The Great Escape!

GHK 5 Dumfries Saints 6

Dumfries Saints travelled to Glasgow on Saturday to play GHK in the Scottish Cup, the hosts are three divisions below the Saints and the prize of a home tie against Premiership One Watsonians on January 10th was at stake.

Saints started poorly and all the early pressure came from GHK, a young side with a few old heads added. Saints seemed to have too many players who were already thinking of Christmas as they sat back and let the opposition come at them. After five minutes GHK earned a scrum five yards from the Saints line, the ball was run wide and the winger found himself in acres of space to sail in for the try. It could have been worse as within another five minutes Saints gave up a soft penalty coming in the side of a ruck and were fortunate to see the kick sail wide.

At last the Saints started to stir, led on by Captain Jamie Little, Stuart Clanachan and Ali Mather amongst the forwards. Geddes and Stanley also started to get involved but too often passes went to ground or wrong choices were made and the chance was lost. The backs suffered a severe shortage of good ball but when they did get it they didn’t use it well. Farquhar and Satala looked sharpest amongst the backs, and Bryden used the boot well for position at times but cohesion was lacking. Saints did manage to put some pressure on and got a penalty out of it which Alan Birdsall kicked to make the half time score 5-3 to GHK.

Changes in personnel saw veteran prop Eck Sloan come on for the second half and he certainly steadied up the scrum and helped improve the quality of ball coming out. Daniel Henderson came on for Stanley and made some telling runs. Dougie Crichton came into the back row to add some pace and made a few good tackles around the fringes. In the backs Andy Walker came in a fly half and Alex Bryden moved out one with Birdsall withdrawn to the sidelines. The changes helped and at least the Saints dominated the second half territorially.

It was still a frustrating spectacle for the supporters as forwards drove on only for the ball to be turned over or lost through lack of support. Andy Walker worked hard to try and get the backs moving but too often it was sluggish and the GHK defence was immense as they sensed the possibility of a major upset. With time running out Walker had a decent attempt at a drop goal which only missed by inches. Just when it looked like the Saints might be doomed Rory Steele was flattened by a late tackle and the resulting penalty was neatly converted by Walker for a slender 6-5 lead. Saints tightened up and played out the last ten minutes without allowing GHK a chance back into the game.

This was a valuable win for Saints but one they barely deserved, Steve McQueen would have been proud of this great escape! Too many players looked like they had started celebrating Christmas early and they very nearly paid the price. It was disappointing to see some of this young side letting their teammates down. Whilst GHK never really threatened after their early try Saints will need to improve massively to ensure a performance they can be proud of on January 10th against one of the top five sides in the country!

Team; G McCall, R Henderson, K Geddes, B Stanley, A Mather, J Little, S Clanachan, J Currie, F Miller, A Bryden, A Birdsall, J Farquhar, K Henderson, D Satala, R Steele. Subs all used; E Sloan, D Henderson, D Crichton, A Walker.

Saints Seasonal Training

Seasonal training will take place over the next two weeks on Mondays evenings, 7.00pm at the David Keswick Centre for speed and endurance work, Tuesday evenings 7.00pm at Park Farm and Saturdays 11.00am to 1.00pm at Park Farm. All players are asked to work hard to maintain fitness levels.