Gala took a first step towards the successful defence of their Borders League title after achieving a sumptuous win over Peebles at the Gytes last Friday, with a performance that blended power and strength up front with pace and creativity behind the scrum, writes Alan Lorimer.
The Premiership runners-up were, of course, expected to be too strong for their National League opponents and in the event it proved to be, as Gala accumulated seven tries with comparative ease, albeit that their first-half scores were aided by the yellow-carding of the Peebles prop Joshua Park.
On that point, it seemed that Park was the victim of rugby’s crazy laws that penalises one set of forwards for being less strong than their opponents. It’s a difference that causes either scrum collapse or the opposite effect of front rows being forced into the upright position and with it the inevitable penalty or even penalty try award.
Surely it is time to revisit the scrum laws and veer much more towards the free kick than match-deciding penalty awards. Or, dare we even think it, have a look at rugby league’s approach to scrums.
For Gala and Peebles, this was as much about looking at combinations as it was extracting points from a Border League game. And both clubs will be reasonably satisfied.
“We cut the squad down to 24 for the Peebles game. Most of the guys got a fair share of game time and we’re really pleased with what we saw out there,” said team manager Peter Dods.
Pleasing for the Netherdale coaching staff was the form of tighthead Paul Stewart, a former Peebles player who has returned to action after missing most of last season following a leg fracture, and Callum Mackintosh who put in a useful stint at loosehead.
Behind the scrum, Scotland under-18 cap Ruairi Howarth impressed at full back, but there are many who would like to see the Edinburgh EDP at stand-off. Edinburgh are understood to want Howarth to develop at full back, but the youngster played all his formative rugby at ten. Echoes of the Chris Paterson career?
For Peebles Greg Raeburn looked sharp at stand-off, Scott McCormick showed his past Premiership experience and up front, the forwards battled hard to stem the Maroons.
Gala led 21-9 at the break from a penalty try, a pushover score by Tom Weir and then a touchdown by David O’Hagen, all converted by Howarth.
The Peebles points came from three penalty goals by Raeburn. Then in the second half, tries by Steve Cairns, Euan Dods (2) and Grant Somerville and two conversions from Ewan Scott brought the score to 45-9, but a late try by replacement Jack Harrison provided consolation for Peebles.