We went into this game knowing that, as a result of the loss to Dumfries at Invers a fortnight before, we had very little margin of error if we wanted to stay in the promotion race. Anything less than 20 points from our remaining four games and we would start to rely on snookers (like GHK beating Dumfries at Park Farm on 2nd April) to get us over the line.
Saturday was glorious, the sun splitting the sky and with very little wind. As we had done against Dumfries, we started on the front foot, a series of solid carries from James, Danny and Kyle taking us deep into the Gordonian half. Just as we started to get excited, though, the move petered out as we knocked on and then conceded a penalty that allow the visitors to clear their lines.
With eight minutes on the clock it was Gordonians’ turn to attack, a stolen lineout allowing them to advance ominously towards our line. Our defence was solid, though, and the attack ended as we were awarded a penalty.
We were forced to make an early change two minutes after that as Jamie McGurk went off injured, James moving into the centre after making a rare start on the wing and Adam Greig taking up the wing berth.
We finally got the scoreboard ticking over with fifteen minutes on the clock, the pack rumbling over in front of the posts at the Castle end. Willie Malcolm claimed the try and Happy added the points to give us a 7-0 lead.
With our tails up we continued to attack, Aaron making a fine break on the 20 minute mark then Chris Baikie doing the same five minutes later. Chris’s break soon turned into a scoring opportunity, his 20 yard canter up the middle ending with a neat pass to Geoff Angco. A few more phases and we were up to the Gordonian line where a pop pass to Ally Scott allowed him to breenge over from close range. Happy missed the more difficult conversion but we were still 12-0 up.
Our third try came after 35 minutes, a great break by Ally ending with some fine team play and Kyle strolling in for the try. Happy’s conversion made it 19-0.
While our defence had been rock solid for most of the first half, we (almost literally) took our eye off the ball on the verge of half time, a knock on by Ally allowing Gordonian flanker Daniel Brown to hack the ball into our 22. James was back to cover but, rather unwisely, tried to scoop the bouncing ball up one handed. He didn’t manage to do so, fumbling the ball so it could be kicked over our line. Gordonian winger Rory Riddell was on hand to dot down. That made it 19-5 at the break.
Right on cue, Keith Ferguson wandered past and deadpanned: ‘Was that my son giving five points away to the opposition there?’
We didn’t go into our shell after conceding a soft try and started the second half like we did the first, an excellent line out on the Vatican side setting Adam Greig off on a searing break up the line. George Lee ran an excellent support line and gratefully received Adam’s neat pass to score in the corner. An excellent try that was then followed by an excellent conversion, Happy landing an absolute peach from the far touchline that stretched our lead to 26-5 with 45 minutes gone.
We brought on the Bomb Squad fifteen minutes after that, Fraser, Max and Rory coming on to freshen things up.
Gordonians weren’t done, despite the score line, and came close to scoring shortly after we brought on the three subs, a fine kick to the corner at the south end of the stand leaving Geoff in No Man’s Land as the ball arced towards the onrushing Gordonian winger. The winger got to the ball but couldn’t hang on to it, the knock on allowing us to clear our lines.
The next ten minutes were pretty scrappy as we started to get a bit cocky, several promising moves ending in ‘Hollywood’ offloads that never seemed to find their intended target (if there even was an intended target!) We finally managed to string a few phases together with 70 minutes on the clock, the ball moving through the hands from right to left inside the visitors’ 22. It was Adam Greig who took the scoring pass, straightening up to score in the clubhouse corner. Happy landed his second peach of the day to take the score to 33-5 with barely 5 minutes left to play.
It is to Gordonians’ credit that they made the most of those 5 minutes, a knock on in our 22 leading to a tap penalty and a solid drive over by the Gordonian forwards. The unconverted try by lock Struan Robertson made the final score 33-10 to Stew Mel.
Five of the needed 20 points secured, then, so a decent day at the office.
Truth be told, we weren’t at our best throughout the game, with too many unforced errors and those infuriating Hollywood passes I mentioned. We seemed, at times, to be hell bent on keeping the ball moving even when it made more sense to take the ball into contact to give us a chance to take a breath, look up and decide where to attack next.
Things seemed to flow better once we had Fraser Strachan on the pitch – basically, there’s precious few attacking scenarios that he’s not been part of over the years! Gordonians are no mugs when it comes to tackling but, when our attack started to click, we found a lot of clear running room out there on Pitch 1.
Our defence was excellent, with the two Gordonian tries coming from our mistakes rather than the visitors finding a gap in the Red Wall. We also managed to keep Gordonians out without falling foul of the referee – this was a much more disciplined performance than the one against Dumfries. Our lineout was also a lot more productive than it had been against the Saints.
Our 20 point target was rather thrown on its head once the result of the D&G Derby became known at Inverleith: Newton Stewart 27 Dumfries 20! That means that Dumfries, with two games left to play, can reach 79 points at best. As we currently sit on 68 points, 11 points from our remaining three games should edge us into second place providing we maintain our healthy Points Difference.
But forget the number crunching – let’s stick with Plan A and aim to win our remaining three games with bonus points. The first of those games takes place at Laigh Bent on Saturday. Hamilton aren’t having the best of seasons but are no pushover - they beat Newton Stewart at Bladnoch Park last month, for starters!
The team bus will leave Inverleith at 12.15 and it would be great to see some supporters on there for the journey west. Hamilton really know how to make visiting teams welcome, with pitchside pies during the game and Beer Towers in the clubhouse after it – see you on the coach!
Photographs courtesy of Jax Mackenzie Photography