BT PREMIERSHIP: CURRIE 23-28 GALA

COLIN RENTON @ Malleny Park

A GALA side brimming with spirit and determination posted a deserved bonus point victory over a Currie outfit that left it too late to hit top gear and had to settle for a narrow losing bonus.

Gala had finished strongly in defeat to Glasgow Hawks seven days earlier and, much to the delight of coach Opeta Palepoi, the men in maroon carried on where they had left off.

“I thought the first half we were all over them”, said Palepoi, who shows no sign of hanging up his boots. “Last week was a learning curve but we came out this week and put it right. I was really impressed with our defence.”

Back on home turf and still smarting from a heavy opening day loss at Ayr, Currie edged in front after three minutes when summer signing Graeme Clow stroked over a close-range penalty. That advantage lasted all of two minutes before Gregor Hunter, back at his first club following a spell in the pro ranks with Edinburgh rugby and Glasgow Warriors, replied in kind from around 35 metres.

Currie had contributed to their own downfall at Ayr with a high error count, and they proved that the lesson had not been learned when uncertainty inside the danger zone allowed Gala winger Craig Robertson to pounce on a speculative kick ahead and touch down.

Hunter added the extras then stretched Gala’s lead to ten points when he banged over a long-range penalty award in 18 minutes.

Clow clawed back three points with a second successful penalty but Gala continued to enjoy the territorial advantage, although the Borderers suffered a blow when they lost the services of Palepoi in 28 minutes with a recurrence of an old knee injury.

Currie were having better fortunes in the scrum where Glasgow props Jarrod Firth and Alex Allan combined to good effect with former pro colleague Fergus Scott. However, they failed to add to their points tally and Gala stretched further into the lead when they capitalised on another mistake in the home ranks.

A spilled ball in the opposition half appeared to pose little threat to the Currie line but a boot ahead turned the home defence and Ross Combe showed his pace as he hacked on then outsprinted Cameron Smith to dive over for a fine opportunist try that concluded the first half scoring.

Currie restarted strongly with Ross Weston was held up over the line. The Gala defence remained firm in the face of a string of scrums until the pressure eventually paid off when a powerful surge following aline-out  shunted the Gala defence backwards and allowed Hamish Bain to apply the final touch. Clow’s conversion cut the deficit to five points and gave the hosts hope.

But two tries in five minutes for the visitors looked to have extinguished any hopes of a fightback. The first was a reward for the persistence of Robertson, who appeared to have been tackled but who continued to pump his legs and blasted his way through the defence to touch down for a second time.

And the bonus point score stemmed from a searing burst by full back Graham Spiers, who raced deep into Currie territory and created the platform for a slick move that ended with Josh Irvine touching down. A 15 point gap with less than 20 minutes to play, and the momentum now firmly in their favour appeared sufficient to guarantee all five points for Gala.

But Currie belatedly raised the pace to ensure a nervous finale for Gala and garner a narrow defeat bonus.

With the clock ticking on towards 80 minutes, Charlie Shiel fired out a pass that allowed Mathew Hooks to touch down and the replacement scrum-half was also the creator a couple of minutes later with an audacious chip that landed in space and allowed Cameron Gray to gather and plunge over.

That sparked a desperate final play. Currie kept the ball alive and pulled the Gala defence one way then the other and there was a huge of sigh of relief when a pass by Weston that would have sent Gray in for a second time failed to go to hand.

Acknowledging that it was a missed opportunity, a frustrated Weston was left ruing the fact that Currie had taken so long to hit their stride.

“We finished really well but you are never going to win games if you play for ten minutes out of 80,” he said.

Teams –

Currie: C Davies; M Hooks, M McPhillips, R Nelson, C Gray; G Clow, R Snedden; J Cox, F Scott, J Firth, H Bain, S Ainslie, R Davies, T Gordon, R Weston©. Subs: G Carson, A Allan, G Temple, C Shiel, C Smith.

Gala: G Speirs©; R Combe, P Hendry, R Jeffrey, C Robertson; G Hunter, G Lott; A Dell, M Carryer, G Robertson, O Palepoi, C Weir, R Louw, J Irvine, S Cairns. Subs: D Brooker, C Keen, A Emond, G Mein, S Fairburn.

Scorers –

Currie: Tries: Bain, Hooks, Gray, Con: Clow Pens: Clow (2)

Gala: Tries: Robertson (2), Combe,Irvine Con: Hunter, Pens: Hunter (2)

Referee: F Brown

Man-of-the-Match: Gala may have been hit by the loss of key personnel but the capture of Ross Combe from Jed-forest should help offset the departures if he continues to perform like this, with pace in attack and bravery in defence.

Talking point: Gala have been hard hit by departures this season but if they continue to gather momentum, they have the players and the attitude to build a winning habit.

Scoring sequence (Currie first): 3-0, 3-3, 3-8, 3-10,3-13, 6-13, 6-18 (h-t) 11-18, 13-18, 13-23, 13-28, 18-28, 23-28.

About Colin Renton 296 Articles
Colin has been a freelance writer on various subjects for more than 20 years. He covers rugby at all levels but is particularly passionate about the game at grass roots. As a fluent French speaker, he has a keen interest in rugby in France and for many years has reported on the careers of Scots who have moved across the Channel. He appreciates high quality, engaging writing that is thought provoking, and hopes that some of his work fits that bill!