Dumfries Saints took part in the Annan Tournament on Saturday in preparation for the new season starting this week. The tournament has been running since 2001 and Dumfries had never won it before. With two teams calling off on the morning off the tournament Dumfries were paired up with Stewartry and Hawick Linden. The other group was to be Annan, Aspatria and Newton Stewart. Each game was to be two halves of 20 minutes.
Dumfries kicked off into the driving rain against Stewartry and played the game very tight retaining the ball phase after phase working towards the line but after excellent ball retention all the way to the scoreline it was Captain “Paddy” McLatchie who dived over for the score. Conversions into the wind were impossible. Dumfries kept up the pressure on the Stewartry line for long phases of play and eventually from the base of a scrum, that was won against the head, Ross Henderson picked up and dived over the line to score to make the half time score 10 nil to Saints.
Dumfries tactics were better in the second half, Alan Birdsall using the wind into the corner and from a Stewartry lineout Ali Jackson was lifted the highest to win the ball in the air, the ball went along the backs for Douglas Boyd to slide in unopposed in the corner. Alan Birdsall converted with the wind. Stewartry raised their game and put Dumfries under pressure, after the team conceding too many penalties Ali Jackson was unlucky to be binned for team infringements. Stewartry made full use of the extra player and a scissor move in the centre resulted in a try under the posts to make the final score Dumfries 17 Stewartry 7.
Saints second game was against Hawick Linden. They were a bigger side and smarter in the loose than Stewartry however with the new scrum engagements being enforced and the referee insisting on a straight put in at the scrums the opportunities were there to win the ball against the head and Gareth McCall hooked a perfect ball into the hands of back row Paddy McClatchey to dive over for a score. Dumfries had Linden under pressure and after several phases and tied in the Linden forwards the ball went along the line for Dougie Boyd to score in the corner to make the half time score 10 nil to Saints.
Saints were now playing with the wind and the backs were playing with real fluency, Ben Radley was linking well with his outside players. From a real delicate move in the centre involving Ben Radley feigning a long pass to Michael Yates a short pass was given to Alex Halliday who was clean through to score under the posts. Alan Birdsall converted. Dumfries were well in control of this game and from a defensive knock on and the referee playing advantage the ball was spun along the line for Kenny Henderson to score in the corner. Alan Birdsall converted from well out to make the final score Saints 24 Hawick Linden 0.
Saints were in the final v Newton Stewart who had qualified after a three way tie in their group but they had scored more tries. With fitness becoming an issue this turned out to be Saints easiest game running in five tries to nil, four in the first half playing with the wind and rain in their backs. Kenny Henderson ran in the first from clean ball from a scrum spun along the line. The second arrived soon after with Sean Graham setting up quick ball up in midfield releasing Alex Halliday into the corner. Another strike against the head by Gareth McCall gave Ross Henderson his third try of the day from a pick up and drive over the line and Gareth himself got onto the score sheet with great support and offload from “Paddy” McClatchey, Jack Johnstone converting the last one to take the half time score to 22 nil to Saints.
The second half just needed to be tight against the wind and rain to win the trophy but Newton Stewart put Saints under pressure until the last play of the game when Dougie Boyd, just on as a substitute, received the ball out wide to barge his way over the line to score his third try of the day. The referee thought enough was enough and the trophy was Dumfries’s for the first time. The presentation was made by Scotland International Alex Dunbar in front of the clubhouse.
So an excellent start to the season for the senior squad which gives food for thought for the new coaching team of Mickey Hunt and Paddy Coupar although in this tournament the team was under the guidance of assistant coaches Rab McHenry and Euan Mack.
Squad: Sean Graham, Gareth McCall, Adam Prentice, Daniel Henderson, Bruce Hunt, Ali Jackson, “Paddy” McClatchey (capt), Ross Henderson, Jack Johnstone, Alan Birdsall, Ben Radley, Ross Mawdesley, Michael Yates, Alex Halliday, Euan Laverty, Kenny Henderson, Craig Bryson, Dougie Boyd, Richie Walker.