Match Report v Dundee HSFP RFC : Saturday 23 January 2016
Having fought back from a very poor start to get ourselves into position as favourites to win the game we lacked the composure to finish the job. Dundee certainly knew they had been in a game and were very happy to escape north with their bonus point victory.
The game started in soft but good conditions marred by a wind blowing towards the sea. We kicked off playing into the wind. Dundee, with their centre pairing from the earlier fixture missing, and a couple of young half backs in the ranks, started very confidently. Indeed Fox, their ten, used his spin pass to great effect bringing in runners from different angles.
Usually, Dundee are very physical but this side asked more questions out-wide where initially a missed tackle in the defence line allowed them a soft try through Ronan Joy. Leese atoned for his earlier straightforward penalty miss by adding the extras. After 14 minutes Fox delayed his pass intelligently to allow Cochrane an angle that was difficult to defend and with Leese again converting it was 0-14 after fourteen minutes. In the end, with two evenly matched teams, the start that Dundee established through that opening period proved decisive.
After twenty five minutes we received a life-line. We harried Dundee’s poor scrummage ball on their goal line and Fox tried to involve Joy, his winger, in order to clear up field. Joy’s clearance kick miscued, and, like a sliced wedge heading for a greenside bunker instead of the dancing floor, into the arms of Ali Greig under the posts. Ali did well to react as the kick was so unexpected but gathered and touched down leaving Mike to convert.
We were back in the game and fought out the rest of the half, probably, in the ascendancy, ’Thor’- again about whom more later – not only has developed into a ball carrier but fairly lines up an opponent to smash into them in defence, was leading the charge ably supported by Ruairdh Adam and it goes without saying Hugh. In general our box-kicking and chase was working well and Dundee full of enterprise early on were not so fancy under pressure. We looked a good hungry unit, so half-time came with the score 7-14 and the wind at our backs in the second half the comeback was on.
Early in the second half Cochrane hoofed it clear into midfield where the aforementioned Thor Rappestad, was lurking he accelerated (you could hear the ground move) into the tackle brushing off would be tacklers and found clear blue water with Porteous on his left, Porteous timed the link to Ross McCann to motor in from twenty yards. Ross anticipates things so well on the rugby field and is sickeningly proficient in every sports skill (except perhaps the line-out). Mike missed the conversion but the scoreboard narrowed to 12-14.
Our defence has been good this season and a look at our points differential in the league table confirms this but another error allowed Cochrane to break through the defensive line to let Fox touch down but again Leese was unsuccessful with his conversion and Mike then narrowed the gap with a penalty. Mike’s work in defence is hardly mentioned now as he routinely puts in such a power of work that it becomes the norm.
It is obviously policy to use our bench but the nature of our pack makes it difficult. Nobody trains all week to sit and watch. It was disappointing, however, to see Thor replaced after little more than an hour. He has been improving week on week and was having a Ball however Fraser’s grunt makes him difficult to substitute and Jamie was winning all his line out throws from six. Tom Croy undeniably put himself about when he came on but Dundee would be more than happy to see the back of Thor. Perhaps there are fitness issues, but might Thor have found another gap as we strived for the winning score?
Manson introduced for Porteous provided extra zip with his pass and asked different questions from Gregor, who also can also be pleased with his afternoon. Unfortunately, our come back stalled as Dundee were next to score as Leese motored in from a quickly taken penalty and he converted his own try.
We were not beaten yet and from a penalty line out Mike McDonald, wearing a different scrum cap in case he was mistaken for the newly betrothed Seb, managed to peel over.
Mike added a conversion and penalty to bring the score to 25 – 26 with more than ten minutes left. Unfortunately, we couldn’t seal the deal – Dundee started to fling a jumper up to get a paw in front of Jamie at the front and we just couldn’t get possession in the Dundee half. By and large our line out was Ok but we often seem to concede the second touch.
The game finished with Dundee looking for a pushover on our line, this was tense as our bonus point was now in jeopardy. With practically the last play Dundee took the three points on offer, they collected the kick off and booted the ball out.
After the match groups huddled round ‘ iphones’ looking at results elsewhere. It emerged that we are still in eighth spot with Musselburgh now only four points ahead. The match confirmed that we are a very good tight knit side well led by our senior players but let down by the odd lack in concentration – night and day from before Christmas.
So progress then but beware of its deadly cousin regress
Full Time : Stewart’s Melville 25 Dundee 29
Photograph courtesy of John Preece