Scottish 2nd XV League Div 4 West – Whitecraigs 23 – Dumfries Saints 17
The seconds took a healthy squad of 17 to play last year’s runners up Whitecraigs quietly confident that they could harvest valuable league points. With some of the farmers still unavailable some youngsters were called up who had a significant impact on the game.
Fielding a gigantic front row of Cox, Robertson and Bubba packing down alongside the venerable Eck Sloan and John Magill in the boiler house there was no way this pack would move backwards. A speedy breakaway trio of Kennedy, Renwick and Bruce Haggerty added fire and bite to an awesome forward machine. Behind the scrum Duncan and Burgess provided the link to a centre pairing of the impressive Sitala and Davidson. A nifty back three of Smith, Mack and Minty completed the line up. Debutantes Torrance and Justin Little provided the cover on the touchline.
The opening exchanges were even until the five minute mark when woeful defence by the Saints allowed the Craig’s backs the opportunity to waltz in under the posts for an unconverted try despite Richie Davidson’s “professional foul” which earned him ten minutes in the bin. Rather than putting the Saints under pressure they rose to the occasion and had arguably their best period of the game. As Davidson’s enforced exile was coming to an end, Sitala carved an opening in the home defence following some aggressive driving and rucking by the Saints forwards. His neat pass found Haggerty backing up to score under the posts. Duncan added the conversion to give the Saints the lead at 7-5.
Barely five minutes later with Saints now back to fifteen men Craig’s quick backs took advantage of more sloppy defence which allowed them to cross for a converted score and take the lead once more. As the half drew to a close they added a further penalty giving them a rather precarious and lucky half time lead of 15 – 7 which did not truly reflect the run of play.
With the big Dumfries pack dominating their opponents in scrum, lineout, ruck and maul the second half looked bright for the Saints. For the first ten minutes the pressure was all Saints as they went hammer and tong at the opposition. Sadly their Achilles heel of dismal defence let them down gifting Craig’s yet another unconverted try. With the game ebbing from them the replacements came on and had a significant impact on the game. Firstly Torrance was presented with an overlap in his own 22 and showing the speedy Craig’s defenders a magnificent turn of foot ran in the try out wide from 80 metres.
An injury to the influential Magill did nothing for the cause but the Saints tail was now well and truly up and on the 75th minute mark the impressive Little capitalised on a cute Burgess drop out, reacting before every other player on the pitch to run in another score from 80 metres. With Duncan unable to convert either wide kick the Saints were now back in the game with a vengeance at 20-17.
In a frantic last five minutes with the Saints throwing everything at the Craig’s defence they came close. Poor decision making saw two scoring opportunities go a begging and on the last one the Craig’s backs hacked up field. A penalty under the posts was gratefully converted to give them some breathing space a final score of Whitecraigs 23 – Dumfries Saints 17 leaving Saints ruefully pondering the reality of their losing a game that was there for the taking.