Mistakes lead to Maroons’ British and Irish exit

Gala 20

Llanelli 33

BRITISH AND IRISH CUP

LAING SPEIRS reports from Netherdale

WITH three good tries on the credit side, Gala were able to take some satisfaction from their final home game in this year’s British and Irish Cup.

But a succession of mistakes handed Llanelli some soft scores, leaving the Maroons without a future in the competition. They have only the incentive of trying for a first win in Richmond on Saturday, but the match will see a continuation of the learning exercise which coach George Graham regards as vital in the club’s progress.

The coach commented: “I’m disappointed, but immensely proud of the efforts the players have made. We’ve worked hard, but we can’t afford to make silly errors while playing against teams of this calibre. It’s a long time since Gala made so many uncharacteristic handling errors.”

Llanelli’s team of semi-professionals carried a hefty presence which kept the Netherdale men stretched – and it was a physically punishing game with the home physios kept busy.

Gala’s fluency in midfield was below par and handling mistakes plagued the team. They had to struggle at the lineout once again with a tall set of opposition forwards varying their game and getting lots of ball.

Gala’s start on Saturday might not have been quite as disastrous as their earlier meeting in Wales – but even so it was no help to go behind in the second minute, Owen Williams kicking a penalty from close in.

The home forwards responded well. Gary Graham notched his second try of the season when Chris Weir and Euan Dods released the ball from a lineout.

A good conversion from the touchline by Lee Millar saw Gala into a lead that lasted six minutes before Llanelli’s right winger Dale Ford fastened on to a grubber kick and scored far out.

Things were turning badly for Gala and following a massive effort by the Llanelli pack, Lewis Rawlins scored. Then Duane Eager profited from a loose ball when Gavin Young and Andy McLean were under pressure in trying to clear and scored a runaway try. Williams added the conversion, but Gala managed a long-range penalty from Millar just before the break.

Eager added his second try with a breakout just after the restart, Williams converting.

All was not lost, with McLean scoring far out and then Millar putting over the neatest of cross kicks to the wing where Robertson was waiting in perfect position. However, a Williams penalty maintained Llanelli’s comfortable lead.

Gala built up their concentration, eliminated the errors, but had to concede the game when Williams put over a final penalty right at the close.

It was the end of Gala’s British and Irish dream – but far from a nightmare outcome.

Gala: A. McLean; G. Young, C. Auld, B. Turner, G. Somerville; L. Millar, George Graham; L. Pettie, R. Anderson, E. McQuillin, C. Weir, O.Palepoi, C. Keddie, Gary Graham, E. Dods. Subs: C. Mackintosh, J. King, S. Cairns, C. Robertson, T. Weir, D. Owenson, C. Hogg.