PREMIER GROUP B
LAING SPEIRS reports from Netherdale
A lot of attention was focused on the Gala ground at the weekend, which was the only Scottish pitch capable of staging a game.
The underground heating did its job, and Gala took a serious step towards promotion with a hard-won but never convincing win in Premiership Group B.
Peebles slipped backwards and have two tough trips to Aberdeen and Stirling to overcome if they are to go up.
Gala just deserved their win, but Peebles ended up regretting their missed penalties and failure to convert some strong positions into points.
The game came as a big disappointment to spectators and both coaches, all agreeing that the long December shutdown had taken a serious edge off hopes of accurate handling and enterprising play.
But there was general understanding that below-freezing temperatures were far from being the ideal conditions for a feast of running rugby.
Gala’s Lee Millar had two penalties, a try and a conversion to continue his major contribution to Gala’s season, but Neil Warnock could not hit the mark with several kickable chances. His two penalties were a modest return for a lot of effort.
Peebles had some robust forwards, with David Paton giving a good lead from the back row, and David Harvey enjoying the lineout battle with Opeta Palepoi.
And captain Andrew Moore was a slick operator at the scrum.
The game took a while to warm up – no surprise in the conditions – and a rash of handling errors plagued the early encounters. Good runs by the Peebles backs livened things up for a while, but it was a Millar penalty which put Gala in front.
Warnock got one over after a couple of failures, but Gala were poised on the line at the interval.
Gala were in brisk form on the restart, and took their chance when Willie Aitken was yellow-carded. A series of penalties ended with Gala releasing to the left and Millar scoring far out, converting his own try with a fine kick.
A Warnock penalty before Aitken’s return was some reward for Peebles, but as the game neared the end – which many shivering spectators hoped would quickly arrive – Millar collected one for Gala.
The Maroons jumped two places in Group B and may yet enjoy the benefit of having an extra game at home.
But with the winter having such an effect on the quality of play, nothing is guaranteed.
Gala: M. Walton; G. Young, B. Dick, A.Emond, R. Livingston; L. Millar, George Graham; A. Johnston, L. Rodden, E. McQullin, O.Palepoi, Gary Graham, S. Cairns, E. Dods, T. Weir. Subs L.Pettie, B. Murray, D.Marshall, C. Dods.
Peebles: D. Anderson; M Cruickshank, D. Clancy, D. McLean, N. Hogarth; N. Warnock, A. Moore; W. Aitken, R. McConnell, A. Clark, D. Harvey, A. Brown, A. Warnock, E. Jackson, D. Paton. (Subs M Carryer, D. Brown, S. Tamita, C. Blythe.