The efforts of the London Scottish members – bolstered by several visitors from north of the Border – who cleared the snow from the Athletic Ground were amply rewarded with an impressive performance that yielded a comfortable win in their final British & Irish Cup pool match.
While qualification for the knockout phase of the competition is beyond the reach of both sides following defeats in the penultimate round the previous weekend, the teams contributed handsomely to an entertaining encounter. Ultimately, the greater all-round power of the English Championship full-timers was too much for the Borderers.
Gala coach George Graham, below, was magnanimous in defeat, saying: “I thought we played very poorly, but, by the same token, I thought London Scottish were awesome. Their forwards dominated in a way that hasn’t happened against any team we’ve played this season.”
The hosts butchered an early scoring opportunity when Gerard Mullen knocked on with the line at his mercy, but a subsequent offence presented James Love with a straightforward penalty which he steered between the sticks to nudge the hosts into the lead.
Gala passed up an opportunity to square matters when Andy Mclean tugged a penalty wide of the target and the visitors were soon back on defensive chores – a crunching last-ditch tackle by Gavin Young on Mullen preventing a score. However, the inevitable try for the home side came in 18 minutes when skipper Mark Bright crashed over at the corner.
The gap widened when scrum-half Jamie Stevenson picked up at a ruck inside the Gala 22 and wriggled over. Love added the extra two points. And, after surviving a flurry of Gala attacks, the Exiles extended their lead when Phil Godman – who had come on after 31 minutes – fired an exquisite cross-kick into the arms of Stevenson who dotted down for a second time. Love’s conversion completed the first-half scoring.
Scottish bagged their fourth try seven minutes after the restart, when a searing break by Godman was continued by Jim Thompson, who sent Love over. And they reinforced their superiority when Stevenson touched down for a third time after latching on to another Godman cross-kick.