Saints Do The Double!
Annan 15 Dumfries Saints 19
Dumfries Saints travelled to Anna for their last National League game of the season. The sun was shining, the pitch looked perfect and the scene was set for some glorious rugby as neither teams final league position could be altered by the result. Saints are promoted and Annan are safe in National 1.
Saints started with a bang as they kicked off down the slope with the elements behind them. From the kick off Annan failed to secure the ball and Jamie Little snaffled it up and set off on a gallop, he fed Murray Richardson as the defence scrambled to recover and he drew in the last defenders before releasing Jamie Farquhar, the speedy winger needed no second invitation and scored in the corner! Annan hadn’t had the ball and were five points down.
Unfortunately the Saints seemed to mistakenly believe it was going to be easy after this rocket start and went to sleep. The Annan pack was definitely up for the battle and they took the game aggressively to Saints. Indiscipline resulted in a stream of penalties and within 15 minutes Annan had clawed their way into the lead with two well struck penalties from Niall Smith. Saints got their first penalty a few minutes later and Tom Hiddleston kicked them back into an 8-6 lead.
Annan continued to look the hungrier side and John Nelson and Billy Henderson didn’t miss a chance to take on the Saints defence, full back Kevin Jones looked threatening and generally Saints were wasting the benefit of the elements. The penalty ping pong continued, no sooner had Tom Hiddleston stretched Saints lead with another three points when Niall Smith again pegged them back with another well kicked penalty.
Annan were definitely the more effective side in building phases and retaining possession but lacked the firepower to engineer a breakthrough. With half time approaching Saints again roused themselves to create some pressure in the Annan 22. Veteran prop Eck Sloan, on as a sub in possibly his last game, but we have heard that before, made a bullocking charge through the home defence. Eck almost made it but was pulled down short and recycled, the ball was moved out to Rory Steele who side stepped his way through the defence before giving a try scoring pass only to see it dropped a yard from the line. The chance was lost and the ref blew for half time.
Given the lacklustre first half performance a two point lead did not look enough for the Saints. Allied to that the heavens opened early in the second half and they face wind, rain and the slope! Fortunately displaying a common habit this season Saints tightened up and played better rugby in the second half. Saints drove the ball and worked their way upfield with Gareth McCall and Ali Mather to the fore while youngster Jamie Currie was having a better half in the back row. After 15 minutes they got their reward when centre Murray Richardson made the outside break and drew in the last line of defence before releasing Jamie Farquhar for another try.
Would this be the trigger for Saints to let loose? Unfortunately not as almost straight from the kick off they conceded a soft penalty which Niall Smith kicked. Annan generously returned the favour and conceded a penalty from the return kick off that Tom Hiddleston kicked for a 19-12 lead.
Annan were not ready to concede yet and put Saints under pressure with some excellent long kicks. Saints defence held out though and they took their chances to clear, second row Ben Stanley snaffled up loose ball at a line out and set off on a 40 yard dash that lifted the siege. The Big Kiwi was doing a power of work around the park. With 10 minutes to go another Annan penalty was kicked by Niall Smith to make it 19-15 with it all to play for.
Saints were disrupted when Murray Richardson had to leave the field with duty calling and his partner in the centre Kenny Henderson when shortly after with a calf strain. Any fears that the disruption would undo the Saints work in the second half were unfounded as young sub Andrew Whiteford showed his potential in both defence and attack. The clocked ticked away with Saints on the attack and the delight at the final whistle after a long hard season was shared by players, coaches and supporters!
Not the best performance from Saints but they got the job done and have the pleasure of seeing their name first on the new A.A.MacPherson Trophy which the clubs now play for and which was presented for the first time after the match.
Team; G McCall, K Geddes, R Dunlop, B Stanley, A Mather, D Satala, J Currie, J Little, K Brown, A Bryden, J Farquhar, M Richardson, K Henderson, R Steele, T Hiddleston. Subs all used; E Sloan, A Taylor, A Whiteford.
Jamie Little receives the AA MacPherson Cup from Neil MacPherson
Eck Bryden gets his man
Eck Sloan sets off on a storming run
Kenny Brown takes on Annan with Ben Stanley in close support
Murray Richardson sets off on the break for Saints second try
Murray Richardson makes the break for the second try
Ben Stanley charges up the touchline
Captain Jamie Little leads the charge