Yet again Saints hit the road with a much changed team highlighting the need for a big squad capable in playing in several positions. With the injury list mounting and unavailability through work or family commitments Saints senior debuts were handed out to Ewan McIntyre, Dougie Boyd and Jamie Hodgson. Ross Strawbridge returned for his first league match since his “free plane ride home from Islay” to complete the bench with each of them making significant contributions.
Up front Bo Turnbull continues to reach match fitness as he packed down beside prop for the day, Clinton Freebody with the welcome returnee Ross Haggerty filling the hooking berth. Haggerty whose accurate lineout throwing was a major boost, nicked a couple “against the head” into the bargain. In a light but very mobile, feisty and committed second row Will Greene was alongside Fraser Carson who had a good game in the loose.
The back row of Dougie Crichton, Winston Osmond and Mark McClatchey were a constant thorn in the opposition with McClatchey in particular fulfilling his promise. He had an excellent, penalty free game where he was the side’s principle source of lineout ball ably aided by Greene and Carson.
Behind the scrum Stevie Lethardy filled the half back role at short notice and given his lack of game time in that position distributed the ball well. Stuart Burgess provided the link and had one of his best games of the season constantly breaking the gain line and getting the backs moving. Richie Davidson, captain in the absence of the injured Simon Robertson, crucially kept the ship steady, allowing Dominic Lewis, relishing the transition to senior rugby, to continue his centre education and his steady, relentless improvement. On the day that everything finally clicks for this youngster he will be an awesome sight.
The back three of Gavin Mack and Euan Burgess patrolled the wings to great effect with the impressive Keith Riddick in the treacherous conditions, fielding all the high balls and returning them with interest on every occasion.
The first half was a dour affair with Saints playing into the stiff breeze with the Helensburgh team, belying their lowly league position, proving difficult to break down. Finally Saints won good possession and the ball was swung wide for Gavin Mack to score in the corner. Try as they might Saints could make little further inroads. They did however concede two penalties which the Helensburgh stand-off kicked giving them a narrow half time lead which they deserved for their endeavour.
The half time team-talk centred on maintaining discipline, being patient, keeping the ball alive and away from the home pack. The message obviously got throughâ€¼
Turning round and with the wind at their backs Saints went straight on the offensive and Gavin Mack scored his second try, again out wide on the left. The other winger Ewan Burgess then crossed at the opposite corner to put a wee bit of daylight between the teams. With Saints sticking to the game plan further scores followed quickly and the floodgates opened. Stuart Burgess, Freebody, Lewis and Boyd all crossed the whitewash to secure the victory and the bonus point.
In the difficult conditions Stuart Burgess could convert only two of the scores to make the final tally Helensburgh 6 – Dumfries 39
With so many changes in personnel this was a good, solid performance from a young side, improving with every game and hell bent on maintaining their push for promotion.