Caledonia Reds 24, South of Scotland 40
The South came from behind to see off an exuberant Caledonia Red under the Tuesday night lights at Bridgehaugh.
A crowd of over 400, who helped raise £5164.60 for the Doddie Weir Foundation on the night, braved the sub-zero temperatures to watch two of Scottish rugby’s iconic invitational clubs restore some colour to their famous jerseys, combining for 64 points and 10 tries in a thrilling contest.
“The conditions were as good as you’re going get this time of year and I thought it was a pretty entertaining game of rugby,” said South captain, Gregor Hunter. of Gala.
“Both sides were looking to play. It was a bit scrappy at times but it was really enjoyable. I am glad we came out on the right side of the result.” After first-half tries from Ruairidh Leishman, Erlend Oag and Jonny Hope, who added a pair of conversions, helped the Reds take a commanding 19-0 lead, the home side would not score again until the 70th minute as the South came alive, allying raw strength and soft hands to notch 28 unanswered points.
Selkirk backrower Callum Marshall kept the South in touch with a try during injury time of the opening period, followed by tries from Gala’s Graham Speirs, Jed-Forest’s Euan Scott and a spectacular solo effort from Hawick’s Lee Armstrong, with Gregor Hunter adding three conversions, after the break.
Stirling County’s Logan Trotter reduced the Reds’ deficit with 10 minutes remaining but the South proved too tough to stop, as Hawick’s Dalton Redpath and a second from Armstrong, with Hunter adding a single conversion, made the game secure late on for the Border squad.
“In the first half, we didn’t really get out of the bus, said Hunter. “Our defence was poor and they had some really dangerous players who caused us problems. Before we knew it, we were 19-0 down but we turned it round in the second half.”
Trailing 19-0 and closing in on the half time break, the South found themselves deep inside the Reds 22-metre line. After gaining the hard yards through phase after phase of pick-and-go rugby, sucking the life out of the Reds defence, Marshall spotted a gap near the base of the ruck. Hunter added the conversion as the South mounted their comeback.
Speirs dotted down six minutes after the interval, quickly followed by Euan Scott, both converted by Hunter, to hand the Borders outfit a 21-19 lead on 53 minutes.
Hawick centre Armstrong added a fourth, side-stepping two and outpacing the last Reds defender. Hunter remained perfect from the tee, with his fourth conversion, before the hosts pulled themselves back within four points when Trotter blazed a trail down the wing.
With the game in the balance, Hawick youngster Redpath capitalised on gaping open holes in a tired Reds defence to extend the South’s advantage before Armstrong sealed the win with his second in the closing stages, and Hunter added the extra points.
“We only had two training sessions together, had a long bus journey and we were 19-0 down, but I still believed in the boys and their quality to turn it around,” added South head coach, Kevin Barrie, of Jed-Forest.
“At half time the boys said they had a lot still left in the tank and they knew they were going to pick it up again in that second half, and we did.
“We showed a bit of dominance upfront, played a bit with the ball, and the boys did well to score some really good tries in the end.
“The boys respected the jersey. All those players who came before them, and these boys, are Border men, born and bred, and they have that pride in them. While they are normally knocking hell out of each other each week in the league, they all pulled together and did well.”
Caledonia Reds: Hope (Stirling County), Oag (Glasgow Hawks), MacGarvie (Stirling County), Carmichael (Heriots), Trotter (Stirling County), Fox (Watsonians), Jericevich (Stirling County), Burney (Currie Chieftains), Emmison (Stirling County), M. MacDonald (Stirling County), Pow (Stirling County), Arnott (Dundee HSFP), Leishman (Stirling County), S. MacDonald (Striling County), Ryan (Aberdeem Grammer). Replacements: Kennedy (Stirling County), Cox (Currie Chieftains), Slade (Hillfoots), Levison (Dundee HSFP), Mncube (Boroughmuir), Swan (Stirling County ), Faulds (Currie Chieftains).
The South: Spriers (Gala), Ferguson (Hawick) Armstrong (Hawick), Scott (Jed-Forest) ,Shirra-Gibb (Jed-Forest), Hunter (Gala), Goodfellow (Jed-forest), Pettie (Selkirk), Carryer (Hawick), Little (Hawick), Law (Jed-Forest), Renwick (Selkirk), Marshall (Selkirk), Graham (Hawick), McNeil (Hawick). Replacements: MacKay (Jed-Forest), Muir (Hawick), Holborn (Kelso), Redpath (Hawick), MacKay (Selkirk), Cottrell (Hawick), Buckley (Hawick).
Official: Paul Williams (New Zealand).