Coming a week after his side passed up a possible victory at Currie, Accies coach Simon Cross witnessed his men deliver a second successive performance brimming with character but once again saw his team fall just short of the win.
Cross said: “That’s two in a row. I don’t know whether to jump up and down and scream, or pat them on the back. In terms of effort and endeavour, that was just about as brave a performance as we’ve put in.”
The coach was unhappy at the ease with which Gala breached the home defence, adding: “I’m disappointed because we gave Gala 29 points. There were 20 points in the first half that Gala didn’t have to work for and nine points in the second half that were just silly offside penalties. That is really unacceptable. We are a small team, we are very fit and energetic but we can’t afford to give away cheap offside penalties.”
However, in comparing his players with those of Gala, Cross sees reasons to believe that Accies can develop into credible challengers for honours. And, with that in mind, he is keen to replicate the success of his Netherdale counterpart George Graham.
“I’ve got all sorts of admiration for George and what he has done at Gala. It gives me a lot of hope. We got promoted at the same time. He is now a top four, B&I Cup and they won a cup last year, so credit to George and his guys,” stated Cross. “They won a game they probably shouldn’t, but that’s the difference between us and them at the moment.”
The Raeburn Place men opened the scoring in an entertaining encounter when Ruaridh Bonner slotted an early penalty. The Borderers struck back with a try from Craig Robertson who sprinted in from half way. Lee Millar converted then added a penalty, as Gala capitalised on their weightier pack.
“There is no getting away from it, we are light up front but what we lack in size, we need to make sure we make up for with technique. That’s the challenge of coaching,” conceded Cross.
However, the hosts drew level when Ewen Campbell atoned for an earlier yellow card when he nipped in for a try, and Bonner’s conversion restored parity. Millar nudged Gala back in front with a penalty then converted a try from Euan Dods before Bonner clawed back three points with an injury-time penalty that left Accies 20-13 adrift at the break.
The home side’s determination to make up for lack of bulk with a fluid style of rugby was more evident after the restart and a good opening to the second period produced a well-worked try for Gavin Douglas, which Bonner converted to haul Accies level once more.
Gala regained control and Millar maintained his immaculate kicking record with three penalties to build a nine-point advantage with ten minutes to play.
Accies could have capitulated, but instead they displayed admirable battling qualities and winger Jamie Farndale sparked a desperate finale when he launched a break from deep, showcasing his pace and elusive running. He was finally captured by a desperate Gala defence but just seconds later was on hand to crash over from close range. Bonner’s conversion gave the Capital men hope but Gala saw the game out to secure the victory. Farndale echoed the sentiments of his coach when he insisted that Accies are capable of mirroring the successes the Borderers have recorded since returning to the top flight.
“I’m gutted right now but it looks good for the season,” said the highly rated 18-year-old. “Gala did well last year and for us to do so well against them shows you we are not joking around and we could be top four.
“We finished right at the bottom last year and they finished at the top, so it shows that this year we are here and, as the season goes on I would hope that we can be looking at a top four and a British & Irish Cup place.”
Edinburgh Accies: Tries: Campbell, Douglas, Farndale. Cons: Bonner (3). Pens: Bonner (2).
Gala: Tries: Robertson, Dods. Cons: Millar (2). Pens: Millar (5)
Edinburgh Accies: G Douglas; J Farndale, E Campbell, I Berthinussen, J Pecqueur; R Bonner, A Black; D Morrison, M Liness, L Niven, G Campbell, T Drennan, D Teague, T Hancock, C Reid. Subs Used: F Rawlinson, K Blyth, A Graham, M Campbell.
Gala: A McLean; G Somerville, B Turner, A Emond, C Robertson; L Millar, G Graham; L Pettie, R Anderson, E McQuillan, C Weir, O Palepoi, G Graham, G Lowrie, E Dods. Subs Used: C Mackintosh, D Marshall, G Bryce, G Young.
Referee: R Dickson.