Maroons on their way to Murrayfield

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Dundee HSFP 19

Gala 26

RBS CUP SEMI-FINAL

FIONA SCOTT reports from Mayfield

IT WAS with a certain amount of relief that the Maroon-clad masses stormed the pitch in celebration on Saturday.

Some looked as though they would rather throttle their team, who put them through an excruciatingly nerve-wracking 80 minutes of rugby before delivering the goods in the closing stages, rather than shake their hands.

Coach George Graham was one of them.

He told TheSouthern: “It was always going to be a close game, but at times that was just too close.

“We made a lot of mistakes and our set-piece wasn’t really working that well, but we worked hard and took our tries well.

“Apart from that, it was a great game. It was always going to be about who wanted it most on the day. We are now in a position where we can win some silverware for the club and that’s fantastic.”

From the off, it was definitely Gala who looked more up for the game. Lee Millar dropped a penalty early on and from then on an almighty battle, scrappy in places, took place.

After missing a penalty, the hosts went ahead. Millar had been sent to the sin-bin – somewhat harshly according to the large crowd of Gala supporters in the stand – for what was deemed a high tackle by Borders referee Cammie Rudkin. A major push towards the Gala line saw both players and home supporters celebrate, but Rudkin appeared to signal that the ball was held up.

After taking advice from the touch judge, however, the Hawick whistler awarded the try and the hosts edged themselves into the lead.

Despite being a man down, Gala still managed to gain possession and hold on to it for most of the ensuing 10 minutes.

With Millar off the field, the kicking duties came down to old hand Andy McLean, making his return from injury, who added another penalty to regain the advantage. The see-saw continued.

With all things equal again in terms of numbers, it was Dundee who upped their tally when Steele added another three-pointer.

Up at the other end, a quickly-taken tap penalty and a jinky run by smart-thinking scrum half George Graham saw Gala go over for their first try. Millar converted and added a penalty to see the half out with Gala 16-8 ahead.

Steele closed the gap through a penalty after the restart, but the Maroons notched another try when Dundee fumbled the ball in their own 22 and Gala’s man of the match Craig Robertson grabbed the opportunity to take possession and blast his way over the line.

With a healthy 21-11 lead, the visitors looked as if they had taken full control of the situation. But that changed dramatically, causing a nervous ripple among the Maroons faithful as the game went on.

Steele notched his third penalty and Cam Wyper added a try to pull Dundee back to within two points. Much to the relief of all Borderers present, Steele missed the conversion, but with time still on the clock, tension around the ground was on a knife edge.

A try by McLean did little to banish the tension as still the hosts pummelled away at a tiring visiting defence, but with their place in the final in their own hands, the gutsy Netherdale outfit dug deep to retake possession and kick the ball out of play to signal the end of the game.

Captain Opeta Palepoi was in the thick of things all afternoon.

He told us: “It’s an absolutely amazing feeling to know that we will be going up to Murrayfield for that final.

“The guys knew it would be hard to come to Dundee and get a win, but they were totally focused ahead of the game and to pull off a win like that was just great.”

The last time Gala were involved in the cup final was in 1999, when they beat Kelso in a tight match.

Gala: A. McLean; G. Young, B. Turner, A. Emond, C. Robertson; L. Millar, George. Graham; L. Pettie, C. Keddie, E. McQuillin, C. Weir, O. Palepoi, G. Graham, E. Dods, G. Lowrie. Subs: P. Stewart, S. Cairns, C. Borthwick, F. Hunter, D. Marshall.