Dumfries Saints 27 GHA 26
Their second league win of the season, this one over 2nd place GHA, moves Saints from bottom of league to 7th. With the three lower teams providing the next 3 weeks opposition this could be the perfect time to find the form that has been eluding them this season.
GHA started strongly and pressurised the Saints line for the first five minutes before a missed tackle gave them their first try. Saints immediately responded and when GHA make a rookie error of trying to pass the ball along their own 5 metre line an interception by Sam Hiddleston brought the teams back level.
The teams were evenly matched, the heavier GHA pack had the nudge in the scrums but Saints protected their put in well. Saints had the advantage of height and better organisation in the lineout and excellent performances from jumpers Mark McLatchie and Ali Mather stole GHA’s throws. A blow to Dumfries was Finlay Miller having to leave the field with a shoulder injury.
Saints were showing the visitors too much respect and found themselves having to defend their line for much of the first half. Another missed tackle gave GHA another try which they converted. Saints responded with a period of sustained pressure ending with Chris Wicks powering over for try.
Just before half time GHA got a 5 metre scrum out wide recycled a couple of times in front of the posts before their number 6 barged over for the try which they converted to finish the half 10 19.
Some hard talking at half time brought just the response that was required and Saints started the second half with a determination to take the game to GHA. A transformation was taking place, the aggressive rucking from recent training sessions was being replicated on the field and GHA did not like it. Saints were getting continuity of possession, building phases, driving toward the GHA line for scrum half Jonny Campion to soccer a well worked try which Jordan Kerr converted.
GHA were rattled and their defence was struggling to cope with the intensity of the Saints attack, they gave away a penalty just outside their 22 for coming in from the side which Jordan Kerr kicked to go ahead 20 19.
From the restart Saints lost territory scrambling to secure possession and poor clearance gave the GHA backs space to run and they ran in a try in corner which they converted to retake the lead 26 20.
Opportunities were opening for the Saints but unsympathetic passes, fumbled passes and poor decisions denied them. From an excellent lineout win man of the match Sam Hiddleston shook of the first line of defence and ran round the second line to score a fantastic try under the posts for Jordan to covert to go 27 26.
With 15 minutes to go Saints kept up the intensity and dominated the possession but the GHA back looked desperate whenever they got the ball. They wanted to go through the centre but Saints defence was solid, they tried to go wide but could not string the passes together. With a minute to go they gave away a penalty in the centre of the field, Saints had not lost their own a lineout all so all they had to do kick to touch, secure the ball and run down the clock. Touch was missed and GHA launched their final assault with time up Saints gave away a kickable penalty for tackler not rolling away. Pressure was on the GHA kicker who had missed more than he had kicked but it fell short for captain Sam Hiddleston to kick into touch for the game.
This had been a terrific game, played a furious pace by two evenly matched teams. The next three weeks will tell whether or not Saints have found their game.
Team: Sean Graham, Fraser Paul, Adam Prentice, Stewart Kennedy, Ali Mather, Finlay Miller, Mark McClatchie, Stuart Clanachan, Jonny Campion, Jordan Kerr, Ben Johnstone, Sam Hiddleston, Kenny Henderson, Andrew Whiteford and Graeme Gemmell. Subs: Villi Satala, Chris Wicks and Martin Smith.