Gordonians 20-19 Falkirk: Visitors edged out by late call

Falkirk RFC in action
Falkirk RFC in action

A wet and misty Countesswells pitch survived an early inspection following torrential overnight rain in the Aberdeen area, and it was the home side that managed the haar and a damp ball better in the in the early stages.

In the tenth minute a scrappy ball from a Gordonians scrum was recycled and grubber-kicked forward. The resulting kick chase forced Falkirk into conceding a lineout in a dangerous position, 5 metres from their own line. The home side won the set piece ball and drove for the line, but although that initial drive was repelled, quick ruck ball allowed the right winger to go over in the corner.

The try was well converted from the touchline, which would prove to be crucial for the home side in the end.

Midway through the first half, Falkirk struck back with some slick handling in the backs which gave centre Connor Faulds the space to arc his run around his opposite number to make the score 7-5.

Falkirk then had an excellent chance to take the lead, as a miss-pass to fullback Chris Lawson, gave the visitors an overlap in the Gordonians 22, however the on-rushing defender did just enough to make Lawson rush his pass, which went forward and the chance was gone.

In 31 minutes, Gordonians again made effective use of the kick and chase, this time down Falkirk’s right flank and they were rewarded, albeit fortuitously, as firstly Falkirk winger Euan Cassells pulled up with a tightening hamstring and then the touch judge missed what appeared to be a foot in touch from the Gordonians’ winger as he fly-hacked the ball into the Falkirk in goal area for his fullback to touch down, making the score 14-5 to the home side at half-time.

Early in the second half, Gordonians impressively converted a penalty from around 35m distance, to extend their lead to 17:5, however, by this time Falkirk were coming more and more into the game. They were getting a lot of joy from their set piece, in particular, a dominant scrum. This pressure eventually told midway through the half when a Gordonians’ scrum in the own 22 was won against the head and after a few phases of pick & go from the forwards, David Stoddart went over the line from close range for a converted try, narrowing the gap to 17-12.

In 61 minutes, Falkirk lock Gregor Dodd was stopped right on the Gordonians line, and with his team-mates in the pack still claiming the score, the ball was sent wide, only to see a golden chance agonisingly lost, as the ball was knocked on with the line beckoning.

Somewhat against the run of play, Gordonians then kicked a second penalty goal to increase their lead to 20-12. However, Falkirk kept pushing and centre Faulds nearly scored his second try of the day following a mazy run, which was only stopped by a last ditch tap-tackle.

As he stretched out for the line, the ball slipped forward out of his grasp and a defender was able to gather. Rather than risk another scrum on his own 5m line, the ball was kicked clear, giving away Gordonian’s advantage from the knock-on. Falkirk ran the ball straight back into the Gordonians’ 22 and a penalty at the resulting ruck was taken quickly by scrum-half Harry Russell. When he was eventually stopped just short of the line, inside centre Graham Gilliland was on hand to score, with the conversion reducing the home side’s advantage to just a single point.

It was now pretty much constant pressure from Falkirk. Another penalty was won in the Gordonian’s half, but stand-off Fionn Call chose to go for the touchline and a fourth try bonus point, rather than attempt a kick at goal into the stiff wind. That attack was repelled, but with time running out, Falkirk won yet another penalty from a very similar position and this time opted to go for the posts. In a dramatic and controversial finale to the match, Call’s kick cleared the top of the right hand upright and while one touch judge raised his flag to signal the score, the other did not, leaving the referee with an awkward decision.

In his opinion the ball had passed in front of the post and therefore the three-points were not awarded and the match ended 20-19.

Falkirk will be frustrated that they were unable to take enough of their chances in a dominant second half performance, to recover from their slow start and secure a win against the side which won National League 3 last season.