1st XV vs Dundee HSFP: Match Report
In Greek mythology, as you know, the dead in hell drink water from this river in order to forget past misdeeds – or, as Walter Savage Landor has it:
“On love, on grief, on every human thing,
Time sprinkles Lethe’s water with his wing.”
For a while on Saturday it seemed as if we had forgotten how to play to our strengths. We are not a huge side that can control the ball, and we do not, generally, have runners that can be relied upon to make something out of nothing. What we do have, however, is twenty players that can play at pace with a level of fitness and controlled aggression that some in our division do not have. Physical pressure can dampen opposition ambition, as rugby is a physical game, as opposed to, say, tennis or golf. You are allowed to hurt your opposite number and make him think twice about taking you on – he then knows that, if he is tackled, it is going to be sore.
Everyone has to buy into this, though, as, once one or two players don’t fully commit to the tackle, holes appear, and the feeling of united strength quickly disappears. The corollary to this is that, once a few lead by example (and there are plenty like this – Hugh Lindsay or Neil Bowie, to name but two), others not so naturally aggressive join in and this creates a ‘thou shall not pass’ mentality.
The first half involved Nick McCashin trying to make sensible use of the elements, but we got caught in a spiral because, generally, Dundee coped with everything and ‘aerial ping pong’ ensued. The temptation, when you have the wind at your back, is to use it, but the second bounce in the resultant lineout often favours the team playing against the wind.
Two penalties gave us a six nil advantage after twenty minutes where we generally held the upper hand, but, after controlling play for three or four minutes, Pettie stormed through for the visitors. Millar’s conversion gave Dundee the narrowest of advantages. McCashin and Millar traded penalties to make it 10-9 to Dundee when the half time whistle blew.
Millar, like McCashin in the first half, tried to control field position after the break, but the wind advantage slowly disappeared. After ten minutes of the half, the pivotal moment in the game occurred. Alan Brown, the Dundee tight head, was yellow carded for pulling down Fraser Morrison in mid-air; we had previously held a slight advantage in the scrum, but now the advantage was more pronounced.
With three points on offer, we opted for the scrum, and duly delivered the seven when Rhys Morgan ploughed over and McCashin converted. Our replacements then added a freshness to the proceedings as the tempo stepped up.
McCashin missed a long range effort that would have rewarded our superiority but back came Dundee with a penalty to narrow the gap. Stewart’s Melville lost Whyte to the bin for illegal use of the hoof that was spotted by the eagle-eyed stand side Assistant Referee. His loss did not have the same discombobulating effect that Brown’s had earlier for Dundee and McCashin restored a six point advantage.
McKavangh and O’Sullivan had given plenty of warning about their attacking abilities, and it seemed to be game over as the latter breezed over, making good use of the dead ball area to dot down behind the posts. This left Millar the simplest of tasks to secure the lead with only two minutes showing on the electronic scoreboard.
In a repeat of the tactic used by Selkirk against us, and in exactly the same place, Stewart’s Melville kicked off to a lone flanker who was engulfed by the home eight and illegally tried to slip the ball back. McCashin, from the identical spot that he had failed from earlier, struck it over the posts – albeit with a slight duck hook that had the home faithful anxiously waiting for the flags.
Watsonians are next up, then, under the lights at Myreside on Friday night, and, with both teams having lost only two games, something has to give.
As an example of left field thinking, consider the Roman javelin, the pilum. It worked. The pilum was seven feet long, including an iron head two feet long. Only its point, square in section and 10 inches long, was tempered. Its shank was left as soft iron. Why? When the pilum was thrown, the enemy raised their shields for protection. These were pierced by the heads of the javelins, and the weight of the shafts bent the iron shanks. Thus did the enemy have seven-foot encumbrances stuck in their shields. It was an instinctive reaction to throw the shields away – exactly what the Romans intended. The rest, as they say, is history – that’s tactics for you!