Oh So Close at Old Anniesland but GHK Just Hold On
What a match and PL were well in it until the end but despite best efforts, they just could get the vital points to take the win
Anyone travelling to Old Anniesland hoping for some fireworks last Saturday would not come away disappointed as yet another firecracker of a game from Preston Lodge almost saw them take full points with only the width of the post denying them near the end.
Lingering injuries from last week's game meant that coach Andrew Clark had made several changes to the usual line up as the game kicked off in perfect but cold conditions.
GHK got into their stride right away with a spectacular catch right from the kick off and the PL defence could do little as they carried the ball forward through several phases before Campbell scored with PL having barely touched the ball. The conversion was added to make the score 7-0 after only two minutes.
After this initial setback, PL were soon showing some of the form that has served them well over the past few weeks with some good, incisive running and that was testing the home defence. In the 10th minute, GHK were forced into conceding a penalty and Brian Walls stepped to grab the three points from 30 metres out.
PL were now playing much better and looked settled now that they had points on the board but GHK always looked dangerous whenever they got their hands on the ball. They stretched their lead to 12-3 in the 13th minute following a good take at a line-out followed by some sharp passing out to the wing and it got even better for them five minutes later when another unconverted try gave them a decisive looking 19-3 lead.
PL could easily have folded at this point and even more so in the 22nd minute when the referee spotted a professional foul and reduced them to 14 men for 10 minutes. However, rather than let their heads drop this turned out to be just the rocket they needed and Dale Gordon was first to light the blue touchpaper with a searing run upfield before offloading to Pete Johnstone who was clear to score. Walls converted to close the gap to 17-10.
PL definitely had their tails up and GHK were struggling to contain them and as the game reached the half hour mark, two tries in quick succession from first Ewan Runciman and then Alan Whittingham – both converted by Walls – saw them dramatically take the lead at 17-24.
At this point, it was end to end tuff with both sets of fans on the edge of their seats but GHK would tie things up before the break with another converted try to make it 24-24.
Following the restart, it didn't take long for PL to get themselves back in front with another Walls penalty but as you might expect from such a game, GHK responded immediately with an unconverted try to retake the lead.
And so with the scoreboard showing 29-27 in favour of the home side and 36 minutes still to play, it was expected that there could still be plenty more tries to come. Unfortunately this wasn't to be the case but that didn't mean that the excitement would end as both sides continued to give it their all and there was some sparkling rugby throughout the rest of the game. There was plenty of action close to both try lines and in the 68th minute PL did appear to get the ball ove but it was judged to be held up. The five metre scrum came to nothing but Walls was a given a chance with a penalty just two minutes later but unfortunately he was off target this time.
As the game moved into injury time, PL were still on the attack and throwing everything at the resolute GHK defence and eventually the pressure on the home side became too great and they conceded a penalty which was within Walls' range. This was a good chance to take the lead and the match and although he hit it well, agonisingly it struck the post. Everyone looked anxiously to see if it would deflect through but unfortunately it came back into the field of play. All was not lost because Alan 'Banger' Whittingham was first to react and gather the ball and make his way towards the line but once again the GHK defence was good enough to bring him down. PL didn't panic though and patiently recycled the ball two or three times but unfortunately, they just couldn't find an opening and were eventually bundled into touch.
The narrow 29-27 defeat was a sore loss for PL but they can be proud of their performance especially when the enforced changes, which took a few minutes to gel, and the early setback are taken into consideration. This was yet another great advert for Club rugby but the Autumn International season now takes priority in Scotland so there's no more 1st XV action until 3rd December when Peebles are the visitors to The Pennypit. Kick Off will be 2pm.