1st XV Match Report vs Dundee High

1st XV Match Report vs Dundee High

Those of you following our game at Mayfield via Colin’s updates on the Club’s Facebook page would have seen the following post at 3.46 pm on Saturday:

Found in Dundee, Stew Mel heart and determination. For those that have watched Stew Mel this season, the HT score does not reflect the determination, heart and passion the boys are playing with. Without doubt the best half of rugby we have played this season and some great defence. Dundee playing out of their skins and only just deserving of a lead – certainly not 24 v 6.

Mr Rigby wasn’t wrong, either. While we managed to ship four tries during the opening period, we also enjoyed a fair bit of possession, defended resolutely and were unlucky just to have two penalties by Happy to show for our efforts at the interval.

We coped well with Dundee’s attacks during the opening exchanges but still conceded the opening try after five minutes, a penalty kicked to the corner allowing the home pack to rumble over from the resulting lineout. Kieran Scoular’s fine conversion from the touchline made the score 7-0.

We took the game to Dundee from the restart, Jamie Sword, Happy and Sean Murchie all carrying well as we worked our way into the Dundee half. The passage of play ended with us being awarded a penalty in front of the post on the 22, Happy’s neat kick pegging Dundee back to 7-3.

Dundee came roaring back at us thereafter, but some fine collective defence appeared to have halted them in their tracks, our ‘new’ stand off Gregor Porteous marshalling the backs well and big Gus Wallace putting in some resounding hits. We were, however, undone by a simple tap penalty on the 16 minute mark, the rapid attack ending with home flanker Arnott trotting in at the clubhouse end for a soft try. The conversion was missed after the ball fell off the tee, but we were now 12-3 down.

We narrowed the gap to 6 points on 25 minutes after Dundee were deemed to have halted another flowing attack illegally on the edge of their 22. Happy made simple work of the penalty, although, to be honest, we would probably have preferred to have gone with the advantage as a neat chip through by Murray Hanning had sent Sean and our ‘born-again’ winger Ruaridh Stewart haring after the ball as it rolled towards the Dundee line.

Dundee’s next try was rather fortuitous, albeit it stemmed from an almighty up and under from inside centre Andy Hamilton around the half way line. The ball landed near the touchline at the clubhouse corner, bounced over Sean’s head and was then fly hacked over the line by lurking Dundee winger Evan Fairweather. With our defence struggling to react, Fairweather duly beat James Ferguson to the touch down in the corner. The conversion came back off the post, leaving the score at 17-6 to Dundee.

We enjoyed the bulk of possession for the next five minutes, but were twice penalised for diving over the top after we had carried the ball deep into the Dundee 22. This happened at least three times during the first half, and underlines just how important fine margins can be – with a bit more composure in the ‘red zone’, we could have been at least two tries to the good.

As it was, Dundee finished the half on the attack, making the most of the yellow shown to birthday boy Tom Croy for an alleged ‘no arms’ tackle on one of the hefty Dundee props. Tom at least had the decency to shake said prop’s hand in apology as he headed over to the stand to get first pick of the oranges. Dundee understandably kept the ball in the pack after the resulting penalty, eventually claiming a pushover try from another lineout despite some manful defence from our forwards. The conversion gave us that 24-6 scoreline at the break.

As Colin said, we’d actually put in a pretty decent performance during the opening period, the introduction of Gregor stiffening up our midfield defence while Ruaridh Stewart had shown real hunger both in attack and defence. We did, however, seem rather confused by the amount of possession we had enjoyed, kicking the ball away at times when we should just have put it through the hands and (as noted above) rushing things when we managed to break into the home 22. Poor game management and a lack of precision in attack, in other words.

Despite all our efforts in the first half, the game was effectively beyond us before the second half was ten minutes old. The Dundee pack rumbled over on 46 minutes after we’d been penalised at a scrum near our line (29-6) then number 8 Danny Levison scampered in under the posts on 50 minutes after a penalty led to another Dundee lineout near our line (36-6).

We showed admirable spirit to take the game to Dundee thereafter, with Happy and Swordy punching the ball up the middle … only for classy, ex-Hawks centre Neil Herron to intercept a pop pass around half way and sprint in for the try. That made it 43-6 with 20 minutes left to play.

The watching Stew Mellies knew that the game was beyond us now – but the men in red, black and gold showed no sign of surrender, hammering the Dundee line for fully five minutes. Our attacks swung from right to left and back again, our backs handling well and putting pace on the ball … but we just couldn’t seem to break the thin blue line, and were eventually penalised. While this represented our best attacking spell to date in the game, you did get the feeling that we’d kind of run out of ideas – once again, we just needed one of our older heads to take a second, assess the situation and change the point of attack accordingly.

This was, rather understandably, the point at which our heads started to go down, allowing Dundee to finish the game very much in the ascendancy. They ran in three further tries as we started to fall off tackles, giving a final score of 62-6.

Another heavy (and point-less) defeat, then, but there were still plenty of positives to take from the game. We have historically struggled at Mayfield, and better Stew Mel teams than this one have been more than 18 points adrift at the interval there.

Dundee, by their own admission, enjoyed a very good day at the office, finding their home form for the first time this season and pulling off moves that, on most other occasions, would have broken down or led to a turnover. Our defence looked a lot more solid for the first forty minutes, and we were unlucky to come away from Mayfield without scoring at least a couple of tries. The revamped half back pairing of Cameron MacDonald and Gregor worked well, while ‘tall Roo’ looked like a natural winger rather than a lock who’d lost his scrum cap.

All eyes turn to Inverleith now for this Saturday’s home match against Falkirk, the only team below us in the league at present. While we’re not yet in the Last Chance Saloon, it’s fair to say that a good win on Saturday is essential if we are to start closing the gap on Musselburgh and Cartha.

We should have a few more players back for Saturday, and I would ask that you get down to Invers and give our players and coaches your support. No one is more conscious of our perilous league position than they are, and you can rest assured that they are working very hard to turn things around like they did last season.

Bill McNie

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