Saints Blitz Cougars!
Dumfries Saints 30 RHC Cougars 15
Dumfries Saints knew this match would be a major challenge to their promotion aspirations. Saints still held onto second place after last week’s disappointing show but the Cougars were in third place and would have overhauled them with a win, as would fourth place Langholm if they won and Saints lost. Fourth place Dalziel couldn’t overtake Saints but with a game in hand would have been delighted to see them slip again, no pressure then!
After some terrible weather in recent Park Farm matches at least Saints kicked off on a bright day with a tricky wind that on the whole went across the park giving both sides a chance to play rugby. Both sides were fired up for this crunch match and it made for a scrappy start as they tore into each other, both trying to get some early dominance. After five minutes the first score came out a long Cougars kick downfield, young Saints full back Rory Steele collected and set off on a mazy run through the oncoming defenders, he made it to over half way before offloading to scrum half Finlay Miller who made the 45 yards to score. Into a strong wind the kick was missed but Saints were showing encouraging signs of playing some good rugby.
In the early scrums the big Cougars pack put Saints under pressure and they used their big forwards whenever possible to try to grind down the Saints defence. Cougars made a blindside break from a scrum on the halfway and got deep into the Saints 22. The kicked a penalty into the corner and tried to turn the screw. Excellent defence kept them at bay, with flanker Kenny Brown making some crucial hits, and just when it seemed they might break through a forward pass relieved the pressure. Saints were more interested in playing quick rugby and after 15 minutes got another score. Young second row James Currie won good lineout ball, Stevie Mackinnon drove on and when it was released the Saints centres Murray Richardson and Kenny Henderson worked an excellent move to put Henderson clean through to score from 40 yards.
Saints showed their intention of keeping up the pace and within minutes had taken a quick penalty in midfield, forwards Jamie Little, Stuart Clanachan and prop Roy Dunlop showed excellent hands to release Murray Richardson for a try. Again the kick was missed but it was 15-0 to Saints! The Cougars weren’t going to take this lying down however and forced their way back into Saints territory, on 25 minutes they got their reward with a successful penalty kick to get themselves on the board. If the visitors thought this would signal them getting back into the game it was short lived. Saints broke up a Cougars lineout on the visitors 22 and Stuart Clanachan showed footballing skills nobody knew he had to hack the ball over the line and win the chase to score!
Saints were running everything now showing some excellent continuity rugby with forwards and backs well involved, the back row of Little, Brown and Clanachan were ripping holes in the Cougars defence. Sub forward Ali Mather was carrying well and the close play execution was excellent. They stretched Cougars wide on the left and then recycled and moved the ball wide to the right where Captain Jamie Little raced over for a well deserved try. RHC Cougars were not going to lie down though and showed their potential threat when on the stroke of halftime they managed to pressurise the Saints defence and win a scrum deep in the home 22, they then picked and drove using their big forwards until they got over to score. The Cougars then converted to make it 25-10 at half time and keep themselves very much in the game.
The second half started at a furious pace just like the first. The Cougars had got the message that to threaten Saints they had to close the game down and play to their big tight forwards, Saints knew they had to keep it fast and fluid. It was an absorbing battle as both sides fought for territorial advantage and possession. Cougars were first to strike 15 minutes into the second half when they took a scrum ball against the head and took advantage of some weak tackling to score in the corner.
Saints raised their game realising a 10 point margin was too close for comfort. They started to push the Cougars back, young winger Andrew Whiteford making his first team home debut almost got in to score in the corner only to lose the ball as he dived for the try. Saints maintained the pressure but a knock on allowed Cougars to clear. Saints returned again to the Cougars 22 and miraculously, having lost a few against the head themselves under the pressure of the Cougars front row, took one themselves against the head from the Cougars! The backs needed no second invitation and moved the ball wide for Rory Steel to score in the corner.
There was no let up in this game as the Cougars fought to the end to try and get something out of the game. Saints also had their moments, Andrew Whiteford seemed to have skinned the defence with a 50 yard run only to be tap tackled in the corner and lose out on what would have been a well deserved try. Full time came with Saints 30-15 ahead, scoring six tries to two and not kicking a point all day, when was the last time that happened at Park Farm!
The icing on the cake for the Saints was learning that Langholm and Dalziel had both lost their games, making this a great win in the promotion battle. Let’s hope they can now build some momentum for the run in.
Team; R Dunlop, K Geddes, S MacKinnon, B Stanley, J Currie, J Little, K Brown, S Clanachan, F Miller, A Bryden, J Farquhar, M Richardson, K Henderson, A Whiteford, R Steele. Subs all used G McCall, A Mather and A Walker.
Kenny Henderson sets off with Kenny Brown in support
Rory Steele sets off on the run that ended in Saints first try
Rory Steele makes the break for Saints first try
Kenny Henderson on his way to try number two
Murray Richardson on his way for try number three
Stevie MacKinnon off loads after breaching the defence
Jamie Little drives on with Currie, Stanley and Geddes in support
Kenny Brown gets his man
Jamie Little scores try number five