FOR a third successive season, Gala have reached the semi-finals of the RBS Scottish Cup after achieving an eventually sizeable win over Stirling County at Netherdale yesterday, with a performance that was based on forward dominance.
Yet despite Gala’s four-try total, the Maroons coach, George Graham, was far from pleased with his charges’ display. He said: “It was a comfortable win but it was the worst game of rugby Gala have played all season.
“There were so many unforced errors and bad discisions and generally I was disappointed that we were so far ahead in the forward play but we just never really capitalised on it”.
Still, from the point of view of the Gala forwards, their power in the set-scrum, their flawless line-out and the mobility of the back row was satisfying even if this was not reflected in points.
Individually, Ewan McQuillan at tighthead was crushingly effective, and on the other side of the front row Rory Sutherland showed why he could attract the attention of the professional game.
For Stirling, missing several players, this was a game to wipe from the memory. But County can take some comfort from their backline defence in which inside centre Fraser Lyle showed up well. Lyle also looked the pick of their backs during their limited opportunities for playing attacking rugby.
There was a certain arithmetical neatness about the scoreline after three minutes with the sides tied at 3-3 after a penalty goal from Stuart Edwards for Stirling and a matching effort by Euan Scott for Gala.
From Gala’s restart, Stirling survived a scare when Edwards’ clearance kick was charged down, only for Gary Graham to lose control of the ball with the line at his mercy.
But Stirling stand-off Edwards atoned quickly with a try-saving tackle on the Gala wing Grant Somerville.
Gala’s first-half breakthrough came from a bold run out of defence by Somerville, support from full-back Andy McLean and then a deep touch-finder from Gala stand-off David O’Hagan.
Sutherland punched through the Stirling defence to create a maul on County’s line, from which Opeta Palepoi emerged with the ball before crashing over for a try, converted by Scott, who then added a penalty goal to give his side a 13-3 interval advantage.
Stirling looked purposeful in the opening minutes of the second half but after an aerial rally Gala won a throw-in eight metres out from County’s line.
Inevitably Gala drove the line-out and when Stirling pulled down the maul referee Peter Allan had no option but award a penalty try, converted by Scott, for a 20-3 lead.
A third successful penalty kick by Scott effectively put the game beyond the reach of Stirling, whose deteriorating plight was further damaged by the sin-binning of replacement prop Billy Dineen.
With 15 against 14, the scoreboard was not going to remain static for long, confirmed whenMcQuillan barged over from close range.
Then, from a handling move, replacement Lewis Bertram took a scoring pass for Gala’s fourth try, David O’Hagan’s conversion completing a satisfactory cup win.