A trip to Braidholm on Saturday meant a dip into RBS Championship A for the first time this season. For those of you who live in Edinburgh & enjoy the presence of 4 RBS Premiership clubs within 10 miles of the City centre, it may be worth pointing out that if you live in Glasgow you have to travel to Ayr or Stirling to see Premiership Rugby this season. In the RBS National League Hawks & HJ’s represent the city of Glasgow and then we are down into the first tier of regionalised rugby at Championship A level where GHA sit top of the league – nominally, therefore they are the 3rd best team in the City of Glasgow (the Boroughmuir of Scotland’s largest city!). GHA, and the clubs that amalgamated to form them have produced some good players in the professional era (e.g. Euan Murray, Jon Welsh, Callum Forrester) but despite the presence of other ambitious clubs nearby – Cartha QP & Whitecraigs – there has never been a consistently successful club on the Southside of Glasgow in recent years. The reason of this is not immediately obvious to this observer. Good facilities, a well supported club (200+ present on Saturday), excellent coaches (Gordon MacPherson), a good supply of volunteers (GHA’s 7’s are always a well run day) and a strong youth section with significant sporting schools in the area all suggest fertile breeding ground for a good club side.
Saturday’s game against Dumfries was not lacking in entertainment with 11 tries for the home side against 1 for the visitors producing a slightly exaggerated 65-14 final score. Dumfries are a well run local club who regularly lose their brightest young talents to professional ambitions (Scott Steele, Chris Auld, Callum Templeton etc) but they have steadily climbed the leagues in recent years and a place in the top 20 Scottish Clubs might well be achievable. They have some big forwards, who stood up to GHA for significant spells in this game, but perhaps rely a little too much on the big boot of full back Tom Hiddleston. As their forwards tired, the pace, continuity, and accuracy of GHA’s 15-a side game eventually shredded them apart. GHA’s 4 tries in the opening 20 minutes, were mirrored by 5 tries in the last 20.
There are several treats in store for rugby watchers at GHA. Andy Henderson & Hefin O’Hare are back playing rugby there for the love of the game after long professional careers. Muffles does what Muffles has always done – runs straight, takes tackles, recycles consistently, and selflessly sets others up for tries. Hefin turns up everywhere – scrum half, auxiliary flanker, arching centre – with his enthusiasm making him as popular here as he was for Glasgow Warriors. Beside them there is real pace in the backs – Gillman, Rangi Jericevich, Lang and Binnie all scored tries from long range with terrific pace – and some real promise in the forwards. James Malcolm is the next prodigy tipped for the top from Braidholm, and the young hooker certainly showed admirable physicality, game awareness and technical skill in this game to justify the tag. I liked the look of the muscular young No 8 Grant MacDonald as well.
The enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment kept GHA at the top of Championship A, favourites for promotion, while Dumfries, though heavily beaten here, I’m sure will retain their place in this division comfortably. After the angst of Swansea’s time wasting ball boy against Chelsea midweek (surely good enough rucking to earn the boy a game for the Ospreys) GHA were taking no chances on Saturday. Their sole ‘ball-boy’ appeared to be a grey-bearded veteran of many years service to the club. Well done that man for restoring the ball boy’s reputation of impartiality & fair play!