1st XV v Livingston 8.4.17

The sun was shining, the Livingston pitch was in great condition and all the Saints had to do was rest a few players and get a 5 point win by scoring at least 4 tries to keep league promotion in their grasp. The travelling support had to wait till the second half to relax for another week.

The experienced Livingston squad were fired up and their big powerful ball carriers took the game to the Saints from the kick off. A couple of missed tackles allowed them into the Saints 22 where a chip ahead led to a misunderstanding at the back and gave them their first try close to the posts for a straight forward conversion to go 7 nil up.

Saints tackling was not as sure as it had been and was too high to stop the runners or stay on the right side of the referee. When they did get some early possession they used it well with an inside pass from John Carlisle  to Kenny Henderson creating a break into the Livi 22 where they were given a penalty for offside. Saints kicked to the corner for a line out 7 metres out, a well drilled Livi did not engage with the catch and drive but this was quickly spotted by Saints who peeled off for Craig Goldie to take them on as an individual and powered over. The conversion was missed but it was 7 : 5.

The set pieces were going Saints way but the tackling was still not settling down and Ryan Cruikshank went to the bin for 10 minutes to serve as a reminder to the rest of the Saints to go low. The remaining 14 had to work hard as the experienced Livi side sought to take advantage of the extra man but when Ryan returned it was the home side who had ran out of steam. But this was a team who knew the limitations of their fitness and knew how to slow the game down to give their big ball carriers plenty of recovery time.

As frustration affected the Saints, patience was paying off for Livingston and after a series of excellent offloads they put their flying right wing into a space on the half way just big enough for him to exploit and run in a well taken try. The conversion was good and it was 14 : 5 at half time.

The half time team talk did the trick and Saints started the second half in style taking the restart and running it straight back with great support and handling skills and got just short of the line before knocking on. Saints pushed the Livi scrum over the ball and number 8 Michael Scott picked up and drove over with John Carlisle getting the conversion. 14 : 12.

From a lineout on the Livingston 10 metre the ball was spun quickly across to outside centre Sam Hiddleston who weaved through the defence before passing back inside to centre John Carlisle to score and convert. 14 : 19.

Injuries to Livingston front row meant uncontested scrums for the rest of the game. From a lineout on half way Michael Thomson took a clean ball popped it fast to scum half Jack Johnstone as he went to pass it the Livingston number 7 was so far offside he was already standing next to Saints stand off Jordan Kerr. Jack exploited the gap at the tail of the line the Livi flanker should have been covering and with his pace touched down under the post with a hand being laid on him. John Carlisle converted. 14: 26.

The Livingston players had given all they had, from a scrum out wide on halfway a simple running angle from winger Kenny Henderson broke the defence for john Carlisle to finish and convert. Some ball handling that was reminiscent of the Harlem Globetrotters between Sam Hiddleston, Kenny Henderson and Ian Carlisle put the young full back Ian Carlisle over in the corner. Then finally the still sprinting prop Craig Goldie got his second popping up on the wing to finish off a great break by the backs. John Carlisle converted to finish the 5 point win 14 : 45.

Squad: Craig Goldie, Tom Martin, Devon Macdonald, Jamie Graham, Michael Badenhurst, Ali Jackson, Ryan Cruikshank, Michael Scott, Alan Birdsall, Jordan Kerr, Andrew Wilson, John Carlisle, Sam Hiddleston, Kenny Henderson, Ian Carlisle, Zeke Dyson, Scott Goodwin, Michael Thompson and Jack Johnstone.

Lasswade also had a 5 point win at Highland in their final game keeping them level with Saints at the top of the league and St Boswells had a 5 point win at home against Greenock keeping them in contention for promotion if they manage a 5 point win in their final home game against Dumfries Saints next Saturday. To miss out on promotion Saints would need to lose that away game by more than 54 points which would gift the second place promotion to Lasswade. A lot rests on next Saturday when an away win would give Saints the National 3 League title. That would be a terrific result for Dumfries & Galloway where Newton Stewart have already won West 1, Stewartry have already won West 2 and next Saturday also sees the inaugural game of Dumfries & Galloway Under 20’s playing at Park Farm against Cumnock U20’s.

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