Let’s cut to the chase right at the start – if Carlsberg did “Days from Hell” , this was it.
Dundee went into this BT National One match in confident mode against a Marr side 2 places above Dundee in the league table. Marr were sitting in second place, with Dundee in fourth, with a 5 point gap between the 2 teams and the Dundee contingent assembling at Mayfield early on Saturday morning saw this as a real opportunity to close the gap.
The first suspicions that this was not to be Dundee’s day were confirmed in the Mayfield car park when it was announced that the team bus developed a mechanical fault and would have to be replaced. This involved an unscheduled detour to the bus depot where the kit had to be taken off bus 1 and loaded onto bus 2 and we eventually set off on our journey to darkest Ayrshire.
The journey itself was uneventful until we reached 3 miles from Troon where the Ayrshire plods had very unhelpfully closed the A78 and even more unhelpfully not put out any diversion signs. After a 10 minute aimless drive through the less than scenic west of Scotland wastelands, bus driver Paul performed a minor miracle to guide the 49 seater bus around winding country lanes until we eventually arrived at Fullarton, home of Marr.
The old saying that bad things happen in 3s , was confirmed when the Dundee committee were taken through to the pre-match lunch in the Marr clubhouse and clocked with horror that the Master of Ceremonies was same one that in the corresponding match last year had delivered a stereotype and tired attack on Dundee , consisting of constant references to teenage pregnancies , Dundee shower (ie deodorant spray) and the 3 Js (junkies, jaykees and jezebels) etc etc etc ad nauseam . Ha – bloody – Ha. Not.
The feeling of “Oh no , not him again” was compounded when the gentleman in question delivered exactly the same speech as last year – I kid you not – it was word for word the same.
To their eternal credit , the Dundee committee sat through this repeat episode , with fixed smiles on their faces and displaying appropriate dignity and decorum in not rising to the bait.
It was however noted in private conversation amongst the Dundee committee , that this offensive attack on Dundee (recently voted the coolest little city in the UK by GQ magazine) was delivered in Ayrshire , the region which is the home to “The Scheme” , the housing estate in Kilmarnock which was the subject of a BBC documentary in 2010 and introduced the nation of the lives of Ayrshire’s finest – Marvin , Dayna and their dog Bullet.
The words “pot kettle and black” came to mind.
When the Dundee diatribe was eventually over, a feeling of overwhelming relief was tangible in the room. However, this was to be sadly misplaced when the Master of Ceremonies then handed across to the main speaker.
The lunch gathering then witnessed a modern day miracle.
It was widely reported that Alf Garnett aka Warren Mitchell, had passed away last week. Well, apparently not, as it was Alf Garnett reincarnated delivered the speech at Marr Rugby Club yesterday afternoon.
Possibly a slight exaggeration but the content of the speech was exactly that which you would have expected from good old Alf, with the difference that Alf Garnett was moderately funny.
It was noted that the DHSFPRFC Assistant Treasurer sat through this speech with a look on his face that suggested that he had swallowed a wasp.
As kick off time thankfully approached, the Dundee committee then joined up with the rest of the Dundee support amongst a fairly decent crowd at Fullarton.
The Dundee XV squad was still not a full strength with, Blair Cochrane , Tim McKavanagh , Darrel Russell , Matt O Sullivan , Ronan Joy and Josh Rotnagur all out through out through injury/illness. On the credit side , Danny Levison returned to the starting XV.
It was noted that the referee was Finlay Brown, a young referee who had impressed in previous Dundee matches that he had handled. It was remarked that Dundee had done well in these matches as Referee Brown’s style of refereeing suited Dundee. This faith would be shown to be sadly misplaced.
It was a dry afternoon in deepest Ayrshire, which was hugely surprising as the rain had apparently been torrential earlier in the week . Credit to the Marr groundstaff for getting the pitch playable.
Right from the off, the Marr team looked up for this match and play was concentrated in the Dundee half.
The pressure paid off in 5 minutes when the Marr 10 slotted a penalty.
3-0 to Marr.
Following the restart, Dundee had a penalty chance to draw level but Duncan’s kick went just wide.
Marr then took play into Dundee territory and were camped in the Dundee 22. Time and again, it seemed certain that they would breakthrough for a try and time and again the Dundee defence held firm.
This passage of play continued for 15 minutes of relentless Marr pressure, during which time the Dundee defence was absolutely heroic.
A turnover and a clearing kick by Andy seemed to have got Dundee out of jail.
However in the next play, referee Brown saw fit to yellow card Ice for an alleged deliberate knock on. This seemed harsh.
Marr then took advantage of Dundee being down to 14 man , when following a hack into the Dundee 22 , their centre crossed for a try. The conversion was missed. 8-0 Marr.
To their credit, Marr were well on top at this stage and , as often seems to be the case in these circumstances , they were also benefitting from some close call refereeing decisions. As a result, it was no great surprise when Marr scored another try in 30 minutes through centre Bickerstaff. This was converted. 15-0 to Marr.
It seemed things could not get worse for Dundee but they certainly did when centre Neil Herron went down injured following a ruck. It became apparent immediately that this was a serious injury and it was a harrowing sight as Neil was carried off on a stretcher.
Young Christian Avis came on to replace Neil , with Callum Bowie moving to centre.
Half time – Marr 15 Dundee 0.
It had been a horrific first half for Dundee but the half time chat was to get the next score and we are back in the game.
Dundee began to exert pressure at the start of the second half and play was concentrated in Marr’s half.
Following concerted pressure a Dundee attack to the corner was illegally halted by Marr , whose flanker received a yellow card .
Nick kicked to the corner and from the line out, Danny secured the take and offloaded to Broonie on the peel . Broonie battered the Marr defence out of the way to score. Duncan converted. 15-7 Marr.
Dundee had to get the next score, but Marr astutely ensured that the play was kept in midfield for the crucial next 10 minutes.
Marr then went 18-7 ahead with a penalty , followed by another one to make the score 21-7 as we entered the last 10 minutes.
As the match slipped away from Dundee and the Dundee support’s spirits matched the darkening sky across deepest Ayrshire, your match reporter’s mood was not improved to see a tweet from ex Dundee High Player and now World rugby authority, one Andy Nicol , stating “Did Las Vegas , now onto Hong Kong. Great fun hosting the HongKong Rugby Long Lunch” . Love this city. Bonkers”
Really Andy? …………very pleased for you, but not just now…………..
The message was passed onto Andy’s father – who himself was standing behind the Marr posts resembling a study of abject misery – that while we were very happy for Andy as he enjoyed his beer in Joe Bananas Bar in Wan Chai in Hong Kong , he should possibly spare a thought for those of us watching rugby in less glamourous – and a hell of a lot less enjoyable – circumstances.
The collective misery of the Dundee contingent was compounded when Marr broke away from midfield to score another converted try.
Full Time – Marr 28 Dundee 7.
No debate here – Marr thoroughly deserved their win
Dundee never really got going , with Marr on top from the start.
The word amongst the Marr support – who do give their side good backing and like their committee are a friendly bunch – was that this was their best performance of the season and they did show themselves to be a very good side , with a first class hooker in Stephen Adair , an impressive back row of Angus and Ben Johnston and Paul Burke , with the Bickerstaff brothers a couple of classy backs.
The tin lid was put on one horrible afternoon when due to a fault in the pressure system , only cold showers were available in the Dundee dressing room. That kinda summed the day up.
Naturally however , the biggest concern ,and by far the most important matter , was the injury suffered by Neil Herron.
Word came back that Neil had suffered a suspected dislocated knee – which had then relocated back into place – a process which I am reliably informed is called “sub-luxing” and would undergo further tests at Ninewells during the week.
Naturally the best wishes of all at Mayfield go to Neil for a full recovery.