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Ross Lemon at full tilt against Hillhead/Jordanhill on 24/09/2005 at MayfieldDundee are back in the top division after 11 hard seasons which have seen some huge fluctuations in success at the club. From the strength of the mid-nineties and two successive near misses through the relegation dramas as the team rebuilt after the advent of professionalism to the cup final appearances of the last few seasons and more near misses for promotion. But at last this hugely talented squad has fulfilled its potential and gained promotion to Premier 1 as champions of Premier 2. In fact this is a little piece of history in its own right as Dundee's other two promotion successes to what was then the 1st Division came as runners up in the the 2nd Division - fantastic achievements but it feels so much better to go up as champions.

The players set out their own goals at the start of the season and the priority was to win the league. Anything else would be a bonus and with the arrival of several new faces and the departure of a few old hands there was a frisson of anticipation as the pre-season gave way to the start of the league campaign with new captain, Lindsey Graham at the helm.

There was a new look to the coaching team as well. Backs' coach Bruce Aitchison returned to Scotland from Hong Kong and was brought in to assist returning head coach Ian Rankin. Jimmy Michie joined the club to mastermind the 2nd XV's return to success and the contribution of a strong second string to Dundee's success this season cannot be underestimated as they swept all before them to win promotion from their league. That strength was reflected in several players stepping up to the mark and becoming part of the 1st XV success story this season.

 

 Injuries and Comebacks

Dundee's first foray into the new season was a home game against ambitious Edinburgh Accies who felt this season was their big chance. They targetted Dundee as their main rivals and arrived in a cup final frame of mind. Dundee had a scrum half crisis with their New Zealander Matt Groufsky unavailable for the first game but Shannon Wilson postponed his retirement to fill the gap that day and over the next few weeks as injuries tested the squad resources to their limit in the backs.

Dundee lost narrowly that afternoon but two bonus points limited the damage and the battle for promotion was joined.

Following a hard fought away win at Jed another retirement was put on ice as JJ van der Esch answered the call for the next home game against Cartha QP and their huge pack. The narrowest of wins kept Dundee on Accies' tails in the league and JJ's contribution that afternoon was immense.

 

Key moment: Dundee v Cartha QP on the 10th of September 2005. The game poised at a remarkable 0 - 0 with Cartha resisting Dundee pressure deep into the 2nd half. It took an acrobatic dive over the line from Satch made possible by Broonie's break and neat little flip to break the stalemate and secure the narrowest of wins, 5 - 0.

The injury worries gradually subsided and Shannon and JJ were allowed to belatedly hang their boots up but with the heartfelt thanks of the team for showing the kind of club spirit that has always been a Dundee trademark and typified their committment to their fellow players.

 

 The Chase

The opening day loss to Accies served to focus the team's mind to peg back the league leaders. A further eight wins on the trot meant Dundee amassed eight bonus points out of the first ten games in the midst of which the resounding home win over Kelso on 08/10/2005 saw Dundee take over top spot and then extend their lead with some big wins and scintillating running rugby.

 

Key moment: Berwick v Dundee on the 1st of October 2005, with Dundee looking down the barrel of the Scremerston gun. A moment of brilliance from Satch to pull Dundee back into the game and the steely nerve of Jon Petty to kick the penalty that won the game.

The inexorable collection of bonus points put increasing pressure on the chasing pack which by now included the dark horse of the league, Cartha QP as Dundee hit a streak of form that had some pundits bemoaning the fact that the league was tied up already. But rugby has a habit of unleashing surprises when they are least expected.

At the halfway point of the season Dundee travelled to Edinburgh looking to gain revenge on Accies for their audacious smash and grab at Mayfield on the opening day of the season. But once again the Edinburgh side did the business and the chasing pack were within sight of Dundee once again.

With the weather disrupting the fixture card the season lost a little momentum and meant Dundee's next game was against the surprise package of the league who were breathing down the Mayfielders' necks, Cartha Queens Park at Dumbreck in Glasgow.

 

Key moment: A 20 - 5 half-time lead for Cartha looked like a mountain to climb for Dundee especially considering the stinginess of their defence thus far in the league. But Dundee turned in a gargantuan performance in the second half to prevail with the last kick of the match. This time the steely nerve came from Cammy Ferguson with a touchline penalty that sent the visiting Dundee fans into raptures of delight.

Dundee rattled in 223 points in the six games after Christmas including 40 point-plus wins against Jed-Forest and Gala at Mayfield. But the points against figures were marred by two shock upsets in the Borders just when Dundee thought they'd finally laid that particular ghost to rest. Kelso and Selkirk made sure that Dundee's promotion rivals still had a glimmer of hope as the home straight loomed.

However the season was very much Dundee's to lose and this squad had learned from previous seasons how to tough out the crucial results. A nervy win against GHA kept Dundee seven points clear at the top and all that was needed was one more win and it came at Mayfield against Haddington to create a piece of Dundee rugby history. Dundee had been in the top division only twice before, both times in the halcyon days of the early nineties. But this squad has re-written the history book, outdoing their illustrious predecessors by gaining promotion as champions and giving the latest generation of the Mayfield faithful the chance to say they were part of Dundee's finest hour.

 

 A Few Memories

The league campaign has provided many memorable images, most of them caught by Richie Laurent's camera, but some of the most enduring are of Dundee's big ball-carriers on the hoof, Neil McComb, Richie Hawkins, Mark Jenkinson, Chris Cumming; Satch's elusive feints or the scything running of Mike Kerr and Graham Thomson. Add to that the near kamikazi workrate of George Oommen, the reliability of Dougie McLaren or the crucial kicks that have turned games. Percussive hits from Tim Knight, Cammy Ferguson and Alan Brown stick in the mind and we are still only scratching the surface of a season from which everyone will have favourite moments. One thing that is certain about next season is that there will be even more to savour and remember over a beer in the clubhouse.

 

 It's More Than a Season

Of course there is much more to Dundee's promotion than just one season's hard work. The seeds of this success were planted four seasons ago with the arrival of former All Black, Jason Hewett to galvanise the club and restore the self-belief and winning ways that were to prove to be the springboard for future glories.

But this is very much the team that Ranks built and the arrival of one of Scotland's most experienced coaches, Ian Rankin brought a new level of professionalism to Dundee's preparation and work-rate. Allied to a strengthening of personnel the confidence injected into the side by two Murrayfield cup final appearances became manifest this season in crucial wins as the 1st XV stepped up a gear and played some scintillating running rugby. There was also hard edge to their game as concentration levels improved and the talismanic performances of players such as Satch and George Oommen inspired the team as a whole to raise their standards.

There were also new levels of performance off the park and no tribute to the club would be complete without mention of the phalanx of volunteers and support staff who have provided the framework around which success on the pitch was woven. A forward thinking committee, management and support infrastructure have worked tirelessly and largely transparently to ensure the players and coaches had the best chance to get this far. Their contributions will be equally important as Dundee aspire to ensure their's is no short term tenancy in Premier 1.

The end result is that Dundee, and Midlands rugby is back in with the big boys and everyone at Mayfield is raring to go for season 2006/07.

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The Players

Name
Alan Brown
Chris Cumming
Alan Dymock
Neil Dymock
Stephan Dreyer
JJ van der Esch
Cammy Ferguson
Andy Fisher
Niall Gallagher
Lindsay Graham
Nicky Grant
Dougie Gray
Matt Groufsky
Richie Hawkins
James Hogg
Mark Jenkinson
Barry Jones
Andy Kennedy
Mike Kerr
Tim Knight
Sam Knipe
Ross Lemon
Dave Mason
Neil McComb
Scott McKenzie
Dougie McLaren
Ryan Milne
George Oommen
Dave Parkhill
Jon Petty
Callum Rankin
Jack Reavley
Dave Sutherland
Graham Thomson
Kenny Watt
Colin Whittaker
Shannon Wilson

Thanks

Many thanks to all our sponsors without whose generous support Dundee rugby could not have achieved promotion this season.

Thanks also to The High School Dundee for the use of the facilities and pitches at Mayfield.

And finally thankyou to everyone who has turned up at Mayfield, travelled to away grounds and created the positive atmosphere from the touchlines on which the players thrive.

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