Scottish 2XV League – Division 4 (West)
Dumfries RFC 2nd XV – 15 Annan RFC 2nd XV – 0
The Saints second string made the short trip down the A75 last Saturday to play local rivals Annan seeking to reverse their early season narrow defeat and reinvigorate their promotion challenge by securing a vital away win. Few, if any, of this team hade ever beaten Annan, something that has not been achieved for some considerable time.
In a strong pack Robertson and Turnbull propped up young Calum Ferguson. Captain Andy Clanachan partnered Eck Sloan in the boiler house. In a rejigged back row Fraser Carson came in from the wing to team up with Dougie Crichton and Ross Henderson. At half back Birdsall and Burgess renewed their partnership with Duncan and Davidson filling the midfield berths. The back three of Smith, Bryson and Minty combined to give a very youthful but extremely quick attacking option.
The Annan team fielded a mixture of vast experience in some crucial positions and some very decent youngsters clearly intent on securing vital points to take them away from what appears a false position near the foot of the table.
The game kicked off with a stiff, gusting cross field breeze which did not help either side but made handling and kicking very tricky. From the outset both sides set about their business with great determination and no little skill. Despite the wind both teams seemed intent on playing attacking rugby and in doing so kept the decent sized crowd entertained for the whole eighty minutes.
It took twenty minutes before the Saints broke the deadlock. A great all team move where good recycling of the ball gave the young Saints backs the opportunity to show their flair. With the ball moving slickly through the hands, their draw and pass technique created the overlap which released Martin Smith to score near the touchline to round off a terrific move. Birdsall slotted the difficult cross wind conversion.
For the rest off the half Annan tried in vain to make some in roads but the Saints defence held firm with the midfield defence strong and the back row in particular outstanding.
After the break the Saints, intent on this crucial away win, took the game to their opponents from the restart creating chances as they did so. An Annan indiscretion three minutes in gave Birdsall a difficult chance into the strong wind. His touchline penalty cleared the bar to stretch the lead to 10 points. By this stage Annan were beginning to struggle to contain the Saints attacks but stuck to their task. An injury to the hard working Fraser Carson saw Jurie Hanekom come into the back row.
The Saints kept up their attacks on the home line but some lost opportunities and stubborn defence kept them at bay until the sixty fifth minute mark. Yet another excellent build up took the Saints deep into Annan territory. Good continuity released the backs who again showed their sleight of hand, moving the ball wide for Craig Bryson to cross over wide at the left side touchline for a first class score. Birdsall was unable to make the conversion into the freshening wind.
The dying minutes saw the Saints camped in the Annan 22 metre zone. A late injury to Eck Sloan gave Charlie Gallagher a cameo role for the last ten minutes. The No side whistle saw the Saints secure the vital away win with the score of 15 to nil which, although welcome, did not really represent the Saints authority or domination in this game. In a good all team performance it would be unfair to pick out any individual for special mention.
Team: Minty; Smith; Davidson; Duncan; Bryson; Burgess; Birdsall; Robertson; Ferguson; Turnbull; Clanachan (Capt); Sloan; Carson; Crichton and Henderson
Replacements: Hanekom for Carson; Gallagher for Sloan; Hawthorn and Macdonald (not used)
Birdsall clears his line
Bryson runs from Deep
Burgess feeds Minty
Dougie Crichton breaks supported by Minty
Will Duncan bursts through
Hanekom takes good line out ball
Ross Henderson feeds Birdsall
Saints Chase down the Annan defender
Martin Smith keeps the ball alive
Craig Bryson scores out wide