Saints Live With The Big Boys!

Dumfries Saints 12 Ayr 33

This friendly game to mark the opening of the new facilities at Park Farm had the potential to embarrass Saints as they welcomed Scottish Champions Ayr to Park Farm, the visitors being the nearest thing to a semi professional club side in Scotland.

Fortunately the sun came out and Saints kicked off into a strong wind. It was a high paced start as both sides moved the ball at speed. Saints showed their intentions early on with strong runs from Sam Hiddleston and determined defence. Flanker Kenny Brown weighed in with some crucial turnovers and after a great catch and drive from a lineout hooker Ross Henderson roared away on a 35 metre break with Michael Scott in support.

Ayr however soon recovered securing quality possession and enabling standoff Climo to use the wind and kick them down the park. Saints kept fighting their way up field and after 15 minutes got their reward. Ayr were penalised for a squint feed at the scrum, Kenny Brown took the kick tap and went, the ball was recycled and flanker Angus Lean made the break before offloading to Sam Hiddleston who raced in at the corner.

The visitors soon returned to the attack and put pressure on the Saints. The defence was outstanding and encouragingly Saints competed well at the breakdown matching their illustrious opposition for turnovers. However eventually the pressure told, a Saints scrum near their own line creaked under the pressure, scrum half Will Duncan was forced to run with the ball and Saints were too slow to the breakdown as Ayr stole possession and dived over under the posts. The easy conversion put them 7-5 ahead.

Saints got themselves back into attack and from well won lineout ball centre Fraser Shaw showed his attacking potential with an electric break. The forwards and backs were handling well and inter passing to great effect however the visitors showed why they are Scottish Champions and counter attacked at speed. Great defensive tackles from winger Rory Steele and Ross Henderson kept them out. Ayr worked hard to lift the pace of the game and eventually got their reward with a try in the corner, Climo kicked superbly to convert.

Ayr now piled the pressure on trying to open up a gap. The Saints defence was outstanding with Tom Hiddleston and Fraser Shaw putting in big hits. Just when it seemed Saints would survive until half time the visitors again worked an overlap and scored in the corner on the stroke of half time. Saints turned around 21-12 down but with the wind behind them now.

The home side showed their intentions as they attacked from the kick off however a 40 yard break by a giant Ayr second row almost broke through, desperate defence and a thundering tackle from Sam Hiddleston kept the line intact. Immediately Saints returned to the attack and from a quick penalty in the Ayr 22 moved the ball wide for number 8 Michael Scott to score a well earned try. Tom Hiddleston converted for 12-21.

The game now went into a thrilling period or end to end rugby with both sides looking for the break through. There was some memorable Saints defence, veteran Saints prop Eck Sloan making a crucial tackle in the centre that led to a turnover for example! Saints second rows Jamie Little and Ali Mather were prominent in forward drives as was new prop Sean Cockburn. Angus Lean made a break deep into the Ayr 22 but the chance was lost and sub Stewart Renwick showed up well at the breakdown for Saints.

Unfortunately the Saints were the first to blink as Ayr made an interception in midfield and sprinted 70 yards to score in the corner despite Johnnie Sloan’s best efforts to cover. It had taken the visitors 25 minutes to score in the second half but as the Saints tired Ayr stepped up the pressure to score another with only ten minutes left.
It was to Saints credit that they picked themselves up and spent the remainder of the game attacking, Johnnie Sloan found space and almost put Sam Hiddleston through for another score. The Ayr defence was however too strong and despite Saints stealing a turnover through Michael Scott and going through several phases retaining possession they couldn’t get another score. Final score 33-12 to Ayr.

This was a highly encouraging performance from the Saints squad. What will most please the coaches is the improvement at the set piece from last week against a far bigger side and the competitiveness at the break down. Allied to that the back line looks to have some real threat and will do damage with a decent supply of ball. The benefits of the work the players have been putting in over the summer was visible and the squad seems on track to do well in the Premiership.

 Team; R MacMillan, R Henderson, S Cockburn, A Mather, J Little, A Lean, K Brown, M Scott, W Duncan, T Hiddleston, R Steele, F Shaw, K Henderson, J Farquhar, S Hiddleston. Subs all used; K Geddes, E Sloan, D Henderson, S Renwick, J Sloan, A Whiteford,

 Ross henderson makes a break with Michael Scott in close support

 Jamie Farquhar attacks with Fraser Shaw in support

Sam Hiddleston attacks with Ross Henderson and Sean Cockburn in close support