In a game of enormous importance, Gala defeated reigning RBS Premiership Champions, Ayr in their race for title glory and took home the Bill McLaren Shield, on Saturday.
After trailing 13-7 at half-time, George Graham’s men showed great resilience and strength of character to battle back and survive a late Ayr onslaught.
Despite winning 20-13 and remaining top of the table with six games of the season to go, Gala are refusing to think about the prospect of lifting silverware. Elsewhere in the league Edinburgh Accies sneaked the win against Stirling County at Bridgehaugh, 31-30.
After the Millbrae match, an elated George Graham said: “I’m going to ban any talk of winning the league from now on because there’s still a number of games to play and lots of things can happen.
“We never played particularly well in the first half and in the second period we showed great character to grind out the win.
“Our team never knows when they’re beat and continue to bounce back from setbacks. It was a thoroughly entertaining game and a fantastic advert for Scottish rugby.”
Although they failed to run out as winners, Ayr started brightly and found themselves 13-0 up in the opening stages.
With 14 minutes on the clock, Ewan Scott was sent to the sin bin after refusing to roll away at a ruck. Craig Gossman then stepped up to give Ayr the lead.
The kick gave the home side the momentum required to pile on the pressure and four minutes later they crossed the whitewash through brother, Kerr Gossman who finished off a clever move from the backs after a long period of pressure.
Gala looked stunned and they were soon down by another five points when Kerr scored his second after marauding through a sea of missed tackles.
Once Ewan Scott returned to the field for Gala, their performance improved and it wasn’t long before they began to creep back into the game.
After 32 minutes, Gala camped themselves on Ayr’s five metre line and continued to knock on the door.
After much persistence, they found men wide on the right flank and prop, Ewan McQuillin was able to charge over.
Half-time: Ayr 13-7 Gala
In the second half, smoke began to roll in from a nearby fire, and, after a half-time roasting from George Graham, Gala were determined to overturn the deficit.
They set out their intentions early on and were one point in front after Ewan Scott converted a penalty try following a prolonged period of pressure.
The home side were then at a disadvantage after kicker [Craig] Gossman was awarded a yellow card for tackling a player in the air.
With Ayr a man down, Gala demonstrated their title credentials by kicking two more penalties to increase their lead.
The Millbrae men were a converted try away from a draw but Gala remained strong with the visiting side erupting into celebration after the final whistle, rejoicing what could be a defining moment in their season.
Full-time: Ayr 13-20 Gala
Ayr team: Grant Anderson (captain); Craig Gossman, Robbie Fergusson, Dean Kelbrick, Kerr Gossman; Ross Curle, Murray McConnell; George Hunter, Fergus Scott, Nick Cox, Peter McCallum, Scott Sutherland, Callum Templeton, Andrew Dunlop and Graham Fisken.
Replacements: David Young, D’Arcy Rae, Graham Williamson, Peter Jericevich and Richard Dalgleish.
Gala team: Andy McLean; Gerald Sibanda, Chris Auld, Ewan Scott, Grant Somerville; David O’Hagan, George Graham (captain); Rory Sutherland, Callum Mackintosh, Ewan McQuillin, Craig Borthwick, Opeta Palepoi, Gary Graham, Stevie Cairns and Gary Lowrie.
Replacements: Russell Anderson, Ewan Johnstone, Scott Chapman, Gregor Mein and Craig Robertson.
Referee: Graeme Wells