quicker to make their chop tackles a theme of the game.
GHA’s line out was pretty secure and they set up several driving mauls to good effect. A tactic that would come back to haunt Highland later in the game.
Whilst Highlands defence maybe wasn’t as it should be, the home team had stopped a few GHA attacks by latching onto the ball and forcing an error from GHA.
With about 40 min on the clock, GHA were awarded a penalty in the Highland 22 when Kev brown was pinged for not rolling away. GHA Winger Ruairi O’Keefe stepped up to land the kick. Highland 3-3 GHA.
With a number of injuries there was still time on the clock.
Highland were awarded a scrum when GHA knocked on when on the attack just 5m from the try line. Unfortunately the GHA pressure at the resulting scrum led to scrum half Crush knocking on when trying to get the ball. Scrum to GHA.
GHA no 8 Luke McCutcheon picked up and drove straight at Scott Fraser and over the line to score. Once again winger O’keefe stepped up to land an excellent conversion to close the half with a deserved half time lead.
Half Time: Highland 3-10 GHA.
Adriu Muritoki pipped to the ball preventing Highland try
No 8 Luke McCutcheon scores 1st GHA try
Into the second half and nothing much has changed.
48minutes in GHA had a line out just outside the Highland 22. A catch and drive took them a further 15m in field and into the Highland 22. The maul went to ground and whilst recycling the ball Highland’s Euan Milton was penalised for playing the scrum half. O’keef again stepped up to knock the kick over and keep building the score. Highland 3-13 GHA.
Just 5 minutes later, GHA and O’Keefe repeated the punishment when landing another penalty after referee caught Stephen Murray for going in at the side of a maul on Highlands 22. Highland 3-16 GHA.
GHA had their tails up and whilst they never really looked like cutting loose in the backs they didn’t have to as they definitely had the upper hand up front. Why change a winning tactic.
A matter of minutes later another catch and drive saw GHA maul the ball all the way from the 22 to just short of Highlands try line. Ritchie Dinnes was initially penalised for coming in at the side, and again for bringing the maul down, resulting in him taking a 10 minute break at the referees request.
GHA who were winning the scrum battle against a full Highland pack chose to scrum instead of kicking the resulting penalty, confident they could do a job against a depleted Highland set piece.
Sure enough the Highland scrum was forced back, but No8 McCutcheon picked up and going to the blind side. He passed onto the scrum half who found O’keefe flying up on the outside to score GHA’s 2nd try at the corner flag. O’keefe couldn’t convert his own try. Highland 3-21 GHA.
With 20mins still remaining in the half Highland may have capitulated – but they didn’t. Indeed whilst definitely fighting a rearguard action for most of the remainder of the game they didn’t concede another point. Something that will have disappointed GHA. Not that you’d have thought that given their celebrations at full time – when they had secured their first away win of the season.
FULL TIME: Highland 3-21 GHA.
The Highland crowd voted their own Gordon Gregor the Man of the Match award. Though I would have said that almost any of GHA’s pack could have won it, or winger O’Keefe for an excellent kicking performance and his try.
Next Game 25th Nov: GHK RFC, Old Anniesland, GLASGOW
No way through for Hugo Crush
RAF Lossiemouth 36-12 Highland 2XV
The Raptors (Mens 2XV) went through to Lossiemouth hoping to get back to winning ways against RAF Lossiemouth RUFC.
Unfortunately that was not to be. No further details available at this time
Next Game 25th Nov: Caithness at Canal Park, Inverness, 3pm KO.
Highland 3XV 10-38 Ross Sutherland
The men’s 3rd XV were at home against Ross Sutherland RFC. The 3rd’s were looking for a much better performance than they gave up at Invergordon when they went down by 73-19 earlier in the season.
A much better performance it was too whilst still losing. The coaches reported good performances from Eddie Rarasea, Dougie Darling, Cameron Kent, Mikaela Stark and Jonny MacLean.
Unfortunately Highland No. 8 Roddy Thomson received a red card for a tip tackle.
Highland were still in the game at 60 mins when they were down by 10-14. Apparently Highland should have scored at this time to take the lead but didn’t – the chance was gone.
Despite this the coaches are positive and said a better discipline and some more game management could have made this closer still, and possibly even a Highland win. These elements will come with more experience.
Next Game 25th Nov: Stornoway RFC at Canal Park, Inverness, KO 12:30 PM.