Arboretum Road, 2nd September 2023
Saturday 2nd September marked the first competitive game in the calendar for Inverleith RFC. Supporters and players alike were blessed with a warm day full of sunshine; perfect conditions for running rugby and a beer. Inverleith have spent preseason working on our game plan, drawing on lessons from previous seasons, and there was excitement and nervousness in the air in the run up to kick-off, with the everyone eager to get started.
Inverleith received the kick-off to get things underway, and immediately applied all of their hard work in pre-season to apply strong pressure on Gala through the first 8 mins. The Inverleith boys were camped in the Gala 22m, waiting for the moment to strike. An Inver knock-on gave Gala the ball back, and Gala started their first drive of the game, making good ground to get to the half-way line. Good Inver line speed and pressure forced a Gala knock on, but Inver gave the ball straight back following a knock on of their own after the scrum. The scrum restart lead to a high tackle on Gala, which they kicked into Inver’s 22m.
This marked a period of Gala pressure in the Inver 22m, advancing to the Inver 5m, but Inver’s defensive resolve lead to Inver holding the ball up on the line. The clearing kick lead to a subsequent Gala attack, but this was thwarted once again with Inver jackaling well at the breakdown and winning the penalty, which was kicked to half-way. This first 15mins was a real test of Inver’s ability to start well and recover from mistakes, and it gave the players confidence to kick-on in the first half.
On around 17mins, with Inver on defence, a fantastic tackle from Ash Thomson isolated the Gala ball carrier and allowed Inver a midfield turnover. Some quick decision making from the Inver players at the ruck allowed them to sling the ball out to right-winger Jamie Roberts, who applied some fantastic phonebox footwork to free himself from the Gala defensive line. As he marauded through the open field, he applied one last shimmy to send the Gala 15 off his trail, running through to dot down under the posts. Conversion by Mark Cant, and 7-0 Inver.
At this point, Inver received the restart and forgot that there was even a game plan. Inver played without discipline in their positioning, in their attacking set, or their temperament. Gala won the ball back from a failed Inver offload just inside the Gala half, and proceeded to make some great gains, ending up in the Inver 22m. Inver scrambled and turned the ball over, but knocked-on in the ensuing break just on our 22m. Luckily, one of the Gala players tackled high immediately after the knock-on, reversing the decision and awarding Inver a penalty and a breather. Some scrappy midfield play from both teams lead to three yellows in 10 minutes, with Gala receiving one for an isolated trip on Dan Jones. And 5 mins later both Gala and Mark Cant received a yellow for a small fight breaking out in the midfield. The half ended with Inver soaking up huge amounts of pressure, following another failed Inver offload at the half-way. Inver were camped in their 22m and had to defend multiple goal-line attempts. Inver made it in at half-time 7-0 up against the odds.
The game was quite exciting in the second half, leading to poor note-taking and a slightly more sparse report. Inver restarted the game and Gala immediately raced out the blocks to score after a scrum in midfield. Try not converted, and it was 7-5. Following this, Inver regained some composure and applied their foundational game plan principles, which pleased the home support. Attacking the Arboretum Road end, Inver slowly made forward-led progress and Ash Thomson made a great break towards the home touchline. Great attacking support allowed the ball to get wide to Greg O’Mara, who managed to catch the ball from behind him, turn, and score in the corner. Not a crisp try, but 5 points nonetheless, and not converted. 12-5 Inverleith.
For the next 10 mins, Inver and Gala didn’t do much other than tire each other out in the midfield, exchanging possession and losing as many yards as each gained. Ultimately, the team that gathered their composure quickest was Gala, who slung the ball out wide through the hands, working the outside channel well to apply an acrobatic finish in the corner. A great conversion from Gala meant that the game was tied at 12-12.
Inver took the restart and worked methodically, executing the game plan perfectly, to set up a position in the corner attacking the Arboretum Road end. Dan Jones and Joel Copeland quickly moved the ball out, isolating the Gala forwards in the corner. A long missed-pass reached Ian Doyle who superbly caught the ball at his knees, shimmied and shifted through the line, and offloaded to the surging Ash Thomson on the Gala 5m. Ash put the ball down for another Inver try very close to the posts. Try not converted however and it was 17-12 Inverleith, setting up a nail-biting finish for both teams.
For the last 10 mins, Inver had to absorb an absurd amount of pressure from Gala, largely fuelled by Inver defensive mistakes and decisions. Inver were offside and tackling high in their breathlessness. Joel Copeland rushed out the line to meet his opposite man, with the best intentions, but ultimately executed a high tackle and a yellow card, which left Inver defending a penalty under their posts and a man down. From the restart Gala threatened, but great line speed from the tiring Inver defence forced a handling error from Gala and a Scrum down to Inver with a couple of seconds on the clock. As the ball was fed, the clock went red, and Dan jones opted to slice a grubber kick off the pitch. Hearts in mouths, the Inver players went wild as the referee blew up the final whistle.
A great victory for Inverleith to start the season, but much to work on. The new tackle height laws are being enforced without mercy, and Inver must work to get on par with the new expectations. Secondly, whilst Inver managed the game well at times, discipline in positioning, defensive line, attacking set, and temperament caused us to be our own worst enemy at times. This must be addressed, and will be, if we are to continue producing results through the season.
Player of the Match: Donal McCarthy
Try Scorers: Jamie Roberts, Greg O’Mara, Ash Thomson
Conversions: Mark Cant x 1
- Ally Wallace
- Tom Borrill
- Connor Harrison
- Stuart McCullough (C) (yel)
- Seb Jablonski
- Donal McCarthy
- Paul McCaskey
- Dan McConkey
- Dan Jones
- Joel Copeland (VC) (yel)
- Jamie Roberts (try)
- Mark Cant (yel)
- Ash Thomson (try)
- Abu Fofana
- Greg O’Mara (try)
- Ryan Duncan
- Ahmed Mohamed
- Andy Lawrence
- Doug Binnie
- Ian Doyle
- Simon Matthews