Highland leave it really late at Gala
GALA 18-22 HiGHLAND
Highland made the long trek to Gala buoyed by the previous weeks home win over Melrose in difficult conditions.
The team showed several changes from the team that stared against Melrose through a combination of injury and unavailability.
Up front Ollie Smith replaced Kevin Brown (hamstring), and Svend Pedersen came in to replace Sean Blair (shoulder), Callum MacPherson joined him in the 2nd row, with Ritchie Dinnes coming into the back row.
In the backs, Jamie Carson came into inside centre for the unavailable Timoci Waqanibau, with the rest of the line up being the same as the Melrose game.
There were more changes on the subs bench, with both Asaeli Saumaka, and Patrick Ratumaisese providing front row cover. There was also the prospect for a 1st XV debut for Dylan Monk who stepped up from the Raptors together with Callum Boyd, and Dan Corr.
It was a great day for rugby at Netherdale, with a firm pitch underfoot and a bright sky overhead.
Highland kicked off, and received the ball back from Gala when they exited their half. Highland made good progress back up to half way, when a fantastic short ball found Stuart Watson who made a break all the way into the Gala 22 where he was chased down. A couple of phases later and Highlands were awarded a pen for Gala being offside. Highland showed their attacking intent by turning down the shot at goal to go for the corner. However, the plan went wrong when Highland knocked on at the line out.
After 10 mins with almost all the play in the Gala half Highland were awarded another kickable pen after a high tackle in the Gala 22. Highland again chose to kick to the corner rather than take the pot a goal. This time the catch was good and the maul set up, but the ball was knocked on at the back. Gala were able to clear the ball from a retreating scrum to complete their exit. That’s about as good as it got for Highland at this stage as Gala then worked themselves into the game.
Around the 20min mark Gala sent a high ball deep into the Highland 22. Andrew Kellock recovered the ball and passed inside to Adriu Murioki, whose miscued clearance kick came down near the Highland 22. In his rush to make up for the error Adriu came up to tackle the Gala ball carrier and took a leg which tipped the Gala man over. A sharp blow of the whistle meant trouble ahead and Muritoki was yellow carded for what I think was the softest tip tackle I seen in a long time.
From the resulting penalty Gala kicked to the corner. They then set up their own catch and drive. Initially Highland stopped their advance, but Gala cleared the ball to the backs who immediately fed the ball back towards the side line and a runner who split the Highland defence to go in for the first score.
It should have been a formality of a conversion but Magnus Henry charged out and got hands to the ball but not enough to stop the ball going between the sticks. Gala 7-0 Highland.
8 minutes later, Gala found themselves in a near identical position. Kicking a pen for offside to the corner. This time Gala catch and drive worked perfectly to go in for their 2nd try, but the conversion is missed. Gala 12-0 Highland.
Straight from the restart Highland take a more pragmatic approach when awarded a penalty just on the Gala 22, Scott Fraser points to the posts and lands the kick in what is his 150th appearance for the 1st XV. Adriu Muritoki returned to the field once the penalty was scored. Gala 12-3 Highland.
eGala were still applying lots of pressure on Highland and it was possibly their turn to waste chances to go for goal to extend their lead by kicking to the touchline. Ultimately they were camped in the Highland 22 for the last 3 mins of the half and didn’t make any inroads. The half was brought to a close by a dominant tackle by Adriu Muritoki who forced the knock on when he read the Gala play perfectly.
HALF TIME Gala 12-3 Highland.
As the 2nd half gets underway Highland have made 2 changes up front where both Asaeli Saumaka and Patrick Ratumaisese have come on for Ollie Smith and Stuart Watson.
Neither team is really playing well at this point – but I would have said that Gala were the more threatening. Highlands usual fluency seemed to have deserted them. Highland kept knocking people over to break up the Gala attacks, and also tried to be more disruptive at the breakdown.
Unfortunately, 15 mins into the 2nd half, Hugo Crush going of his feet at a ruck presented Gala with penalty just outside the 22 in front of the posts. Possibly learning from the decisions made at the end of the first half Gala went for goal and scored. Gala 15-3 Highland.
A mere two minutes later, after Highland had failed to find touch from a penalty, Gala launched another attack. Highland conceded another penalty in front of the posts. Again the kick was successful. With approx 25 mins gone in the second half it’s starting to look like the game is slipping away from the visitors. Gala 18-3 Highland.
After receiving the restart Gala kick the ball back to Highland, the ball seems to be bouncing around and we’re not organised. However, Scott Fraser spots Adriu Muritoki fast approaching the line and pops a short pass for the flying Fijian to break through the Gala defence. His pace taking him well clear, inexplicably with the line at his mercy, Adriu cat back towards the covering defence instead of pinning his ears back for the certain score in the corner. Sure enough the chance was lost. Surely everyone now knew it wasn’t going to be our day.
During this period Highland made a couple of substitutions bringing on Lochaber men Callum Boyd and Dylan Monk for Jamie Carson and Svend Pedersen respectively. ,There were flickering signs that our attack was functioning better than it was, but still errors would snuff things out when we had made good ground.
With about 8 mins left on the clock the ref issued a warning to Gala for repeated infringements in the 22. Highland continued to press and the Gala outside centre conceded a further penalty and received a yellow card. Once play resumed Highland battered against a strong Gala defence initially moving towards the right wing before coming back left. Callum Boyd made a good run off Scott Fraser but got pulled down short of the try line. The ball was recycled slowly but a good pass across the face of the defence from Hugo Crush to Callum Carson wide left. Co-Captain Carson showed really quick hands to get the ball to Magnus Henry on his outside. Magnus barged over the top of the final defender to get the try. Scott Fraser landed an excellent conversion from just inside the touchline. Gala 18-10 Highland.
Hopes were rising in the stand that we might sneak another score to snatch a losing bonus point which I thought would be a good result based on what had gone before. It’s worth noting that Dan Core had also entered the fray replacing the injured Adriu Muritoki.
Highland got themselves back up the park but knocked on letting Gala have the put in to a scrum in their own 22. Highland applied the pressure disrupting the scrum. Hugo Crush harried the Gala scrum half and the Highland forwards reacted quickly to drive beyond the ball. The ball came back on the Highland side, Asaeli Saumaka picked up the ball and passed to the supporting Callum Carson. Callum rushed towards the Gala posts drawing a defender before offloading to Dylan Monk for an easy run in for a try to the left of the posts on his 1st XV debut. Scott Fraser got hold of the ball quickly and went for a quick drop kick to convert only to see the ball rattle of the post – much to the delight of the Gala crowd. Gala 18-15 Highland
Surely a losing bonus point in the bag now, if nothing else Scott Fraser quick conversion attempt meant there was still time to restart the game.
When Highland received the ball they ran a few phases taking the ball outside their 22 on the right hand side of the pitch. Hugo Crush got the ball to Scott Fraser who shipped on to Dan Corr on our 22 in front of the posts. Dan in turn passed to Michael Gray, looping to become a support runner. Michael then steps inside a despairing defender and offloads back outside to Dan Corr. Dan cuts inside another defender carring the ball up to just short of the half way line before offloading out of the tackle to Magnus Henry lurking on the left wing. There are still two covering defenders – neither of which are close enough to prevent Magnus running in from half way. The final act of the game being Scott Frasers conversion.
FULL TIME: Gala 18-22 Highland.
Talk about a great escape, from 15 points down with about 15mins to go. To go to Gala and play the way we did for 70mins and to come away with a win is quite something.
Backs: 15 Adriu Muritoki, 14, Andrew Kellock, 13 Michael Gray, 12 Jamie Carson, 11 Magnus Henry, 10 Scott Fraser, 9 Hugo Crush
Forwards: 1. Stephen Murray, 2 Ollie Smith, 3 Stuart Watson, 4 Svend Dale Pedersen, 5 Calum MacPherson, 16 Ritchie Dinnes, 7 Gordon Gregor, 8 Callum Carson
Subs: 17 Asaeli Saumaka 23 Patrick Ratumaisese 18 Dylan Monk, 19 Callum Boyd, 20 Dan Corr.
Tries: Magnus Henry (2), Dylan Monk Conversions: Scott Fraser (2). Penalties: Scott Fraser
NEXT GAME: Ayr RFC (AWAY), 21st Oct, 3pm KO
Highland Women win on the road (sea and air)
STORNOWAY WOMEN 5-29 HIGHLAND WOMEN
Highland women travelled to the Western isles to play Stornoway Women.
As usual the logistics of the trip are something else. The team flew out to Stornoway on Saturday, and were travelling back by Ferry and bus on Sunday.
I have the bare bones of the game to report. Brian Crush sent me a message stating:
“Highland were happy to pick up an away win in testing conditions. there was some good play by both sides. Highlands win was largely down to having more pace when the team were able to move the ball into space.
Tries: Mhairi Docherty, Ellie Fletcher, Jodie Reid (2), Hannah Sinclair
Conversions: Lauren Parkes, Michaela Munro”
NEXT GAME: Moray Women (HOME), 21st Oct, 2PM KO
Raptors Trail Twice - but come back to win
HIGHLAND 2XV 19-12 MACKIE
Just about the only thing I can tell you about this game is the scoring sequence – I hope to get more info soon.
Mackie took the lead with a converted try. (0-7)
Highland responded with airy of their own, but missed the extra points. (5-7)
Mackie retake the lead with an unconverted try. (5-12)
Highland draw level with an unconverted try. (12-12)
Highland score a converted try to win. (19-12)
NEXT GAME: Ellon Rugby (HOME), 21st Oct 3PM KO