Scottish 2XV League – Division 4 (West)
Dumfries RFC 2nd XV -36 Whitecraigs RFC 2nd XV – 10
On a near perfect day for rugby the seconds were at Park Farm playing their last home league game of the season as they hosted Whitecraigs in front of probably the biggest crowd to watch a second team game for some considerable time.. The visitors had convincingly beaten the Seconds earlier in the season, and have been all season favourites for promotion.
The home team started with a front row of Robertson, Paul and Sloan with Stanley and Clanachan in the boiler house. Hanekom, Crichton and Ross Henderson made up a very abrasive back row. In the backs Birdsall and Duncan were at half back while Burgess and Sitala filled the centre berths. The back three of Davidson, Smith and Minty completed the line up. The mix of experience and young talent was to prove invaluable and decided the outcome of this game.
The Saints played into the breeze in the first half and immediately went on the attack. Close driving play took them deep into the Whitecraigs 22 and a misdemeanour gave Birdsall the chance to slot the penalty. First blood to the Saints and the signs were good for an upset.
Any hope that this was to be easy was quickly shattered as Whitecraigs regrouped with a vengeance. On the 10 minute mark a lack of home team concentration saw the visitors score a converted try to take the lead.
For the next fifteen minutes or so Saints were defending to keep the visitors at bay. After some slack defensive work they pushed towards the home line and it took a last gasp tackle and turnover by Sitala to halt their advance. It was the same player who made the break through as he stormed through the defence and ran in a try from the half way line. Birdsall’s conversion gave the Saints the narrow lead they probably just deserved. With the game flowing at a fierce pace the first use of a replacement saw Renwick enter the fray with Andy Clanachan coming to the sideline for a well earned rest.
With the half drawing to a close the visiting No 10 kicked a superb drop goal to level the match at 10 point all and the match evenly balanced with the prospect of an enthralling second period.
At half time a couple of changes were made and Grant Drennan replaced Minty at full back and Keith Riddick replaced Burgess. Saints now had the breeze at their backs. Confident early play took them deep into Whitecraigs territory and putting enormous pressure on the visitors. Minutes after the restart the Saints were reduced to 14 men. The referee red carded young Fraser Paul when his foot accidentally came too close to the head of a Whitecraigs player which needed a restructuring of the home pack.
Haggerty came on to fill the hooking berth with Hanekom making way for him. This setback merely galvanised the home team as they then stuck to the game plan with driving runs, quicker use of the ball pulling the visitors wider in the process.
With all fourteen raising their game to meet the increased demands came the fruits of their labours. Birdsall broke the deadlock when nipped over from close range and added the conversion to give Saints a lead they never surrendered. Yet Whitecraigs were not to be denied and some solid defensive work was required to keep them in check. When Birdsall crossed for his second short range try and added the conversion at last the fourteen man Saints were in control.
With Ross Henderson’s try, converted by Birdsall putting the Saints further ahead the chance was taken to experiment and give all the replacements valuable game time against good opposition. Late in the game Ross Haggerty rounded of the scoring to bring the score to Saints 36 – Whitecraigs 10
On the day when everyone played their part Birdsall’s personal tally of 21 points came from massive contributions from those around him. Of the next generation from the Colts conveyer belt of exciting talent, Fraser Paul continued to shine with his accurate lineout work backed up by his all round play. His fellow Colts Drennan, Riddick and Kennedy all showed up well against very good opponents displaying solid skill levels, maturity, awareness and an appetite for the fray. All four are a credit not only to themselves but also the U18 coaches whose valuable work should never be underestimated.
Whilst the Seconds can not gain promotion this season they will have a major impact on who does and more importantly have laid down the marker for next season. When you consider that the seconds gained promotion last year almost by default this high league placing (at least top four) is a testament to their commitment and hard work.
However it would be too easy to become euphoric. This is not the end of the road, and there is much work to be done if this group of players are to truly fulfil their league and personal potential and in the course of which further expand the Club’s pool of players with 1st XV playing ability.
Team:Minty, Smith, Sitala, Burgess, Davidson, Duncan, Birdsall, Robertson, Paul, Sloan, Stanley, Clanachan (Captain), Hanekom, Crichton and R Henderson.
Replacements: Drennan, Carson, Riddick, Gallagher, Macrae, Renwick, Kennedy, Haggerty who all played.
Jurie Hanekom on the charge with Fraser Paul and Andy Clanachan in support
Graeme Minty makes a break
Doc Satala takes on the defence
Scrum half Alan Birdsall makes a break to score
Grant Drennan powers through the tackle
Stewart Kennedy offloads in the tackle