It was a great day for rugby and so good in fact that the heat slowed the game in its later stages, but up until then it was a very fast and entertaining encounter.
Highland were quick off the mark once again and perhaps caught the visitors before they had settled as a drive to the line saw Lewis Fraser to crash over for an unconverted try. At this point Gala stepped up their game and they proved to be a very solid and organised side. They were also better disciplined, taking advantage of Highland’s slip ups.
Gala pushed up the park and from a ruck put the ball wide for their very able full-back Ruari Howarth to cut through the Highland back line. The defence scrambled to stop him, but the damage had been done as a quick ruck saw the ball moved to winger Ross Cooke to go over for an unconverted try and the scores level at 5-5.
Highland could not settle, and they gave away some silly penalties including a yellow card for Stephen Murray. Two of the penalties given away were in range for Gala and stand-off John Turnbill converted them for Gala to take the lead at 5-11.
It took some work and even though they were looking second best at many of the breakdowns Highland were beginning to cut out the mistakes. A better set of phases saw Highland drive up the middle of the park and set up a ruck opposite the posts. Quick hands saw the ball move quickly along the line to reach Connor Ross who took it at pace and go over in the corner for an unconverted try and 10-11.
This timely score saw Highland reach the break in a far better mood. Highland came out in a more determined fashion pushing Gala on to the back foot. A hurried Gala clearance kick was gathered by Andrew Findlater who ran it back at pace. He bested tackle after tackle to reach the line and score and with Scott Fraser’s conversion it was 17-11.
Highland looked worthy of the lead as they continued to improve, and their harrying play was causing the visitors problems. A kick ahead gave the Gala full-back a problem and without any support he was caught on his own which saw scrum-half Hugo Crush pounce on the loose ball to sprint away and score between the posts. Fraser was now kicking well, and his conversion meant Highland now led 24-11.
Even though the visitors were still competing they were now making mistakes and a penalty in their half was kicked by Fraser for 27-11. Gala had a quick rally and from a ruck inside the Highland twenty-two the ball was chipped wide towards the corner. Highland’s defence scrambled to cover and even though that move was thwarted the ruck on the line saw Gala’s big number three Terry Logan to crash over the line and with Turnbill’s kick the score narrowed to 27-18.
Yet Highland were on top and went back on the attack. Now late in the game both sides wilted in the heat although Highland had that bit extra to see a drive to the line rewarded with skipper Stuart MacDonald-Butler going over the line. Fraser completed a great second-half display to convert and the final score was 34-18.
Coach Dave Carson was very pleased to see his side handle such a good rugby side who competed all the way. The physical nature of the encounter was typical of what to expect from a border side and Highland endured. The worry in this sort of match is the threat of injuries and Andrew Findlater suffered a snapped thumb ligament which will see him out for about six weeks. Gordon Gregor is recovering from a very similar injury and he still has a week or two to go in his recovery. The better news is that the rest of the squad is recuperating well and there might be some other regulars returning for the trip to Kelso next Saturday.