RBS PREMIER CUP FINAL
THEY arrived at Murrayfield in their droves.
Fourteen busloads – and many more cars – full of maroon-clad supporters made the trip up the A7 on Saturday to witness Gala lifting the RBS Cup for the second time in the club’s history – the first came 13 years ago in 1999.
And despite a few nerve racking moments in the first half, the Borders supporters were in full voice, especially the Gala Seconds Choir, to spur their team on to cup glory.
George Graham’s outfit rewarded their fans with a heroic effort played out in a mature manner which belied the young age of many members of the squad.
Graham himself, no stranger to the Murrayfield turf, was ecstatic with his proteges’ feat and believes there is much more to come from his star performers.
He told TheSouthern: “To come here and win in the manner we did is testament to how strong and how good a team we are.
“They are still very young. If you take a couple of players out of that group then the average age of the squad is about 20 years, so we will keep this team together for a few years and will go from strength to strength. I’m not being big headed about it, but there is a lot more to come from this team and that will come with experience.”
“I think in the first half we were a wee bit overawed with the occasion and whatnot, but once I had given them a severe talking to at half-time they came out and played like themselves again. Consequently, they played a lot better and went on to win fairly convincingly.”
After a hairy few minutes defending their own line straight from the kick-off, Gala got into their game and on the fifth minute Lee Millar had his first chance to split the Murrayfield posts with a penalty from the 22.
No mistake was made and the Maroons sailed ahead.
They kept the pressure on but Ayr fought off any attacks and levelled the scores on 15 minutes with a Ross Curle penalty.
In the 28th minute, Curle was sent to the sin-bin and Gala opted to boot the resulting penalty to touch halfway between the tryline and the 22. Ayr fought off the challenge, however, and play resumed midfield.
Minutes later, a second chance occurred and this time it paid off.
The ball was shipped out wide to meet Craig Robertson, who was searing up the touchline to go in at the corner flag.
There was a nervy couple of seconds while referee James Matthew consulted with his touch judge, but the try was given.
Minutes later, Gala were left short-handed when prop Ewan McQuillin was yellow-carded and Ayr took their turn in piling on the pressure.
That paid off when Denford Mutamangira was shoved over the line and Robbie Fergusson converted. Half time score 10-10.
Gala had the chance to pull away with a penalty just inside the Ayr half at the start of the second period and the agony was palpable when Lee Millar’s strike came down on the crossbar and bounced back into play.
Gala seemed to be playing with a new sense of purpose, and when another fracas broke out, resulting in Ayr’s Stuart Fenwick being sent off for 10 minutes, Millar slotted the resulting kick to put the Maroons back in the driving seat. Minutes later, he repeated the feat and in the 67th did it again and suddenly there was a chink of light shining through the clouds as Gala went 19-10 ahead with 10 minutes remaining.
One minute into that 10 and there was a whole sunbeam there when prop McQuillin was charged over the line by the whole Gala pack.
The noise was deafening as the final whistle sounded and the west stand became a sea of maroon and white as the Galashiels town band struck up Braw Braw Lads for the final time.
Man of the match Lee Millar added: “The atmosphere was brilliant. I was up for the pre-match press conference and it was silent, so the noise today was overwhelming.
“You could hear it in the tunnel and it was amazing.
“Credit to the Gala supporters because that’s what spurred us on and helped us put on a good performance.”
Gala: A. McLean; G. Young, B. Turner, A. Emond, C. Robertson; L. Millar, George Graham; L. Pettie, R. Anderson, E. McQuillin, C. Weir, O. Palepoi, Gary Graham, E. Dods, G. Lowrie. Subs: P. Stewart, C. Keddie, S. Cairns, D. Marshall, C. Borthwick, F. Hunter.
Ayr: G. Anderson; S. Manning, R. Curle, M. Stewart, C. Taylor; R. Fergusson, M. McConnell; D. Mutamangira, S. Fenwick, G. Sykes, S. Sutherland, C. White, J. Willis, A. Dunlop, R. Colhoun. Subs: H. Wisnewski, A. Kelly, G. Fisken, R. Doneghan, A. McFarlane, A. Wilson, S. Diez.