The threatened big freeze had failed to materialise, meaning Dundee kicked off against Selkirk in cold but perfectly playable conditions at Philiphaugh, under one of the best sets of floodlights in Scottish Rugby. Indeed, the whole of Philiphaugh was looking in great nick, a credit to the hard work that this friendliest of clubs (off the pitch!) put into the game.
Dundee’s only ever present so far this season, Angus Thomson, was missing for the first time, Andy Clarkson taking his place. Andy Dymock started at scrum half as a late replacement for the injured Stewart Lathangie, and Jack Newth made his league debut at loosehead prop, becoming the 50th different player to have played for our 1st XV this season.
Dundee’s first few lineouts in Selkirk’s half went well, with South African hooker Dylan Whitcombe hitting his man, but a couple of penalties as Dundee struggled to clear out break downs let Selkirk ease the pressure. Selkirk’s No. 15, Rory Banks, pushed a penalty attempt wide in the 9th minute, but Dundee failed to take advantage of that let off. A charged down kick on our 22 led to too many Dundee players failing to secure the loose ball. Selkirk’s No. 7 Higgins had no such inhibitions, however, touching it down among a posse of Dundee players as it bounced back over our line. No. 15 Banks slotted the conversion, and it was 7 – 0 to Selkirk after 10 minutes.
After some midfield exchanges, Selkirk increased their lead all too easily from 1st phase ball, when a big gap opened up in Dundee’s midfield as Selkirk’s winger Anderson cut back inside, cantering over under the posts for a converted try to make it 14 – 0 with just 18 minutes gone.
Dundee regrouped, and worked their way up to Selkirk’s 5 metre line. Under pressure, our line out throw went wrong, but Selkirk knocked on, giving us a second bite at the cherry. And we took full advantage, good handling leading to a Fijian style flipped pass from skipper McKay to No. 14 Kieran D’Aeth, who went over in the far corner. Fraser missed the kick, but at 14 – 5 with over 10 minutes of the first half still to go, the Dundee supporters felt their side were coming back into it.
Dundee’s Man of the Match, prop Harry Meadows, was prominent with a number of good carries, and the Dundee scrum started to cause Selkirk all sorts of problems in the set, with prop Jack Newth giving his opposite number what might be called a good working over! As the first half drew to a close, a tremendous break by centre Ross Aitken nearly pierced the Selkirk defence, but he just couldn’t quite link with the supporting Kieran Scoular, and Selkirk held out, albeit at the cost of a penalty which McKay popped over to make it 14 – 8 to Selkirk at half time. Could Dundee keep up the standard of that last 20 minutes in the second half?
Sadly, the answer is not quite. After starting well, and scorning a couple of kicks at goal for 5 metre lineouts which misfired, a series of 3 penalties in as many minutes took play from Selkirk’s 5 metre line to ours. In a good illustration of the difference between the 2 sides, Selkirk then executed their lineout well, attacked patiently, and after 4 or 5 recycles the Dundee defence ran out of men, letting Selkirk’s No. 13 Clapperton trot over in the corner for a well converted try. Selkirk’s lead was 21 – 8 with 52 minutes gone, after what was their first visit into Dundee territory in the second half. Andy Clarkson, who had tackled well all afternoon, had received a bang in the face for his pains in the build up to the try, and was replaced by Niall Hall.
More changes followed, as Kieran Scoular and Neil Turnbull also both suffered knocks (Turnbull’s coming as he was just stopped short of the Selkirk line), with their respective replacements being Paul Ritch and a happily restored Clarkson. Dundee were working hard, with No. 9 Dymock making some sniping runs from the base of the break down, and young No. 10 Harry Mercer (who drew high words of praise from former Scotland and British Lion stand off John Rutherford after the game) trying all he knew to break through. However, the well organised Selkirk defence stood firm, snuffing out one great Niall Hall break on their 22 as Dundee failed to get men there quickly enough to retain possession. More knocks meant Andy Hamilton came on for flanker Angus Farquhar, who like his back row colleagues Lewis Macnamara and Kevin Franco had never stopped competing all afternoon, and Kieran returned for centre Duncan McIntyre, who had made a couple of good breaks to no avail in the 2nd half.
Dundee were tiring as their efforts to knock down Selkirk’s defensive brick wall came to nothing, and as so often happens, it was Selkirk who had the final say against a weary Dundee defence, Borthwick going over for a try in the very last minute of the game. Bank’s conversion made it 28 – 8 at full time, which the Dundee faithful felt was an unfair reflection on Dundee’s performance over the 80 minutes. However, our lack of penetration, often caused by our failure to secure quick ball from the break down, meant we never quite pressed Selkirk hard enough.
Dundee Team: 15 Fraser Mackay, 14 Kieran D’Aeth, 13 Duncan McIntyre, 12 Ross Aitken, 11 Kieran Scoular, 10 Harry Mercer, 9 Andy Dymock; 1 Jack Newth, 2 Dylan Whitcombe, 3 Harry Meadows, 4 Andy Clarkson, 5 Neil Turnbull, 6 Kev Franco, 7 Angus Farquhar, 8 Lewis Macnamara
Replacements 16 Taylor Smith, 17 Niall Hall, 18 Andrew Hamilton, 20 Paul Ritch