Wow that must have been the coldest game of rugby I have ever watched and the coldest that these players have ever played in. With Radio Borders reporting -5C at their nearby Tweedbank base, Peebles left Peebles at -1C and must have wondered what lay ahead as the travelled east to Gala.
The previous day and Saturday morning were rife of changed kick off time, Melrose maybe playing Esher at The Greenyards, then at Netherdale, and then it was off as Gatwick closed and Esher could not travel then Falcons to play Exeter on Sunday.
Credit to gala for putting the undersoil heating on and the work they did in preparing the pitch for the game.
The most noticeable sight on arrival was the white frozen back pitches at Netherdale in comparison to the greener but still lightly whitened but maroon lined main pitch against the background of the frozen Eildons, the clear afternoon sky and very bright ¾ moon. That then paled to insignificance as the teams played on in temperatures down to -8 C.
With neither side having played for a few days short of a month and training being decimated by weather conditions during that period, we got what was expected an error strewn game with quite a lot of stoppages in a tight and tense game. That did not stop both sides putting 100% effort into this Premier B encounter.
Tweed Homes sponsored Peebles started the better and whilst the play was contained to the middle of the pitch, Neil Warnock had the first chances to open the scoring on 12 minutes and 18 minutes. Normally well within his capability the Gytes faithful were disappointed when the normally safe standoff put a drop goal attempt, immediately followed by a penalty, then another penalty narrowly wide from eminently kickable positions; which would have been just reward for the early pressure. But it was not to be,
This gave Gala added incentive and when a forward attack was thwarted, Peebles were penalised and man of the match, Lee miller slotted one over from the 10 metre line put Gala in front.
Peebles came back and after a succession of phases with Peebles handling well in the cold conditions, Gala were caught offside and Warnock levelled the score with a third penalty attempt which brought the half time score of 3 all and both teams headed for the dressing room to keep warm during the break.
After the restart, Peebles again started well but when a further two penalty attempts went wide, Gala counter attacked well pressurising Peebles into errors. Willie Aitken took a team yellow for persistent offside infringements, and remained off the pitch for a full 17 minutes, and in his absence the Gala pack drove to the line. On the back foot and one man down, Peebles had no answer when the ball was shifted from forwards to backs and Lee Miller went in for the only try of the encounter which he converted midday through the second half.
Neil Warnock found the target on 25 minutes to bring Peebles to within 4, but they scored no further points. Lee Miller added another penalty on 40 minutes to widen the gap again, whilst within a 5 minutes stoppage time there was no further scoring.
Euan Jackson put in another workmanlike performance until he went off with cramp - just cut down the penalties. Likewise David Harvey controlled the lineouts until he hirpled off early in the second half. His absence heralded the Gala lineout starting to win ball on their own throw. There was the welcome return of Drew Moore, who was always sniping away at the base of the scrum and breaking round the rucks, David Paton who dislocated his elbow last time out.
Gala now lie second on points differential, whilst Peebles are one outside the important top 4 promotion spot and need to improve turning pressure into pints for the remaining games, none of which will be anywhere in the easy region.
The next scheduled Premier B League encounter is the twice re-arranged Watsonians fixture at the Gytes on 15th January at 3 PM, whilst in the meantime there is a Border League game scheduled at Milntown against Langholm on Monday 27th at 2 PM; however the weather must going to put that into doubt.
As always latest information on games will be available at www.peeblesrfc.org on Radio Borders (and their web site) and on the club noticeboard.
Peebles - Neil Warnock 2 penalties Gala - Lee Miller Try, Conversion and 2 penalties