A battling win for Saints in difficult conditions
Dumfries Saints returned to the top of National League 3 with a narrow away win against closest rivals for promotion, West of Scotland. An early morning pitch inspection had confirmed the fixture – and Saints then travelled to Milngavie through the worst weather of the season so far to gain this important win.
Conditions at Burnbrae were difficult with Saints facing a strong wind in the first half. They controlled the ball well by keeping it tight in the opening exchanges and were awarded a penalty at a ruck. John Carlisle made light of the difficult kicking conditions to put Saints ahead 0 – 3.
West came back strongly from this setback, using the wind and their driving maul to effect. From a good position in the Saints 22m they held Saints defence in before releasing the ball along their line for a score. The conversion was missed. 5 – 3.
Saints were controlling the game and West’s frustration resulted a yet another penalty to Saints. Against the wind it may have been out of range but with a 10m penalty for more indiscipline from West, John Carlisle stretched Saints lead to 5 – 9.
Saints rucking and in particular their back row was dominating the breakdown and keeping the pressure on the home side. West hadn’t learned from previous penalties and further indiscipline saw them reduced to 14 as the referee’s patience run out.
When restored to 15, West had good possession in the Saints 22m and Andy Love went through at least 3 Saints defenders to score with 47 minutes on the clock! Against the wind Saints should have been happy with 10 – 9 at half time, but on the balance of play they didn’t deserve to be behind.
West started the second half with controlled aggression at the break down and “no penalties” ringing in their ears from their coaching team. It was Saints turn to be on the wrong side of the referee and give a way a penalty which was converted. 13 – 9 to West.
Saints rallied and played the conditions well – pinning the home side back in their own half. Sam Hiddleston on from the bench broke the home defence and with two defenders tackling him and just short of the line he stretched out to score. John Carlisle converted and Saints were back ahead. 13 – 16.
In an extremely tight game the lead didn’t last long. Saints failed to deal with the West kick-off into the wind and surrendered both possession and territory. West’s set play came to the fore again. They went over to score following a controlled maul. The kicker missed the conversion. 18 – 16.
A repeat episode followed. West missed the kick-off and Saints took full advantage. Sam Hiddleston made another good break and offloaded to Jordan Kerr who put Ally Mather over in the corner. The difficult conversion was missed but Saints led 18 – 21.
There was further drama as the clock ran down and the travelling support nerves shredded. West recovered the ball from the kick-off and after a number of good phases crossed to score. The conversion was good and with under 10 minutes remaining West led 25 – 21.
Saints were not to be denied, however. With under 5 minutes remaining Jordan Kerr crossed the line following excellent Saints controlled play. John Carlisle converted. 25 – 28 at full time.
Saints deserved this win as they played the condition better than West on the day. Their back row was immense and John Carlisle’s kicking made light of the conditions. A great game of rugby both teams again coping well with both the cold and the wind. Saints’ 1st XV Manager Alan Graham said “ A thoroughly deserved win for Saints where they played an uncomplicated, aggressive game matching the requirements of the conditions perfectly”