Rugby: Currie can’t afford to sulk – it’s the champions next

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Currie coach Ally Donaldson insists there is no time to dwell on a disappointing 25-23 defeat at home to Gala on the opening day of the RBS Premier 1 season.

Last year, the Malleny Park men bounced back from two defeats and two draws in the opening four matches to finish as runners-up to Melrose. And their ability to avoid a similarly disappointing start this time will be a consideration as they prepare for a trip to the Greenyards to face the champions on Saturday.

Donaldson said: “We can’t sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. We’ve got Melrose away, so we have a new challenge there.”

He saw his team misfire badly against a never-say-die Borders outfit that snatched the victory when full back Lee Millar banged over a long-range penalty in the final minute then retained possession throughout injury time to seal a winning return to the top flight.

That ability to control the ball at the vital stage of the game proved to the difference between the teams, after the hosts had failed to do so a few moments earlier. With a single-point advantage, Currie earned a penalty within kicking range but opted to boot the ball into touch rather than go for goal. But, Gala seized possession at the lineout before profiting from the hosts’ indiscipline.

Defending the decision to spurn the three pointer, Donaldson added: “I just thought that if we could get the ball, we could keep it in the corner. It was the right call, we just should have kept the ball.”

And assessing the result, he added: “It’s very disappointing. It wasn’t a lack of effort, just a lot of misplaced effort. “We were poor in too many areas. We let ourselves down in a lot of key areas.

“We’ve got a lot of improving to do because that was not a typical Currie performance.

“We made technical and tactical errors throughout the game. The only good rugby we played was in the first five minutes. The rest of it was not what we are capable of.”

Currie fell behind to an early try by Gala winger Lee Kibble and the gap remained at five points when Matt Scott and Millar exchanged penalties. However, the home side restored parity when pacy winger Barry Mansfield marked his debut with a try after taking a scoring pass from the day’s top performer Dougie Fife.

And the hosts reached the break with a three-point advantage after Scott had stroked over a second penalty.

Currie restarted well and looked set to click through the gears when Mike Entwhistle plunged over from close range for a try, which Jamie Forbes converted. However, the visitors showed their character when they withstood the sustained pressure. And the score line remained unchanged until the 64th minute when Gavin Young darted over and Millar converted to haul Gala back into the game.

A riposte came three minutes later in the shape of a powerful run by Fife, who blasted his way through two tackles and stretched over for an unconverted try that should have been enough to see the hosts off to a winning start.

Not so, as Gala struck back with a try from Ewan McQuillin which Millar calmly converted to narrow the deficit to a single point. And the teenage full back was back on target with his thumping late effort to snatch the victory.

Gala coach George Graham was understandably delighted by the efforts of his players but tempered his elation with some words of caution.

“I was just so proud of the way we never gave in. When they got to 18-8 I thought they might kick on. But we came back and scored a well executed try”, he said. “This is a dream start. It’s a culmination of two years hard work. And, to see it come to fruition against arguably one of the better teams in the first division, I’m over the moon for these players, but we need to keep our feet on the ground.”

Donaldson acknowledged the performance, adding: “Gala never gave up. They caused us problems and probably deserved their victory at the end of the day.”

Scorers:

Currie: Tries: Mansfield, Entwhistle, Fife; Con: Forbes. Pens: Scott (2).

Gala: Tries: Kibble, Young, McQuillin. Cons: Millar (2). Pens: Millar (2).

Currie: J Forbes, B Mansfield, D Fife, A Whittingham, R Neill, M Scott, R Snedden, J Cox, F Scott, A Hamilton, S Marcell, A Adam, M Cairns, M Enthwhistle, R Weston. Subs Used: A Best M Peacock, G Somerville.

Gala: L Millar, L Kibble, C Auld, C Borthwick, C Robertson, A Maclean, G Graham, L Pettie, R Anderson, E McQuillin, C Weir, O Palepoi, G Graham, G Lowrie, E Dods. Subs Used: L Bertram, L Roden, D Marshall, A Emond, G Young.

Referee: P Davies (RFU).