1st XV vs Dundee HSFP: Match Report
Today, Dundee is promoted as ‘One City – Many Discoveries’, in honour of the city’s many scientific discoveries, not least in the field of technology. What were we about to discover as we headed north through Fife – were we going to continue our push towards the play-off place, or was our campaign about to be blown off course in a twenty first century Tay disaster?
To mis-quote from Tolstoy*, ‘happy rugby clubs are all alike; every unhappy club is unhappy in its own way’. Our club, at the moment, is a happy club – there is an ‘esprit de corps’, and, if people put their body on the line, that can take you an awful long way towards achieving your goals. Simply put, it’s called team spirit, and is what, generally, makes Border sides so difficult to play against.
Dundee had to beat us to stay in the chase for a play-off spot, and, in the first half, we were faced with arguably the most difficult circumstances of the season, as Dundee controlled possession, the elements and territory. We arrived weakened by the late withdrawals of Sangster and Hamblin. The weather was bitter, with a wind blowing across the pitch straight from the Firth of Tay. The underfoot conditions were poor, and, as a result of opposition pressure, the penalty count was against us.
Dundee’s inability to score more than ten points in this period, thanks to our dogged defence, meant that we were able to match their score in the second half and secure the draw, which, with events unfolding at Myreside, was a better result for Stewart’s Melville than Dundee.
There were periods of play in the first half when we did one or two promising things. Our scrum achieved a turnover that hinted at an advantage in this area, and, at one stage, it looked as if Nick McCashin had threaded his way up the touchline, only to be recalled for a foot straying into touch. The lineout was not a profitable source of possession, however, and our back three found it difficult to find 5th gear on a treacherous surface.
Matt Morrell, in these conditions, resembles a shiny, new, canary yellow sports car with the wrong set of tyres – but full marks to him, because he is full of endeavour and the sun will shine again. Mike Hanning is not the first to discover that it is easier to play rugby at Inverleith, where there always seems to be more grip than on most other pitches that we visit.
Neil Bowie has developed as a 1st XV player and can now sense space, whereas, before, being a naturally confrontational player, he preferred the direct approach. His interpretation of the laws can, however, differ from the referee’s, and, when this occurs, he seems to feel obliged to explain to the referee exactly where the referee was mistaken. In fairness, this is exactly the same as his father, so perhaps it is a genetic trait, and some of these actions can be apportioned to (father) Bob.
Increasingly, the part the mind plays in executing sporting prowess is being recognised. In interviews, you may notice snooker players or golfers say how well they are striking the ball and how well practice is going; they don’t let negative thoughts creep in. They try to trick their subconscious into thinking everything is fine – if you tell yourself you are an average golfer, then you will perform like a high handicapper.
Similarly, if you tell yourself you are a second division rugby player, that is how you will play. The mind is a funny thing, and not easily tricked – it has to believe what you are telling it. With the lineout, for example, if it is contested in mid-field, the side throwing in is usually successful; but, if the attacking side eschews the three points to go for the corner, everyone (the jumper, the lifters and the hooker) tenses up. Surely an example of how a clear mind and positive thoughts influence outcomes.
The first half scorers for Dundee were Hosie with a penalty (after having missed from a similar distance) followed by McKavanagh with a try around the 30 minute mark. Hosie converted McKavanagh’s try, which resulted through sheer weight of Dundee pressure. Although the try scorer might have been stopped, there looked to be space and runners around him that would have led to a score in any event. Such was the imbalance in the penalty count at this stage that a yellow seemed probable, and half time could not come quickly enough.
The plan for the second half was to play for territory whilst, at the same time, trying to move the big boys in the Dundee pack about the field a bit to create some space. Alston at full-back for Dundee dealt with everything we threw at him. Dymock, an experienced campaigner at scrum-half, bossed the fringes, but he found Fraser a handful as space started to open up. Fraser, on more than one occasion, caught Dundee unawares by running the short penalties. In the forwards, Adam Howie popped up to good effect and Nick Hart, actually, has nice soft hands and revels in the close encounter work. Ben Wilson scavenged efficiently.
The first score after half time was going to be crucial, as points were not easy to come by in these conditions, and, thankfully, we managed to string a few phases together to give Dave Hampton his opportunity. When he received the ball there was still a bit to do, but he came off his left foot impressively to leave the defence flatfooted and give him a clear run to the line. Nick McCashin then converted. Nick had missed an earlier chance with a penalty but made no mistake with five minutes to go to convert the equalising three pointer.
So, Hillhead up next, on Valentine’s Day at Inverleith – let’s not get ahead of ourselves and prepare properly for this.
* ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina