West 2nd XV League Division 1 – Dumfries 16 – Garnock 12
Burgess boot seals tight win
Last weekend Saints fielded what looked on paper a very strong 2nd XV as they played host to Ayrshire rivals Garnock. The visitors are currently sitting just behind Saints in the table and the early season game was an extremely close affair. The home side knew that the wrong result could seriously jeopardise their chances of winning this league, likewise the visitors were up for this game knowing that they could make a big impact on the final league standings.
On a beautiful early winter day ideal for rugby, Saints put out a strong pack with Blair Milligan and Roy Dunlop propping up Captain Simon Robertson. The two Stuarts, Renwick and Kennedy were a very mobile second row who harvested great line out possession. The back row of Justin Little, Dougie Crichton and Bruce Haggerty completed the pack. Behind the scrum the home team welcomed back Alan Birdsall for his first game, after recovering from a serious leg injury, to partner Eck Bryden at half back.
Stuart Burgess, whose place kicking was to prove decisive, moved into the centre to reignite his partnership with Richie Davidson whose tremendous cover tackle in the dying minutes was crucial to the outcome. The back three comprised of Martin Smith, Dickie McCornick and Scott Torrance who moved to full back. A healthy replacements bench comprised of Ross Haggerty, Ross Strawbridge, Bubba Fraser and Stevie Wight making a welcome return during his break home from OZ.
The game kicked of with Saints taking the game to the visitors. Good pressure, strong running and aggressive rucking took the ball deep into the Garnock 22. The resultant quick ball saw Roy Dunlop drive over from close in to open the scoring. Burgess converted to give Saints the early lead they craved. Play see-sawed from end to end and some desperate home defence and one or two mistakes by the visitors was all that kept the home line unbreached.
Saints slowly gathered their composure and took the ball back into Garnock territory. On the twenty minute mark Burgess punished an indiscretion to extend the lead. As the half drew to a close Burgess stretched the lead with another well taken penalty to see the teams turn around with the score at Saints 13 – Garnock 0
In the second half Saints seemed to completely lose their composure and game plan. However a further Burgess penalty saw them go further ahead to hold a 16 point lead. With the visitors seemingly unable to capitalise on their possession it looked as though Saints would secure a comfortable victory.
With the game nearing the final ten minutes sloppy play and defence by the Saints saw Garnock take the ball the length of the pitch to score out wide. Luckily for the home team the conversion went wide.
Almost from the restart the visitors took advantage of yet more sloppy play and took the game deep into home territory. When they crossed the line under the posts and converted the try then the scene was set for a nail biting finale.
Buoyed by their recent advances Garnock threw everything at the Saints line. Their desperation, Davidson’s tackle and subsequent penalty allowed the home team to hold out and win a game, which they had allowed to develop into an extremely tight encounter, by 16 point to 12,
On the positive side the statistics show that, courtesy of Stuart Burgess ‘s right boot, Saints won a very tight game seeing off one of their prime rivals in the process. However any continuation of the loss of shape, composure and endlessly conceding stupid penalties, will undoubtedly cost them dear in the run up to the climax of the league. The players know what is needed and everyone involved knows that this will be addressed at training.