RAEBURN Place witnessed the top-of-the-table team pitted against the club rooted to the bottom but, for long stretches of this match, it was far from obvious which was which.
Edinburgh Accies - 19
Gala - 26
Claims that Accies have been a little unlucky to remain winless this far into the season were borne out by this gritty performance that had the home team leading the league leaders for much of the 80 minutes, only succumbing in the final quarter.
Two yellow cards to Accies did as much damage as Gala managed on the day, although the visitors’ centre Chris Auld, off to join London Scottish on loan, looked lively. The home side performed heroics to keep their line intact at the tail end of the first half when lock Ed Stuart was sitting in the bin. Gala actually worked the ball over the try line twice but the linesman spotted a knock on and wiped off the first, while the second was held up off the ground.
Accies were not so lucky in the second half when they lost Greg Campbell, their other lock, to the naughty step and Gala ran in two quickfire tries, the second of which gave them the victory.
It had looked a formality on paper and all bets were off after just seven minutes which was how long Gala needed to claim the first score of the match, a try which went to prop forward Luke Pettie after the Gala big men bullied their way over the Accies line.
So far, so expected, but that slap in the face was just what Accies needed and the home side enjoyed long periods of dominance thereafter. Ruairidh Young grabbed two well-constructed tries in the first half before claiming his hat-trick of scores after the break and somehow the fullback still ended up on the losing side.
If Young was the finisher, Alex Glashan did much of the work in the build up. The little scrummy was a constant thorn in Gala’s side, sniping around the fringe at every opportunity. The Accies forwards also bossed the set piece, shading the scrum battle which will give Gala something to work on.
In fact, Accies’ first try came directly from a set scrum when the home pack rocked the visitors back on their heels. The ball was moved to the blind side and Young touched down in the right-hand corner. Later in the half the same man popped up in midfield and, although there was a suspicion of someone running interference, Young again took advantage of some uncharacteristically lacklustre tackling from the Borderers to score near the posts.
Early in the second half, Accies worked their way into the Maroons’ red zone and from another dominant scrum the full-back rounded Gala’s young stand-off Ruairi Howarth for the simplest of scores.
Glashan converted two of the three tries and Gala reacted as you would expect. Howarth kicked a brace of penalties, to add to the three points he claimed in the first 40, to make it a five-point game. Accies then lost their skipper Campbell to the sin bin around the 55-minute mark and Gala took full advantage of the extra man, adding two tries in the space of five minutes to make this game safe.
The home defended a set scrum, and a lineouts before Gala ran back a loose kick and hooker Callum MacIntosh dived over in the right -hand corner to level the scores at 19-19. Just minutes later, Gala nicked the lead when Rex Jeffries, on for Howarth, danced over near the posts.
Even then, Gala coach George Graham’s heart rate didn’t slow any as his side were forced to withstand a last-gasp assault as the home side went in search of a share of the spoils. Centre Chris Dean almost made the telling break and the Accies big men huffed and puffed before simply running out of time.
Scorers: Accies: Tries: Young (3). Cons: Glashan 2. Pens: Name 2. Gala: Tries: Pettie, MacIntosh, Jeffries. Con: Dods. Pens: Howarth (3).
Accies: Young, Pecqueur, Dean, Wilson, Marples; Chisholm, Glashan; Bates, Liness, Niven, G Campbell (c), Stuart, Wimks, Sole, Seydak. Subs: Laquour, Launders, Stuart, Godsmark, E Campbell.
Gala: Dods, Law, Auld, Eamon, Young; Howarth, George Graham, Pettie, MacIntosh, Robertson, Weir, Palepoi, Gary Graham, Irvine, Dodds. Subs: Bertram, Cairns, Weir, Jeffries, Thompson.
Referee: Neil Muir.