Close call for GHA after rousing start

It was a close call for GHA at the weekend.
It was a close call for GHA at the weekend.

GHA 28 Stewart’s Melville FP 26

For a National League club to emulate their professional cousins should surely be a prime objective. But not always if it is the way GHA won against Stewart’s Melville at Braidholm on Saturday. Victory was too close for comfort in a manner, which had similarities to Glasgow Warriors’ win against Leinster at Scotstoun the previous Saturday.

Warriors had run up a 19-0 first-half lead before needing a last-kick penalty to win the match by 22-20. Likewise, GHA were comfortably 20-0 ahead after 35 minutes and yet needed a late penalty goal to score victory against an Edinburgh club for the second successive week.

That deciding score was Peter Jericevich’s second of the match. His first gave GHA the lead after nine minutes.

Fortune turned even more to the home team when Neil Bowie was sin-binned for a tip tackle on Andrew Gillman as GHA scored two tries while they had the numerical advantage. A series on darts at the visitors’ goal-line led to a try for Adam Barnett in the right corner after 18 minutes, and just before Bowie’s return a lineout in the left corner provided the platform for Ross McClymont to scarper up the blind side and run behind the posts for Peter Jericevich to convert. It was McClymont’s last try for GHA before he heads south to work in London.

Ross Angus was injured at that time, and the loss of an out-and-out open-side flanker could well have been part of the reason why the GHA game was less fluid thereafter.

Stewart’s Melville almost clawed the margin back on the half-hour, though Nick McCashin was denied in the right corner, and when Niall Cassie exploited a quick throw-in to race in at the left corner after 35 minutes it seemed that GHA might have a bonus point in that bag by half-time. However, it was 20 minutes later before that was achieved.

By then the visitors were eating in the home lead. A lineout drive let Fraser Strachan score just before half-time, Nick McCashin converting, and immediately after Grant MacDonald had been sin-binned for pulling down a lineout jumper Stewart’s Melville scored again. Once more it was it from a lineout drive, with Ruaridh Stewart cutting the margin to eight points.

Soon afterwards Peter Jericevich tried a penalty shot from more than 40 metres, and though the ball bounced back infield from the crossbar it was to prove a vital trigger for bonus point. Cassie and Rangi Jericevich could not exploit the rebound, but from the ensuing scrummage deep in the visitors’ 22 GHA hammered the opposition line with the same purpose, which had produced Angus’s first-half try. This time it was Alan Auld who scored, and GHA led 25-12 after 55 minutes.

However, soft tries for Hanning (exploiting a lucky bounce) and Angus Rennie (sprinting up the left touchline) allowed Stewart’s Melville to take the lead. McCashin converted both, and the visitors were 26-25 in front after 65 minutes.

That roused GHA, and when they earned a penalty just over 30 metres out Peter Jericevich had the opportunity to win the game. He did so, though it was frighteningly close as the ball deflected the right way off the left post.

In the finale of more than five minutes of added time GHA could even have taken the losing bonus point away from Stewart’s Melville. Peter Jericevich was denied as he chased his own kick ahead, and Gillman was thwarted as he turned on his heels from a close-range scrum to try to explore the blind side.

GHA’s second bonus-point win in two weeks meant that they stand second in the National League Division 1 table, behind Jed-Forest on points difference.