The cautious optimism around Mayfield which followed Dundee’s exciting victory over Selkirk in early October had evaporated following a heavy home defeat by Jedforest and a loss to Musselburgh in a match that in the words of Head Coach Colin Sangster the Dundee team “did not turn up”.
As a result, Dundee entered the match against local rivals Kirkcaldy sitting second bottom of the league with 10 points. This was 4 points behind Kirkcaldy, who came to Mayfield confident following last week’s victory over Cartha QP.
As Steve Scott mentioned in his rugby column in Friday’s Courier, this was the first competitive match between the clubs for 4 years and Midlands Rugby bragging rights were at stake, along with the vital league points.
A look at the Dundee team revealed that the welcome return of Gus Farquhar at flank, having missed the match against Jed. However, vice- captain Lewis McNamara was still out injured, as was captain Fraser McKay and Stuart Lathangie.
They faced a Kirkcaldy side with ex Dundee forward Conor Wood in their ranks. Another ex- Dundee player Dayle Turner was unavailable, but the Fife team boasted an impressive centre combination of ex Leeds Carnegie professional Alex Black and the exceptionally talented local boy Josh Laird. Another well- known local lad Geordie Munro failed to make the final 23.
It was mentioned before the match that both teams regular strip was blue – would this cause a clash, similar to the farcical clash in the recent Heineken Champions Cup clash between Cardiff and Glasgow?
No such cock up here, with Dundee entering the fray in white, with Kirkcaldy in royal blue- think of Rangers blue.
After a poor first half last week against Musselburgh, the Dundee team were determined to get into top gear as soon as possible in this match.
Unfortunately, their start was disastrous. Kirkcaldy kicked off, the Dundee pack did not gather, the ball bounced out for a line out. Kirkcaldy won the line out from a Dundee throw and their pack rumbled forward and drove over the line.
This was just the start that Dundee did not want and things got worse when prop Harry Meadows went off injured following the second scrum.
Could things get any worse for Dundee?
With only 10 minutes on the clock, Kirkcaldy scored again – a flat pass from scrum half Anderson was taken at pace by experienced hooker Greg Wallace who burst through the Dundee midfield to run 35 yards to score between the posts. Finlay Smith converted.
In a moment of wry humour (required in these trying times), the comment was made on the Mayfield touchlines that the other Greg Wallace (the bald smug middle-aged, four times married geezer from BBC’s Master Chef) could have run 35 yards to score , such was the ineffectiveness of the Dundee midfield defence.
Play continued in the Dundee half with the big Kirkcaldy pack totally dominating the Dundee scrum. This possession led to another penalty offence by Dundee which was nailed by Finlay Smith.
It really was one way traffic at this stage. Kirkcaldy were in complete control , Dundee were struggling to get hold of the ball.
The Kirkcaldy support were loving it, as their team – driven on by the dulcit Fife tones of their coach Kenny Fraser as he prowled the touchline – displayed complete domination.
Conversely, the mood amongst the Dundee support was of extreme concern.
This concern grew to thrombosis levels , when following a forward drive , Kirkcaldy scored again . The score was converted to put Kirkcaldy 22-0 ahead.
Legendary Dundee bear and prop JJ Van Der Esch , on the touchline as a supporter, was heard to say that he recalled defeats by Kirkcaldy early in his 35 year career with Dundee , but never one as easy as this.
Could the day get worse for Dundee – again, yes when young hooker Cammie Mathieson was forced off with a head injury to be replaced by Ceillim Stewart.
For the first time in the match, Dundee then enjoyed some possession with breaks by Baz and Neil at least taking the play into the Kirkcaldy half and the up to the 22. Possession was retained ,Ross moved it wide and Gus Farquhar scored in the corner. The conversion was missed.
Following the Kirkcaldy kick off, the Dundee pack secured possession and further strong running by Neil took the play back to the Kirkcaldy 22.
The Kirkcaldy hooker and talisman Greg Wallace then went off with an injury and was replaced
This gave Dundee encouragement and they battered away at the Kirkcaldy line but spirited defence kept them out. A penalty chance on half time was foregone in favour of a further drive to the line, a decision that looked questionable when the ball was knocked on and referee Clark blew for half time.
Half Time – Dundee High Rugby 5 Kirkcaldy 22
After a 30 minute horror show , Dundee improved in the closing 10 minutes and could have scored more than their solitary try . Head Coach Sangster would surely tell the players to start the second half the way that they finished the first half.
The second half started with Dundee attacking the glasshouse.
Dundee secured possession immediately and with a tactic that was to be repeated throughout the second half , the ball was fed to Neil and Angus Thomson to batter their way forward.
This took Dundee into the Kirkcaldy 22 and when the ball was moved wide, full back Kieran Scoular took a gap to get across the Kirkcaldy line. Kieran missed the conversion.
Dundee 12 Kirkcaldy 22
Dundee now had their tails up ,maintaining possession through several phases with the Kirkcaldy defence finding it hard to cope with the rampaging buffalo that is Neil Turnbull in full flow. Neil has returned to University after a summer break a tad less svelte than in previous seasons , hitting the scales at 130kg. To put this in perspective , Jonny Gray is 119kg and Alun Wyn Jones is 118kg and following a spot of googling by your reporter , the only 6 Nations player around 130kg is Billy Vunipola………………..
Anyway , who cares , cos after another battering run by Neil and controlled half back play by Josh and Ross , space was created for Niall Hall to score between the posts. The conversion was missed.
Dundee 17 Kirkcaldy 22.
Confidence , so obviously lacking in the first half , was now oozing through the Dundee team and play continued to be concentrated in the Kirkcaldy 22 . The Mayfield support were loving this turnaround and the decibels from the stands were raised , as the crowd got behind Dundee.
Dundee were in complete domination at this stage – in itself a remarkable turnaround from the first half – and play was now completely in the Kirkcaldy 22 , with the visitors conceding a number of penalties as the battled to keep Dundee at bay.
It was following another penalty that Josh took a quick one and scrambled over. The conversion was missed
Dundee 22 Kirkcaldy 22 and Game On…………………………
This secured at least a bonus point , but the focus was now to complete a remarkable turnaround and secure a victory.
However, for the first time in the half , Kirkcaldy secured possession for number of phases,
Dundee seemed to have nullified the danger , but missed tackles out wide enable a ruck to be set up from which ex Crown Conor Wood dived over for a try. This was converted.
Dundee 22 Kirkcaldy 29.
This was one exciting game and the question was – did the Dundee team have the character to come back from this blow , with less than 10 minutes to go.
The answer was – you bet they did – and adopting the simple advice given to them at half time by the coaches – “keep the ball” – play was soon back in the Kirkcaldy 22. Brave defence kept Dundee out until the pressure paid when scrum half Josh (or to give him his proper title , Dr Rutnagur) burrowed over under the posts. Kieran converted.
Dundee 29 Kirkcaldy 29.
At the risk of being accused of being impartial , your reporter’s thoughts at this stage – as the match entered the last 2 minutes – was that a draw would be a fair result.
However , this Dundee team may not be the biggest or the most experienced to represent the Crown over the years , but they were endearing themselves to the Mayfield crowd with their courage and character as they went for victory .
In the final minute , Ross broke and created a well timed pass sent centre Duncan McIntyre sprinting for the posts and Mayfield’s biggest roar of the season greeted him putting the ball down for a try. Kieran converted from a fair bit out.
Dundee 36 Kirkcaldy 29 was the remarkable scoreline.
Dundee had a minute to hold on – which they did – and referee Clark’s final whistle was the cue for celebration on the pitch and high-fives in the stands.
FINAL SCORE – DUNDEE 36 KIRKCALDY 29
Firstly , this was a hugely exciting game of rugby and well done to both teams for providing a match which was a credit to Midlands Rugby. This was simply a great game of amateur rugby to watch.
Secondly , and while your reporter normally avoids clichés like the plague , this was the proverbial game of two halves. What a contrast in Dundee’s performance !!!
In the first half , to quote a well known Mayfield worthie , Dundee were “bloody awful” ,but in the second half they displayed courage , commitment , team spirit and no little skill.
Neil Turnbull deservedly got man of the match , but huge credit must go to the half back combination of Ross and Josh who were both magnificent in the second half.
President Tosh’s remarks as he skipped across the pitch to congratulate the team and the coaches were “Never in doubt”………..Really , Gerry ??
Coach Sangster was asked in the bar after the match what words of wisdom he had imparted to his troops at half time to instigate this remarkable turnaround. He said 3 words were sufficient – “Keep the Ball”……………………
As a footnote , note must be made of the exemplary conduct of the Kirkcaldy coaches, team , committee and supporters after the match. Regardless of the shattering blow of losing the match late on , although naturally very disappointed , they were dignified and were a credit to themselves , their Club and Midlands Rugby.
As was pointed out by another Mayfield worthy , it is unlikely that some other teams in our league , particularly those from further South in the country , would have been quite so magnanimous in defeat…………
Finally though , as the post match pints were hoovered back in satisfaction in the Mayfield Bar after the match , the results from the other matches in the league provided sobering viewing – Gala beat Marr , Selkirk beat GHA , Musselburgh beat Jed and Aberdeen Grammar beat Hamilton.
As evidenced , this is a tough league where every team can beat each other.
However , it will now be with confidence that Dundee head off to Kelso next week.