Grim Gala hang on as title contenders

Gala 17

Dundee HSFP 16


LAING SPEIRS reports from Netherdale

A FEW folk applauded the final whistle at Netherdale, probably highly relieved that Gala had hung on in yet another tight game. But most found little to cheer about.

The win left the Maroons still in the frame for the Premiership title – but it was a victory which lacked style and confidence.

The scoring machine that was producing an average of four tries per game until the the turn of the year has dropped to fewer than one-and-a-half.

And the injury situation isn’t helping Gala, with two tighthead props already out and Saturday seeing at least five other players heading for the treatment room. Gary Graham, Opeta Palepoi, Craig Borthwick, Ewan Dods and Gerald Sibanda were all injured – the last of them looks unlikely to make an effective return this season.

While coach George Graham saw one of the problems up front, he singled out Ewan Johnstone as having done a splendid job in covering the tighthead position. It was Johnstone’s first start for the Netherdale outfit for three-and-a-half years.

The Gala boss found much to criticise in his side’s performance, saying: “We never controlled ball possession and gave it away far too cheaply.”

And yet, the neatest of tries right at the start the afternoon had promised well for the Maroons. Sibanda showed his pace in forcing Dundee to concede a scrum on their line, George Graham going right, dummying to his wing and going over for his seventh try of the campaign.

Lee Millar was off colour with his early kicks, missing three, but was back on song later on. Dundee’s John Steele landed a big penalty and converted Brandyn Laursen’s try in 14 minutes. When he put over another penalty after half an hour, Gala’s problems were mounting by the minute.

Millar found his touch with a penalty just before the break and added another 20 minutes into the final half. Ten minutes later he put the homesters ahead, but another big effort from Steele wiped that one off.

The crowd had wanted tries, but they never looked like coming, and it was an offside offence by the Taysiders that let Millar squeeze Gala home with his fourth penalty.

Gala: A. McLean; G. Somerville, C. Borthwick, B. Turner, G. Sibanda; L. Millar, George Graham; L. Pettie, C. Macintosh, E. Johnstone, C. Weir, O.Palepoi, C. Keddie, Gary Graham, E. Dods. Subs: C. Robertson, G. Young, B. Murray, T. Weir, M. Christie.