1st XV v Howe of Fife 14.10.17

This was another eagerly awaited encounter, Howe and Dumfries came up through the National Division ranks together before League restructuring. They continued to rise while Saints got stuck for few seasons but with Howe finishing bottom of Division 1 last season they were relegated along with Hamilton while Saints were promoted from Division 3. The previous weeks encounter at Park Farm showed Hamilton were different class to the other Division 2 sides Saints had played this season. This would be another test for Saints away from home.

The game kicked off in perfect conditions as a large travelling support got settled into the newly refurbished stand at Duffus Park. Howe took the kick off and immediately pressurised Saints forcing a spilled ball as Saints tried to run out of defence. Some very good support play and fats recycling by Howe gave them the first try of the game. The conversion was missed, 5 nil.

Saints restarted and Howe ran it straight back at them where their good support running and fast recycling was aided by some sloppy Saints tackling to give then another try, the conversion again was missed. Less than 5 minutes gone and it was 10 nil.

Saints got themselves into the game and it became apparent they had the edge in the set pieces. It was only a matter of time when a penalty was kicked to touch deep in the Howe half that a simple ball from a line out pit Jordan Kerr under the posts. John Carlisle converted making in 10 : 7.

Howe had a penalty kick at goal go wide and Saints had one go over from John Carlisle, 10 each. Saints were looking composed on the ball pulling Howe players out of position and some very slick passing led to a well taken try by John Carlisle which he converted 10 : 17.

Saints were looking more like themselves but this was very well drilled Howe side who took advantage of every opportunity and were very fast at the breakdown turning over a lot of Saints possession.  Just before half time Rory Steele made a line break that took him between the Howe 10 and 22 where his pass was intercepted by the speedy Howe hooker who took it all the way back for a try which this time was converted making the half time score 17 each.

Saints stepped up a gear in the second half, John Carlisle got a penalty and Zeke Dyson made a line break out of his own half and a great support run by Jack Johnston to take the offload on the Howe 10 metre line to run in under the posts. John Carlisle converted, 17 : 27.

After some excellent forward drives and fast recycles Jack Johnstone dove over from a ruck to get his second try, the conversion was missed.  17 : 32. Howe were not giving up without a fight and it was end to end stuff but again after some very impressive ball handling through a lot of players hands James Thompson scored Saints fifth try, the conversion was missed taking the score to 17 : 37.

Howe finished the game very strongly keeping the ball tight and relying on the support runners and fast recycling, which was one of their strengths that and making turnovers at the breakdown. They secured another try and conversion from a major forwards effort and Saints were delighted to put the ball into touch at time up to maintain the score difference.

This was a fantastic win away from home to maintain 3rd place in the league against a very classy and highly skilled How of Fife side. Next week Saints are at home to 9th place Peebles who have had some narrow defeats against the top two Hamilton and Kirkcaldy and whose game against Aberdeenshire was postponed last week making them fresh for a visit to Dumfries where Saints will be keen to re-establish Park Farm as their fortress. Kick off 3pm and Saints hope for a large home crowd.

Squad: Gareth McCall, Tom Martin, Zeke Dyson, Scott Goodwin, Michael Thompson, Mark McClatchey,  Ali Jackson, James Thomson, Dougie Boyd, Michael Scott, Jack Johnstone, Jordan Kerr, Keagan Jones, John Carlisle, Rory Steele, Andrew Whiteford, Kenny Henderson, Ben Johnstone and Michael Yates

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