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