1st XV v St Boswells 15.4.17

St Boswell’s 5    Dumfries Saints 24

A huge travelling support went to the Borders on Saturday for a perfect end to the season as Dumfries Saints won the BT National 3 League in their final game. The St Boswell’s team were fired up as a victory with over 4 tries would have given them promotion but the Dumfries defence who have conceded fewer points than any team in the National or Premier leagues was not going to let that happen.

The home side chose to play uphill into the wind on the notorious St Boswell’s pitch. They used their big forwards to pick and go, occasionally getting the ball out as far as their centre who would carry the ball back in front of his pack. It was not pretty, the contacts were brutal, their ball retention was excellent and it was no place for the faint hearted. Fortunately there is not a faint heart in the Dumfries squad and to a man they tackled like their very lives depended on it. Despite having very little possession when they did get the ball they ran it into the St Boswell’s 10 where they were awarded a penalty and John Carlisle put the forts 3 points on the board.

Back to the attrition and the game was 10 minutes in before St Boswells got into the Dumfries 22. Dumfries were giving away an alarming number of penalties and in a normal game the opposition would have chosen to kick the points. But Boswell’s were only interested in scoring tries and used every opportunity to kick to touch and go for a catch and drive. The tall second rows Michael Thompson and Michael Badenhurst made it difficult for Boswell’s to win their own ball and when they did the Saints defence was outstanding in pushing them back or holding them up. The Saints scrum was also dominant against a much heavier pack and it took several 5 metre scrums before St Boswell’s got their try. The conversion was missed.

The restart gave Saints possession again and they were going to use it with a tremendous build up Sam Hiddleston crashed through to score under the posts, John Carlisle converted and it was 5 :10.

The restart gave possession back to St Boswell’s and so they went with their powerful runners again but by this time the support was not always there and the Saints back row started turning them over. St Boswell’s response was to slow the game down, bring on their trainers and physio’s at every opportunity and use their bench as rolling subs. A bit of frustration set in and the number of penalties conceded by Saints was getting worrying but they were mainly in the Boswells half and kicks to touch into the wind were not gaining much territory. A change in tactic to go for quick tap penalties caught Michael Thomson tacking from 9 meters back instead of the required 10 and he was sent to the bin for 10 minutes. But the work rate of the Saints 14 players was an equal match for the tiredness of the Boswell’s full squad. Half time St Boswell’s 5 Dumfries Saints 10.

The second half had Saints playing uphill into the wind and they gave a masterclass demonstration of how to keep possession and build phases. Boswell’s kicked the ball deep into the saints 22 and Saints worked it all the way back to the Boswell’s line for Jack Steele to score under the posts. John Carlisle converted to go 5 : 17 up.

The St Boswell’s squad was becoming depleted as player after player left the field injured, their outside centre left the field for 10 minutes for some very ungentlemanly conduct on the ground in front of the referee. Dumfries used the space to send Andrew Whiteford up the line for the final try, John Carlisle converted taking the score to 5 : 24.

The rest of the game was played with Saints in control of possession and not a lot a worn out St Boswell’s could do about it.

This was performance that contained some of the best rugby played by a team that used to be called the Young Saints but now are a squad of seasoned campaigners that play for each other, play for the club and play to win. Man of the match was awarded to Michael Scott whose performance epitomised the dogged determination that has been the hall mark of this league winning season.

Bring on National 2.

Squad: Craig Goldie, Zeke Dyson, Scott Goodwin, Devon McDonald, Michael Thompson, Michael Badenhurst, Jamie Graham, Ryan Cruikshank, Finlay Miller (captain), Michael Scott, Ali Jackson, Jack Johnstone, Jordan Kerr, Andrew Whiteford, Andrew Wilson, John Carlisle, Sam Hiddleston, Kenny Henderson and Jack Steele.

After the game Dumfries Saints Coach Ed Barnes said ”In the first half we couldn’t quite get our kicking game going and handed so much possession to St Boswells through our penalty count. In the second half ball retention, attacking structures, defence and attitude were top drawer with not one man backing down physically. Ultimately, it was our ability to adapt our game planning, coupled by superior fitness levels, desire and determination that sealed it for us. Congratulations to the entire senior squad on an outstanding campaign.”

Dumfries Rugby Club President Isobel Rainey said “Well done to all the players who played throughout the season and a massive thank you to Head Coach Ed Barnes, Assistant Coach Paddy Coupar, Saints Manager Sam Carlisle and to Richard McConville and Molly Harrison our Team Assistants for their contribution to the team’s success during the season. The Saints support at St Boswells exceeded their home support, thank you to all our supporters home and away this season.”

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