GHK 20 v Dumfries Saints 22
As they returned to League after last week’s BT National League Cup semi-final victory over St. Boswells, Saturday saw the Saints make the trip up to Old Anniesland to take on a very committed GHK outfit. With some noticeable changes to their team sheets from previous encounters in the League and the Cup QF, GHK were to prove a very hard nut to crack. This significance of the encounter was all too evident with the Saints still very much in the race for promotion hunt coupled with a tough week of fixtures on the cards. With 3 games in 7 days to look forward to it was important for the players to successfully pass the first hurdle and bag 5 log points.
GHK’s quality and commitment and the Saints desire to win with a bonus point meant that the small crowd who had gathered were treated to an excellent encounter. Things did not get any easier with the saints losing replacement wing Kenny Henderson to a calf injury in the warmup and then No.8 Michael Scott 5mins into the game with a knee injury. The Saints were going to have dig deep and complete the game with a reduced squad. GHK kicked off and the Saints, securing possession, worked through multiple phases and looked particularly threatening in the midfield. Saints pressure eventually paid dividend when Jack Steele found space on the outside shoulder of a GHK defender and cut through to score an unconverted try with the Saints first visit into the GHK 22. The Saints led 0-5.
Unsurprisingly, GHK reacted well and after a solid build up were rewarded with penalty for a ruck infringement which they successfully kicked at goal to take the score to 3-5 inside the 15min mark. Not to be outdone the Saints reacted perfectly and looked the more likely of the two teams to score creating good pressure inside the GHK 22. They were rewarded a short time later when Jo Kerr again found space on the outside shoulder of a GHK defender in the 13 channel and ghosted through for a score under the posts, covereted by John Carlisle. The Saints increased their led to 3-12.
As with the first score of the game however, GHK seemed to find some rhythm and after some early scrum dominance from the Saints, were rewarded with the opportunity to set a driving maul 5m out from the Saints line. They would not disappoint their supporters and seized the opportunity with only their second visit to the Saints 22 with an unconverted try through a well-executed catch drive. The Saints lead as cut to 4 points, 8-12.
With time running out in the first half the Saints showed really good mental resolve and with a clearly dominant backline were able to build through 12 phases and take the opportunity to score a well worked try on the right wing with Andy Whiteford producing an excellent bit of finishing skill to round the final defender and score an unconverted try on the Half Time Whistle.
HT GHK 8 Dumfries Saints 17
Not long after the break, GHK again put some good passages of play together. After showing good technique and strength, the Saints had been penalised quite heavily for targeting and stripping the ball in contact and from one such penalty GHK converted some powerful forward drives into points and again narrowed the deficit to 4 points, 13-17. GHK with some momentum, continued to build pressure but the quality of the Saints defensive effort was very evident and after some excellent line speed pressure the ball was turned over and moved by Alan Birdsall to fullback Sam Hiddleston. With good evasion skills the fullback broke numerous tackles and found Jack Johnstone in some space out on the left wing, who with a very neat finish increased the Saints lead with a well taken try. The conversion was missed, and the Saints restored their 9-point lead. 13-22.
With 20mins left in the game both teams kept up the tempo with some high paced play. Through two of those passages the Saints narrowly missed both an attempted Penalty and Dropped Goal. With 2mins left in the game however a clearly dominant Saints scrum was penalised for “wheeling” which offered a resurgent GHK with the opportunity to build some momentum and pressure in the Saints 22. They were rewarded for their efforts with a well taken try, converted to narrow the Saints lead to 2, 20-22. The Saints however managed to secure possession of the restart and Alan Birdsall cleared the ensuing ruck to the sound of the final whistle and a bonus point win for the Saints.
With a big week ahead the win was gratefully received but with the commitment, resilience and desire to win another close encounter very evident, the Saints showed their small and loyal band of travelling supporters just how much their Rugby Family means to them. With a some excellent performances across the park it was not easy to separate players for man of the match but in the end, for his strong defensive and scything attacking display from fullback, Sam Hiddleston was awarded the accolade.
The week moves quickly on for the Saints though with a midweek fixture away to Peebles under lights on Wednesday evening (KO 20:00) and then their final home game of the season back at Park Farm on Saturday against West of Scotland (KO 15:00) where they encourage all their supporters to turn out in number to bring the League season to a close.
Squad: T. Martin, Z. Dyson, S. Goodwin, L. Scott, C. Goldie, I. Carlisle, R. Cruickshank, M. Scott, J. Johnstone, J. Kerr, K. Jones, J. Carlisle, J. Steele, A. Whiteford, S. Hiddleston, S. Graham, B. Johnstone, A. Birdsall, K. Henderson.