A first visit to Highland RFC in many a long year (a quarter of a century?) and a chance to see their spanking new clubhouse and state of the art 3G pitch, funded courtesy of the local council. And a great set up it is too, with a very friendly welcome (off the pitch!) from our hosts. Very appropriate too, for, believe it or not, this is their local derby – every other league match for them is further away than Dundee! (Next week, for example, they have the 200 mile, 5 hour trip to Melrose to look forward to…!)
Highland’s programme notes recorded that so far this season they have ‘already’ used 37 players in their 1st XV. We have so far fielded a staggering 51, and in today’s much changed team, with 10 of last week’s squad unavailable, there were yet another 5 new faces. Our appreciation goes to both Ross Sutherland RFC and Falkirk RFC , who each lent us a front row player to let the game go ahead, and there were season’s debuts for our own Charlie Wilson, Cailean Baird-Chalmers and Max Morrison as well.
Highland are a club on the up, and sit in 2nd place in the National 1 table, tucked in behind the other newly promoted club, Biggar. Very often, clubs promoted to National 1 have struggled with the step up in quality, but not in this topsy turvy season in the brave new world created by the Super6 league and all its knock on ramifications.
But we had I fear better get to the match itself… Our makeshift team were up against class opposition, on what was a very fast paced (and often good to watch) game on their 3G pitch. In the first half, we simply could not compete, and were 38 – 3 down by half time, with only a Paul Kerr penalty on the board for our efforts. The boys had all stuck in, but we were inevitably at times in that first half playing like 15 individuals against a well-drilled, cohesive side.
However, coaches Colin Sangster, well known and well respected in this part of the world, and Ian Robertson worked a minor miracle during the break, because for the next 35 minutes, Dundee were winning the 2nd half. After leaking an early try, suddenly it all gelled, and 2 Dundee tries (about which more in a minute!) meant we were ‘leading’ 14 – 7 in the 2nd half with 5 minutes to go. Frustratingly, 3 Highland tries in those last 5 minutes, a couple a touch fortuitous, against a tiring Dundee side who had given their all, meant the final score ended up as 66 to 17 – but it might have been much closer.
Our joint men of the match were flanker Tim Brown up front, who competed tirelessly all game and put in some great hits, as well as linking well, and full-back Callum Nicol, who made some fine breaks, and contributed a couple of thumping tackles as well as the last line in defence. And both our 2nd half tries were terrific efforts. The first was scored by No. 5 Finlay Ormiston, new to the club this year and so far a near ever present in the side, who has a great engine and a lot of potential, linking well with Tim Brown to finish off a classy handling move under the posts, converted by Paul Kerr. But this was just for starters, for the try of the match came a few minutes later when Ormiston again broke from his own 22, and combined well with Paul Kerr who carried on the move. He in turn found Sean Gauld at his side on Highland’s 22, after a lung bursting effort to get up in support. There was no way he was going to be stopped from there, and he duly made the try line, with Kerr adding the 2 extra points.
It’s wrong to single out individuals, as all the guys did what they could, but perhaps a special mention could go to today James Shellard, an 18 year old prop who has played in every game this season, and who kept going manfully in the 2nd half to help our set scrum get back to near parity after its first half woes against a powerful Highland eight. Credit also to evergreen Davie Mason, who played for 45 minutes as sub – would we all had his commitment to the cause! And credit in fact to all the boys, who went through the wringer a bit, but kept competing and playing rugby right to the end.
15 Callum Nicol 14 Gavin Ross 13 Andrew Hamilton 12 Rory McGinn 11 Cailean Baird-Chalmers 10 Paul Kerr 9 Stuart Kirk 1 Aonghas Maciver 2 Charles Wilson 3 James Shellard 4 Angus Thomson 5 Finlay Ormiston 6 Fraser Black 7 Tim Brown 8 Sean Gauld
16 Davie Mason 17 Mitchell McSpadden 18 Craig Shearer 19 Max Morrison 20 Ryan Doherty