Currie Chieftains 43
IAIN MORRISON @ Malleny Park
DRAMA doesn’t get any better than this compelling and compulsive match between two good sides that displayed limitless ambition and skill over the piece. This game offered 13 tries in all, seven of which went to the winners, with the lead changing hands seven times. It wasn’t decided until the final whistle blew. Package this somehow, someway and you’ll be a rich man.
Currie finished on top but only just and they must have doubted it for long stretches of this match. GHA enjoyed a 26-5 lead in the first half and even when the inevitable Chieftains comeback materialised after the break, the Glasgow side fought back to regain the lead not once but twice.
“That was a great game of rugby,” – no one could argue with GHA coach Trevor Carmichael’s assessment. “We got off to a good start but the (Currie) score just before half time didn’t help us and we got that yellow.
“We always knew that Currie would come back into the game, which they did against our 14 men, scoring a couple of tries. Then it was tit-for-tat but we have to take a massive amount from the performance of the boys today. We can compete against any team.”
GHA did more than compete, they held a narrow 40-36 advantage as the match entered the final ten minutes, which were excruciating for the fans and utterly exhausting for the poor players. GHA were pinned in their own half but constantly attempted to run the ball out, knowing any kick would mean another long defensive set. The visitors tackled themselves to a standstill, literally in some cases, only to have their hearts broken when Currie flanker Ewan Stewart barged over for the winning score minutes from time.
Everything was going according to plan when the opening try went to the home side just three minutes into this game. Fly-half Sam Leto’s delicate kick-pass was collected expertly by winger James McCaig, who popped the ball inside where supporting scrummy Cameron Lessels was able to walk the ball over the line.
So far so straightforward and the Currie faithful settled into their seats to enjoy another afternoon of one-way rugby – only to see their world turned turtle by a committed and skilful display by GHA that sets a new standard by which this team will have to judge themselves.
The visitors scored four unanswered tries and 26 successive points before Currie bothered the scoreboard again. Two of the touchdowns went to hooker Archie Falconer, who enjoyed a dream afternoon. He grabbed the first as part of a rolling maul from a five-metre lineout and then had a big hand in the second.
Currie full-back Charlie Brett attempted a delicate chip over the visiting hooker, who snatched the undercooked kick out of the air and headed off to the Currie try line like a man with a train to catch. He was halted short but when the ball was eventually moved wide left, prop Eric Cavan rounded the last defender to score GHA’s second.
Currie then lost Lessels to a yellow card after he tackled George Baird early in the course of running a quick tap penalty. It proved an expensive mistake as GHA filled their boots with another two touchdowns while Currie were short-handed.
The first went to Falconer who, again, popped up on the right wing to finish off a long flowing movement and the bonus point fourth try, coming well before the half-hour mark, went to Charlie Lonergan directly from a set scrum.
Currie were trailing by 5-26 and nothing much was going their way. Lessels threatened at one point but was expertly tackled by full-back Chris Hyde. A little later and Brett’s pass to McCaig sailed safely into touch. It was all hugely frustrating for the home fans until salvation arrived in the unlikely figure of Ryan Stewart.
The hooker showed a clean pair of heels to all comers when breaking from deep to take play right up to the GHA line. The visitors lost flanker James McEntegart to a yellow card (not rolling) and Currie grabbed a lifeline, scoring with the last play of the half, Ramsay barreling over from short range after his fellow forwards did the usual softening-up job.
Two more Currie tries arrived in the opening exchanges of the second 40 against a 14-man GHA, the first to Michael Vernel, the second to lock Cody Roman. Those scores brought Currie right back into contention with the conversion by Adam Hall, the first Currie had managed all afternoon, making the score 22-26. Another score by replacement Ally McCallum just before the hour mark took Currie into the lead 29-26 for the first time since the opening exchanges.
The mood music appeared to have changed with Currie now back in the old groove, but GHA had other ideas and strung together the best move of the match for scrum-half Baird to score in the right-hand corner – but not before brilliant offloads from both fly-half Aminio Bogidrau and full-back Hyde, with the latter converting expertly from the touchline to nudge his side back not the lead.
But not for long. Currie won an attacking lineout and then GHA conceded a penalty try, a relief to the fans as no one had to attempt a conversion, to nose ahead yet again.
And again GHA hit back. Lonergan ran the ball out of defence, Falconer made good yards on the left and then Hyde showed his dancing feet to waltz past a couple of defenders to score and then claim his fifth conversion of the afternoon. And still it was all in vain.
“What a ridiculous game that was, but what a great spectacle for those people who were watching,” said a beaming Chieftains coach Mark Cairns. “We want games like that every week!
Did he feel that Currie’s second-half comeback had an air of inevitability about it?
“No, and I’m not just saying that. I knew that they would keep fighting. Once you think you are ahead old habits creep back in and then you don’t defend properly and you don’t respect the opposition and they get back in the game again. They played some brilliant rugby, especially with their offloads around the contact.
“But I am so proud of our guys because they reframed the whole situation at half-time, saying ‘what a challenge we’ve given ourselves’.”
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J McCaig, DJ Innes, A Hall, C Meager; S Leto, C Lesseis; C Anderson, R Stewart; C Ramsay, W Inglis, C Roman, E Stewart, M Vernal, R Davies. Subs: J Halliday, E McCallum, A McCallum, J Duncan, G Cannie.
GHA: C Hyde; A Spowart, C Lonergan, M MacFarlane, A Caqusau; A Bogidrau, G Baird; E Cavan, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, A Barnett, J McEntegart, D Ewing, L McCutcheon. Subs: J Low, S Callaghan, W Graham, R MacFarlane, G Mollison.
Referee: Michael Todd.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Lessels, Ramsay, Vernel, Roman, McCallum, Pen Try, Stewart; Cons: Hall, Leto 2.
GHA: Tries: Falconer 2, Cavan, Lonergan, Baird, Hyde; Cons: Hyde 5.
Sequence of scoring: 5-0; 5-5; 5-7; 5-12; 5-14; 5-19; 5-24; 5-26; 10-26 (h-t) 15-26; 20-26; 22-26; 27-26; 29-26; 29-31; 29-33; 36-33; 36-38; 36-40; 41-40; 43-40.
Yellow cards –
Curie Chieftains: Lessels 13 mins)
GHA: McEntegart (39 mins)
Man of the Match: Take your pick – any one of 30-odd players put their hands up today. Special mention goes to GHA flankers Dario Ewing (a tackle machine) and Jamie McEntegart (who carried brilliantly), but even they were overshadowed by the contribution of full-back Chris Hyde who kicked five from six conversions, contributed a try himself and had a hand in several others … on top of his sterling defensive duties.
Talking point: Had GHA taken a 26-5 lead into the halftime break they might have held firm but Currie’s score just before the break set them up for three more in the third quarter and, while the visitors refused to have their tummies tickled, they were up on the back foot for much of the second forty.