Gala triumph in Border league final
Published: 8 May 2012 09:290 comments
EVEN the winning of their first Border League title since 2004-5 wasn't the end of the story for Gala's great season last Wednesday night.
They extended their winning run against Hawick to six games, they beat them for the third time in a season and they produced their highest ever total against their old rivals.
All were records for Gala and thoroughly deserved to cap a memorable winter which left coach George Graham "bursting with pride" and looking forward to even greater things to come.
The final of the Booker Border League was in many ways a repeat of the Scottish Cup final, with the losers giving away penalties at critical moments and Gala in charge for three-quarters of the match.
The game drew a good crowd to Philiphaugh where some fine rugby was played by both sides, despite a second half downpour.
Once again Lee Millar directed affairs with his increasing maturity in tactical kicking, and against the Greens he was very much to the fore in getting attacks going.
He added another 22 personal points to his weekend bag and Gala's four tries were another indication of the standard the team has now reached.
With the fifteens season now ended, the only regret the large Gala support had was that there was no further chance this season to improve even further.
George Graham knows that next year the team will face harder challenges. "We need to keep pushing, we can't rest on our laurels."
He knows that the teams Gala will meet, including in the British and Irish Cup, will know about them and will be ready.
The game showed Gala's strength in all departments. From the experienced Andy McLean's steadiness since he moved to full back, right through to the way in which the young front row has become the stable heart of the scrum, Gala were in control.
Captain Opeta Palepoi, the veteran in years, showed that his enthusiasm for the club and the game is undiminished, and the side's overall performance, not just at Selkirk, reflected well on coaching staff and players alike.
Hawick's bright start saw them into a 10-3 lead with Millar's penalty replying to a try, conversion and penalty fom Neil Renwick. The game sprang into life with an outstanding run from Craig Robertson and then two tries from Gala's young and impressive hooker Russell Anderson, both converted by Millar, which made it 17-10.
Before the break Millar added a try of his own, converting again, and despite another Renwick penalty, Gala were beginning to look even more impressive than at Murrayfield.
Hawick's last effort to turn things round brought them a try from Gary Johnstone converted by Renwick, but there was no way Gala were going to hand away their second big prize and Millar added a couple of penalties.
Robertson wrapped it up with a try after jinking his way to the line, Millar converted, and it was over to Border League president Bob Hogarth to hand over another cup to a delighted Opeta Palepoi.
Gala started with the same 15 as at Murrayfield with the exception of Gavin Young, who had just left for a summer in New Zealand.
Gala: A. McLean; F. Hunter, B. Turner, A. Emond, C. Robertson; L. Millar, George Graham; L. Pettie, R. Anderson, E. McQuillin, C. Weir, O. Palepoi, Gary Graham, G. Lowrie, E. Dods. (Replacements: P. Stewart, S. Cairns, C. Borthwick, C. Keddie, C. Dods, D. Marshall, R. Livingstone.)