STEPHEN BRUNSDON @ Braidholm
FULL-BACK Chris Hyde kicked 24 points to give GHA a much-needed second win of the Premiership season against a Jed-Forest side which ended up being their own worst enemy in the closing stages.
In an end-to-end contest from start to finish, 10 tries were split between two sides who embraced attacking rugby with alacrity throughout. In the end, it was indiscipline from traveling Jed which proved the difference, with GHA taking full advantage to deny the visitors a losing bonus point to boot.
For head coach Trevor Carmichael, this was the performance he’d been searching for after a tricky start to the new season. “We gifted them a lot of free ball in the first half and I said to the boys at half-time that we needed to have more control in the second,” he said. “But then we started the second half by conceding 14 points, so I thought ‘oh no, here we go again’, but the boys dug deep and we came together as a squad in the last 20 to 25 minutes.
“It helps that we have a good goal-kicker as well, Chris really did a superb job and that’s something we’ve maybe missed in the last few seasons, someone to kick the points.”
The two sides came into the seventh round of the Premiership close in the table but with quite differing form. Visitors Jed-Forest were riding the crest of a wave after putting Heriot’s to the sword last weekend while the hosts were left licking their wounds following a narrow defeat away to Selkirk.
The problem for GHA so far this season has been their inability to convert territory into points, but the home side started strongly and bagged the first of their five tries inside the opening three minutes.
Against a strong breeze, Jed had been forced to try and play out of their own half. GHA seized on a loose ball and wasted little time in getting it to their winger Luca Bardelli who streaked in at the corner. Hyde slotted the touchline conversion.
The early lead was extended to 10-0 moments later as Hyde punished Jed, who were pinged for holding on just inside their own half.
Jed had been caught on the hop early on, but proof that they were here to play came after 11 minutes, as Paulo Ferreira crashed over from short-range following a five-metre penalty line-out. Hooker Finlay Scott added the extras to make it a three-point game.
Within the space of six minutes, GHA suddenly led by 10 points. The hosts benefitted from a reversed penalty on the Jed 10 metre line following dissent from full-back Lewis Young and Hyde dutifully kicked the penalty, then centre Charlie Lonergan finished off a concerted period of possession deep inside the 22 to sneak over for his team’s second try.
While GHA looked the more dangerous side with ball in hand, their indiscipline at the breakdown was costing them. Jed got on the front foot inside the GHA half with Lewis Young and Robbie Shirra-Gibb beginning to cause problems. A deliberate knock-on gave Jed another line-out five metres from the line and, when the ball was spread to fly-half Callum Young, Jed had their second try.
Young used his upper body strength to swat aside the last defender and touch down near the posts. Scott converted to reduce the deficit, but GHA restored their six-point margin at the break courtesy of a third Hyde penalty kick.
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On the other side of half-time, Jed came racing out the blocks and took the lead for the first time in the game thanks to a try from Blake Roff. GHA had been penalised on the halfway line, which gave Jed an attacking line-out inside the 22. The Borderers traded in their dominant rolling maul for a series of pick and go’s, with Roff finding a way over the line.
Having found their groove early in the second period, Lewis Young bagged the bonus point score six minutes later as he streaked in at the corner, despite an apparent forward pass in the build-up.
GHA’s response was immediate, following a scuffed clearance from Jed at the restart. Having won the line-out, Lonergan got close for the hosts before scrum-half George Baird – returning to the 1st XV following a shoulder injury – whipped the ball out to Bardelli who grabbed his second in the corner.
Hyde missed the conversion, but GHA did not have to wait long before they were in again. This time, another mistake from Jed allowed Lonergan to latch onto a wayward pass to burst upfield before feeding fly-half Aminio Bogidrau. He in turn offloaded to on-rushing Fijian winger Amena Caqusau who went under the posts.
Such has been the up-and-down, back-and-forth nature of the Premiership season to date, that few in the Braidholm crowd seriously expected things to calm down after that. And Jed-Forest duly obliged by reclaiming the lead after 65 minutes as GHA found themselves down to 14-men when hooker Archie Falconer was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.
Jed reverted to their tried-and-trusted rolling maul from the five-metre line-out. And it worked a treat, as captain Clark Skeldon crashed over. Scott’s conversion strayed wide of the uprights, leaving the match a one-point game at 36-35.
The final 10 minutes were almost anti-climactic, as Jed’s indiscipline started to get the better of them. Before Hyde slotted a pair of late penalties though, there was a moment of pure genius from Caqusau as the winger brilliantly burst up the field from his own 22, selling a sumptuous dummy which even his own team-mate bought, before being dragged down deep in the Jed half.
Jed knocked on and from the resulting GHA scrum, Caqusau scored his second to put GHA back in front.
From there, it seemed like the wind had been knocked out of Jed’s sails as cheap penalties – a late hit on replacement scrum-half Fergus Johnston from Roff and more dissent – gave GHA the opportunities they needed to see out the game in relative comfort.
“We knew we needed to be more clinical in the key areas of the field and we managed that today,” Carmichael said. “It was a bit loose at times, but we took advantage of their indiscipline and just took the points when they were available, build that score and make sure of the win.”
For his counterpart, Andrew Brown, it was a game where victory had been there for the taking once again.
“We should have won that game, 100 percent,” he said. “Our discipline really let us down in the final 10 minutes, we know there’s a bit of a stigma with Jed as a team and we are really working on it and getting better, but I don’t think GHA were a 49 points team today.
“As ever, we’ll watch the video and see where we can improve. The wind in the first half was strong and sort of forced us to try and run, and that cost us two tries when we lost possession.”
GHA: C Hyde; L Bardelli; C Lonergan, K Dixon, A Caqusau; A Bogidrau, G Baird; E Caven, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, A Barnett, S Plumridge, D Ewing, L McCutcheon. Subtitutes: A Sacha, S Callaghan, W Graham, F Johnston, J Ventisei.
Jed-Forest: L Young; L Elder, R Marshall, B McNeil, R Shirra-Gibb; C Young, A Bambrick; A Sweenie, F Scott, P Ferreira, J Story, C Skeldon, E Lauder, B Roff, M Atkinson. Substitutes: T Cromarty, G Paxton, H Meadows, D Gillespie, C Wyness.
Referee: C Lazenby
GHA: Tries: Bardelli 2, Lonergan, Caqusau 2; Cons: Hyde 3; Pens: Hyde 6.
Jed-Forest: Tries: Ferreira, C Young, Roff, L Young, Skeldon; Cons: Scott 4; Pens: Scott
Scoring Sequence (GHA first): 5-0; 7-0; 10-0; 10-5; 10-7; 13-7l 13-10; 18-10; 20-10; 20-15; 20-17; 23-17 (h-t) 23-22; 23-24; 23-29; 23-31; 28-31; 33-31; 35-31; 35-36; 40-36; 43-36; 46-36; 49-36.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: It cannot be understated how important it is to have a reliable goal-kicker and GHA know that more than most teams. Therefore, full-back Chris Hyde gets it for his near-perfect performance from the tee. Although it was raining tries, this was a day when the boot did the talking on the scoreboard in the end.
Talking point: Without sounding like a broken record, Jed’s indiscipline in the closing stages was the key factor in how this game ended. Most notably, the final two penalties from Hyde stemmed from what Jed coach Brown called “brain farts”. Back-chat turned a penalty on the halfway line to a vastly more kickable one on the 10 metre line for Hyde, while Roff’s late hit on Johnston brought the penalty all the way to where the ball landed, near the Jed 22. If Jed can continue to iron out their indiscipline woes, they will surely win more matches.