Dumfries Saints 24 – Perthshire 7
Saints kept their promotion and title hopes alive with this important bonus point win in their penultimate home game of the season. They move to within a point of League leaders Lasswade at the top of with both teams now having played 16 games.
Playing into a stiff Park Farm breeze Saints were immediately under pressure. They had first Sam Hiddleston and then Euan Laverty to thank for last ditch cover tackles when Perthshire looked odds on to score. The visitors were playing the conditions well in the opening 15 mins, pinning the Saints back in their own half at every opportunity. Eventually they made the pressure count when their stand off kicked a wonderfully weighted chip behind the Saints defence and Perthshire collected to score in the corner. The Perthshire No 8 converted the difficult kick making light of the conditions. 0 -7.
Saints gathered themselves following this disappointing start and began to apply pressure of their own. Following an excellent scrum from Saints, a dynamic break from Sam Hiddleston put Ben Johnstone through to offload to brother Jack Johnstone for a Saints score in the corner. John Carlisle missed a difficult kick against the elements but Saints had regained their composure after the early setback. 7 – 5
Perthshire continued to play the conditions well and Saints’ indiscipline at the breakdown invariably resulted in them finding themselves back in their own 22m area. Kicking for distance suited Perthshire better than kicking for touch as there heavyweight second row had difficulty getting off the ground – allowing Lee Scott and his lifters to steal lineouts. The scrums were not going the way of the Perthshire pack with the Saints front row getting the better body positions and driving the scrums. Saints’ defensive line was well drilled. When the visitors got to within 5 metres Saints were able to hold them out and force an error from Perthshire. Half time came with Saints restricting the visitors to a narrow lead. 5 – 7.
With the wind behind them after the interval Saints started to control the game. Jordan Kerr and Sam Hiddleston were kicking well to give Saints good position in the Perthshire half. The opening score of the second half was more than a little fortunate for Saints. A kick behind the advancing visitors line looked to be covered by the Perthshire full back. However, he appeared to control the ball but then dropped it behind him where, with everyone else wondering what had happened, Sam Hiddleston tapped the ball forward and touched down to score. John Carlisle missed the conversion but Saints had the lead. 10 – 7.
With the game now being played almost exclusively in the visitors half the penalty count from the Perthshire side started to climb. With just under 60 mins on the clock Paddy Coupar took a quick penalty, was able to get the ball away to Michael Yates who passed perfectly to the supporting Sam Hiddleston to score. John Carlisle converted and Saints were out to 17 – 7.
With under 15 mins left on the clock another great break from Sam Hiddleston saw him cut through the Perthshire defensive line. His unconventional offload was grabbed by the supporting Ross Henderson to score under the posts. John Carlisle converted to give Saints a 24 – 7 lead and the all important bonus point.
Saints continued to press and kept Perthshire in their own half for the remainder of the game. A great break by Michael Yates in the dying minutes of the game gave Matt Hayman an opportunity but the visitors cover defence got there with 5 mts to spare.
This was an important if ‘stuffy’ win from the Saints in a game where they made their opportunities count. The Perthshire pack looked to have a significant weight advantage but Saints were able to hold their own and gain enough ball for the backs to convert. The entire Saints pack played very well but the Man of the Match performance came from Jamie Graham for his tackle count which nullified the ball carriers in the visitors pack.
With 6 games left in the league Saints are in a promotion spot. However, with five of those are away from home because of earlier fixture postponements, they are going to have to dig deep to maintain their momentum.