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GHA’s first-half backline blitz, led by hat-trick hero Max MacFarlane at inside centre, guided the home side to a comfortable victory over Selkirk, which the stats, under most circumstances, wouldn’t have otherwise pointed to.
“We were nowhere near accurate enough to be winning any game of rugby today,” said a frustrated Selkirk coach Scott Wight after the final whistle. “We’ve had a lot of possession and a lot of territory – and if you rewind the clock back two weeks against Hawick it’s exactly the same – we’re getting in the right areas but we’re full of inaccuracies.”
Having only been able to play twice before today’s fifth round of Tennent’s Premiership fixtures, an element of ring-rust could be attributed to the visitor’s display.
This weekend’s other Premiership match reports:
“It was showing there,” Wight added. “We’re rusty, the boys weren’t at the races today; there’s too many line breaks; too many individual errors. I don’t want to seem overly negative here, the boys have put in a huge amount of effort but it [lack of match sharpness] showed.”
Selkirk barely allowed the home side a touch in the opening 10 minutes and opened the scoring with their fourth penalty attempt at goal. Stand-off Callum Anderson had missed with two long-range efforts and half-back partner Scott Clark had pulled one from a closer but wider position, before the scrum-half made no mistake with one right in front of the sticks to open the scoring.
GHA hit back almost immediately and with their first venture of note into the Selkirk half. The visitors’ Scott McLymont was penalised for some holding off the ball as GHA set up a ruck deep in the visitor’s 22, and once Gee-ha had successfully completed the line-out, Max MacFarlane cut an inside-out run to crash over the line.
Although Anderson was pulling the strings reasonably well for Selkirk they lacked any real penetration, and more often than not, once GHA had turned the ball over they made metres with ease. One particular break involved magnificently maned full-back Grant Mollison and powerhouse winger Scott Derrick and nearly saw Luke McCutcheon bursting clear down the left flank, but the long pass out to him from Jamie MacKinnon just slipped from the No 8’s fingers on the most Scottish of Scottish-weather days. A two-hour downpour prior to kick-off had made the ground heavy and ball slippery despite the sun splitting the sky until the beginning of the second period.
The continued GHA threat from deep continued, requiring an excellent tackle by Clark on Sean Carden as he and Mollison again found space out wide, but it didn’t take long for the lead to be extended. Again it was MacFarlane shortly after a line-out who cut the angled line, and although he wasn’t able to dive over the line himself he fed scrum-half George Baird.
Selkirk just couldn’t get on the board, even when turning over possession on the edge of the GHA 22. Andrew Grant-Suttie’s ambitious pass didn’t go to hand and was knocked on, and with the half drawing to a close it was that man MacFarlane, again, running on to the ball at pace shortly after a set-piece, who pushed the gap out to 21-3 at half-time.
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The inaccuracies which Wight alluded to kept on coming in the second half. A short-range line-out was knocked on, and then a scrambling Mollison kicked the ball dead behind the try-line to award the visitors a 5m scrum. The ball popped out from under David Nichol’s feet and Baird was able to win a penalty from Jack Hamilton, who had moved from full-back to scrum-half for the second half.
A golden chance to get points on the board was missed when, with acres of space on the right wing, outside centre Benjamin Pickles dummied and went for the line. Then on the opposite wing James Bett thought he had scored but had been pushed into touch.
During the build-up to Bett’s effort, GHA’s McCutcheon had been penalised seemingly for a late hit, and although that tackle itself wasn’t too bad, the accumulation of fouls meant he was taking a 10-minute breather on the naughty step for the second week in a row.
Selkirk, again, failed to make anything of the attacking set play even with the man advantage, and GHA rubbed salt and lemon juice into the open wounds by again tearing down the flank through the combination of Mollison, MacFarlane and Carden. Although it appeared that Carden had knocked on Mollison’s pass, MacFarlane played to the whistle, ran it home, and referee Ross Mabon awarded the try, bringing up the Mad Max hat-trick and the bonus point for GHA.
Frustrated Selkirk did finally get the try their endeavour deserved but not after a bit of a stooshie. At an attacking scrum for the visitors, once more deep in GHA territory, Hamilton’s flailing elbow tickled the ribs of Baird. The near-side touch judge flagged instantly but play continued until an infringement in midfield, at which point Mollison took a bit of revenge for Baird. Both Hamilton and Mollison were sent to the bin, making it a 13 v 14 game for the remaining few minutes of McCutcheon’s binning.
Replacement loosehead Joseph Anderson – who also got into a spot of verbal jousting later in the game with an unimpressed touch judge – finally made the Selkirk pressure pay, but Carden then stroked over a penalty. Then with less than five minutes to play, there was another spill by the visitors, this time by Bett as he went to collect Callum Anderson’s cross-kick. GHA stalwart Ruairi O’Keefe picked up the loose ends, broke down the right and threw a perfect pass inside to fellow replacement Erik Cavan for a simple jog home.
After failing to score in their last two matches against the league’s biggest boys – Currie and Marr – Trevor Carmichael was pleased with the day’s work by his GHA team.
“First half we played well, scored some tries,” he said. “Biggest area round the second half was trying to gain a bit more control, which I don’t think we got. Selkirk came into it and started moving the ball a bit more, and we were probably too long in our half for my liking, but we’ll take a bonus-point win.
“We wanted to make sure our line-out functioned well today, tighten up in the backs – we had three or four really wide passes in that first half which set the heart-rate going a bit – but as cliched as it sounds we’re just taking one game at a time. Edinburgh Accies next up with the Bill McLaren Shield to play for, so that’s a target to take that off them, and then just keep fighting for everything we can get.”
GHA: G Mollison; S Derrick, C Lonergan, M MacFarlane, S Carden; J MacKinnon, G Baird; T Brogan, G Hiddleston, M Fox, A Kerr, J McCarthy, W Alton, W Graham, L McCutcheon. Subs: E Cavan, M Marinkovic, J Bruce, R MacFarlane, R O’Keefe.
Selkirk: J Hamilton; F Anderson, B Pickles, A Grant-Suttie, C Young; C Anderson, S Clark; L Pettie, J Bett, B Riddell, T Brown, A Cochrane, A McColm, S McClymont, D Nichol. Subs: C Turnbull, J Anderson, M Haldane, R Nixon, C McNeil* (*withdrew injured prior to kick-off)
Referee: Ross Mabon
GHA: Tries: MacFarlane 3, Baird, Cavan; Cons: MacKinnon 3; Pen: Carden.
Selkirk: Try: J Anderson; Con: Clark; Pen: Clark.
Scoring sequence (GHA first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 12-3; 14-3; 19-3; 21-3 (h-t) 26-3, 26-8; 26-10, 29-10, 34-10.
Yellow cards –
GHA: McCutcheon, Mollison.
Man of the Match: I may have denied a hat-trick scorer this award last time out, not on this day though. As well as bagging three tries for himself and making Baird’s finish incredibly easy, there were a couple of impressive kicks from Max MacFarlane which turned defence into attack.
Talking Point: As Wight lamented, Selkirk will need to scrape off that ring rust if they’re to avoid a relegation scrap. Outside of Currie and Marr, then arguably Hawick, the rest of the Premiership seem more than capable of taking points off one another.