1st XV Match Report vs Dundee High
There seems to be no half measures when we go to Mayfield – either it’s dreich (and the game is a close run thing involving a lot of ‘trench warfare’) or the sun is splitting the sky (and both sides score points for fun). The game on Saturday was most definitely in the latter category.
You knew we would be up against it when you saw the injured players who had travelled up to Dundee – Messrs Howie, McCashin and Wood – and added in the fact that the U18s vs U19s game at Inverleith on Sunday meant that Messrs Hodgson and Hobbis could only make cameo appearances for us at Mayfield.
Dundee High were also impacted by the trial game, with scrum half Kaleem Baretto benching against us to keep him fresh for an U19 start, but, despite that, still managed to field a hefty starting XV, with the evergreen Alan Brown in the front row, Jack Anderson at lock and Ali Mackie at 8 looking particularly formidable.
Our players seemed to agree with me on this, as we struggled to impose ourselves on the game in the first half, falling off tackles and allowing the big Dundee ball carriers to rampage about the park.
We did start the game brightly, though, with a clever grubber in behind the Dundee defence allowing big Gareth Henderson to touch down in the corner (wall end, Tay side) after 9 minutes. Mike Hanning missed the conversion from wide out, then Dundee scored almost immediately from the restart, the successful conversion by stand off Ewan Fox edging them into a 7-5 lead.
We regained the lead on 17 minutes, winger Jack Somerville touching down then Mike adding the extras to make the score 12-7 in our favour.
We then pressed the self destruct button, a combination of poor tackling, lineout errors and a succession of penalties allowing the big men in blue to punch large holes in our defence that the smaller men in blue were all too happy to run through. Two tries were duly coughed up; add in another couple of excellent conversions by Fox (who has spent some time at Goldenacre this season – you can see why) and we were 21-12 down when referee Craig Clark blew for half time.
Dundee continued where they had left off after the break, Mackie dotting down in the corner by the grandstand after the home pack rumbled over our line on 45 minutes. That man Fox landed the difficult conversion with ease to maintain his 100% record and extend Dundee’s lead to 28-12.
It is to our players’ credit that, with the game threatening to get beyond them, they decided to roll their sleeves up and go down fighting. Sean Murchie duly slalomed his way through pretty much the entire Dundee back line after a couple of quick taps had taken us up to the home 22, Hanning adding the extras to make it 28-19 after 50 minutes.
The ease with which Sean had scored seemed to galvanise Dundee, as they restored their 16 point lead shortly afterwards, replacement Lewis McLean touching down after a fine break by one of the home centres. Fox’s kick made it 35-19 after 55 minutes.
We had, by this point, emptied our bench, with Puckle, Oli and Connor all taking the field. The poor tannoy announcer at Mayfield was struggling to keep up with all of our personnel changes, at one point suggesting that ‘Spowart has come on for … Spowart … no, wait a minute, I’ve got that wrong!’
For Dundee, Fox hirpled off after 64 minutes, his tail between his legs but his 100% kicking record intact.
It was two of our subs who were next on the scoresheet, Puckle diving over after 74 minutes following a sustained period of pressure. That got us our fourth try bonus point, while Mike’s nonchalant conversion took the score to 35-26; then, in the final minutes, Connor stepped out of several half hearted tackles to score a fine individual try.
Mike’s excellent conversion took the score to 35-33, and that’s how it ended, the narrow margin of defeat meaning that we would take 2 points on the bus back to Edinburgh with us (along with some inspired, wrestling-themed fancy dress outfits!)
While this was an enjoyable game to watch, with plenty of running rugby and tries a plenty, it had something of an ‘end of term’ feel to it, with neither team having anything left to play for in the league bar pride. Dundee are a decent side, though, so it’s heartening that we still managed to run them so close despite leaking five tries – you got the impression that, if the game had lasted five minutes longer, we might well have sneaked the win. Our fitness was heartening, and our discipline was, overall, pretty good.
Our league campaign concludes at Inverleith this Saturday, with Angus Rennie and his team mates making the short trip over from Falkirk for a 3 pm kickoff. There’s a mouth watering undercard, too, with the 2nd XV taking on Accies (1.30 pm) and the 3rd XV hosting Linlithgow 2s (3 pm).
It’s important that we fulfil all of these fixtures, so please put your hand up ASAP if you’re available to play.
As Gav’s deputy for the day, it would be remiss of me to omit the following juicy stat, passed on by Spowart Senior during the first half at Mayfield: there were no less than seven former pupils of Dundee High School on the pitch on Saturday, one of them (Spowart Junior) wearing red, black and gold.
Not only that, but there was also a current teacher from the High School on the business side of the whitewash – our old mate Christy O’Donnell, playing on the wing for High (and ‘enjoying’ in-game coaching from his former SMC mentor Phil Waine).
Final Score: Dundee High 35 – Stewart’s Melville 33