A beautiful calm sunny dry day on a pitch perfect for open rugby. There was a fair crowd which included 40 young men from Gala Academy. The lads had been invited down for the afternoon and were treated to a talk by Rob Moffat followed by a light snack lunch before taking their places in the stand for the game.
Heriots Blues started with determination and good possession and despite Gala’s strong defence it took Heriots 8 minutes to break through.
Following Heriots Blues good pressure they were awarded a penalty which was placed into touch deep in Gala’s 22 metres. Heriots Blues won the ball from the line out and after a good passing move, centre Stephen Martin crossed the line to score. This was converted by scrum half, Graham Wilson to give Heriots a 7 points to nil lead.
Gala took only 5 minutes to respond following a penalty to touch and a good strong rolling maul the team captain No 8 Euan Dods gathered the ball and passed to second row forward Robbie Irvine to use his upper body strength and crash over for a Gala try. This was converted by full back Ross Cooke to even the scores.
Gala were on good form by now and 5 minutes later they scored an excellent try, one of the best scores at Netherdale for many a year. On their own 22 metres Gala took possession through a quickly taken penalty by Euan Dods which went to Ruairi Howarth playing at 10. He took off accompanied by the winger Fergus Johnston. The ball was passed on four occasions by these two avoiding Heriots tacklers. Young Fergus had the honour to complete this move by touching down for Gala’s second try. This try was remarkable to watch as the speed of both players, their footwork, passing and handling ability had the crowd roaring. The try was converted by Ross Cooke to give Gala a 14 - 7 lead.
There was no addition to the scoring until just before half time when the Gala prop Marius Tamosaitis picked up and using his considerable strength broke three tackles before passing to hooker Jack Easson who continued the forward momentum before passing to Josh Irvine, the Gala flanker who on being tackled off loaded to Ruairi Howarth who sprinted to the line to score under the posts. Ross Cooke again converted to take the Half Time Score to Gala 21 Heriots Blues 7
I am sure the Gala players were given strength by the cheering and chants of the Gala Academy lads with their extremely well behaved support of their local team. The lads were a credit to their school in both their appearance and behaviour.
The game restarted for the second half and there was much changing of possession for the first 15 minutes when following a scrum on the Gala 22 metre line, Heriots Blues took possession and scrum half Graham Wilson passed to centre Louis Meynier to give him an easy score which Wilson converted to take the score to Gala 21 Heriots Blues 14.
Five minutes later with a penalty taken from his own half Ross Cooke found touch deep into Heriots Blues territory. From the line Gala forwards gathered possession and formed a maul which rumbled toward the Heriots Blues line before Euan Dods picked up and the ball went through hands before Ruairi Howarth received possession and crossed the line. This was not converted but took the score to Gala 26 Heriots Blues 14 and earned them a bonus point for four tries.
On 35 minutes Gala were awarded a penalty inside the Heriots Blues 22 metre. The sensible decision was made to kick for goal which Ross Cooke successfully complied with taking Gala to three scores ahead of Heriots Blues at 29 - 14.
The game was ended by Heriots fly half Dominic Martin gathering after a quick penalty and scoring in the corner. Wilson converted from a fine kick from far out on touch to take the final score to
GALA 29. HERIOTS BLUES 21.
This was the first of two encounters between these sides as they meet again at Netherdale next Saturday in the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup kickoff 3.00pm.