Match Report v Dundee HSFP | Saturday 17 February 2018
Match report Stewart’s Melville v Dundee Saturday 17 February 3pm kick-off Prior to this game I was optimistic. This optimism was based on a number of factors, first and foremost the squad that was available and selected, home advantage but of equal importance the general performance of the team in recent games and the potential they have shown. So it was with mixed emotions that I left Inverleith on Saturday but we did get a bonus point and will continue to build for the remaining part of the season.
The only change to the published starting line-up was Craig Willis coming in at number 2 with Ruaridh Mitchell propping up the scrum once more. There was a slight breeze but not enough to be a major factor in the game plan of either team.
Stew Mel started very strongly and for the first, possibly, 20 minutes had the majority of possession and territorial advantage within Dundee’s 22 due primarily to good scrummaging, ball retention and tactical kicking for field position. The set piece was functioning well with the Dundee number 3, being penalised numerous times. Perhaps he is just too big to be a prop. It was somewhat ironic to hear his rally cries of “energy boys energy” as he struggled to get his substantial bulk around the park. However when embroiled in the action, the former Glasgow pro was an effective ball carrier and difficult to stop. We were always told that the bigger they are the harder they fall? Not so sure!
As said Stew Mel appeared to have the upper hand in the set piece although their loose play was, at times, compromised particularly due to the experienced Dundee back row. Continued pressure on Dundee however unfortunately did not result in any points and against the run of play at around 30 minutes, they took their opportunity bursting down the right wing to eventually score in the far corner despite desperate attempts at cover tackling.
Stew Mel were straight back into it following the restart and again camped within Dundee’s 22. The ever alert Gregor saw his opportunity and darted for the line, the conversion being successful. Stew Mel 7 Dundee 5.
This certainly gave the home team confidence and was also pleasing to the assembled crowd of supporters who I think were as optimistic as I was.
Dundee slowly managed to increase their possession percentage and as a result of sustained pressure won a penalty within kickable distance which they duly converted bringing the score to Stew Mel 7 Dundee 8. Stew Mel were also awarded a penalty in a similar position but rather than go for 3 points they kicked for touch but unfortunately lost possession in the lineout 5 meters out. It is easy on hindsight to suggest they made the wrong decision. Half time score Stew Mel 7 Dundee 8.
With 40 minutes left to play it was anyone’s guess as to how the second half would pan out. Right from the start, however, Dundee came out of the blocks with renewed vigour and dominated for large periods certainly for the first 20/25 minutes, their illusive winger breaking through for try which was converted at around the 55 minute mark. Stew Mel 7 Dundee 15.
After what seemed a bit of lapse, Stew Mel again began to pick themselves up and get back into the game. The ball was moved quickly to the left putting James in to add to his tally, although the conversion was unsuccessful. Stew Mel 12 Dundee 20.
Both teams were now playing with a similar tempo but were both making an equal number of errors. Dundee however reacted quicker to any opportunities that arose and were rewarded with another try by Mackie (his second) with about 10 minutes to go. Stew Mel 12 Dundee 25. The game was reaching its pinnacle at this stage and would have been of great entertainment for any neutral fan although I am sure that the excitement from the Stew Mel supporters was equally mirrored by a degree of nervousness from the Dundee faithful as Stew Mel crossed the line again, Momo this time, with the conversion being successful. However we ran out of time yet again. Full time Stew Mel 19 Dundee 25.
As said it was a good game of rugby and would have been more enjoyable if we had been sitting mid table and not in a position whereby points and victories are now cruitial to avoid relegation. Some lapses of concentration in the second half may have gifted Dundee their trys although that it not an unusual consequence of being under pressure. Conversely when we put Dundee under pressure as we did for significant parts of the first half, more points should have been forthcoming. Some of our tactical kicking let us down as far as giving possession straight back to Dundee where at least once, as a result of not finding touch, they ultimately scored. We struggled at times in the lineout although to be fair a significant number in my view taken by the opposition from my bird’s eye view were far from straight as was the alleged forward pass far from forward. The controversy of sport!
It is interesting to note that both teams play a very similar style of rugby and the score line probably reflected that. Breaks were made by both backs and forwards, the difference being Dundee had support runners and successful off loads, whereas when Stew Mel made similar breaks of which there were a few, in particular Nathan and Conor, a lack of immediate support meant that these did not materialise as it was hoped. But that is just the nature of the game. Nathan succumbed to an injury that, hopefully, is not too serious and he makes a speedy recovery.
The introduction of Charlie and in general the combination of Charlie and Gregor certainly appears to ignite the tempo. Maybe this is worth trying from the start. It’s a bit like the dilemma facing Scotland. Laidlaw and Russell or Price and Laidlaw?! I know what my choice would be – for Scotland that is! This was certainly a game that we could have won but whether we deserved to win will always be open to debate. Dundee have several very good and experience players who managed to control the game and in so doing ensure victory. However it would be fair to say that every Stew Mel player on the park is well able to play and compete at this level.
My advice to them all as they head to Falkirk on the 3rd March is not to drop your guard, play at your level not theirs. I hate to say, but it’s a must win, with maximum points, and to paraphrase Phil Waine “continuance in National 1 is akin to scaling Everest in flip flops” if we don’t. I would only add one word to this and that is “twice”.