Somebody, it seems, has forgotten to tell the city of Aberdeen about global warming. The east wind, straight from the Siberian Steppes, the Baltic and then the North Sea, and most of the other cold places in the world as well, blew relentlessly straight across Rubislaw for 80 minutes as the soft Dundee supporters, swaddled like Michelin men, watched the proceedings through their frost covered faces (that last bit may be an exaggeration, but only just!) Frozen fingers googled wind chill factors and announced our life expectancy was probably less than an hour…
Meanwhile, out on the park, the players simply got on with it, in an entertaining final match of the season. Dundee kicked off, missing 4 key players from last week’s relegation saving performance against Kirkcaldy. Standouts Harry Meadows, Danny Levison and Lewis MacNamara were all absent from the pack, and Duncan McIntyre was a late call off from the backs, leaving Dundee with only 4 on the bench as Ruaridh Hood started on the wing, with Kieran Scoular moving in to centre. Darren Donaldson, in at tight head prop, and Liam Quarm, at 2nd row, were both making their first starts for Dundee this season.
Dundee were playing into the icy blast, and started well. Young stand off Harry Mercer drove ex Dundee stalwart Greig Ryan into touch straight from the kick off to set the tone for what was a combative first half. And after 8 minutes gone, it got better for Dundee as lock Angus Thomson went over for the opening try, converted by Fraser McKay, after turning down a penalty opportunity yards out from the Aberdeen posts – a good decision! Two minutes later, it seemed Aberdeen were surely in for a try at the other end till winger Nat Coe suffered a “Stockdale” moment and dropped the ball with the line at his mercy. Maybe his hands were so cold he didn’t even know he had caught it in the first place…
However, in a worrying follow up, Aberdeen were all over the resulting Dundee scrum, and hooker Ben Inglis went over from close range for the equalising score. 7 all after 12 minutes. 5 minutes later, another Aberdeen try, after what seemed suspiciously like a forward pass in the build up, made it 12 – 7 to the home side. Yet Dundee responded well, and after a series of penalties in the Aberdeen half, chose to pop over a close range penalty with 25 minutes gone. 12 – 10.
However, the wind, and Aberdeen’s bigger pack (and bigger backs to boot, including Scottish rugby league international Murray Mitchell at 13) were putting them on the front foot, and a break by stand off Knudson soon let centre Aplin in under the posts. 19 – 10 to the home side, with half an hour gone. Could Dundee hold out for the last 10 minutes into the wind? Could their hypothermic supporters do likewise?
Luckily for Dundee, Aberdeen had been failing to harness the wind for nearly the whole of the first half, a series of kicks slicing off their boots “as if off threepenny bits”. Unfortunately, with half time looming, they finally got one right, and ex Dundee second row Robin Cessford took advantage of the 70 metres gained from that kick to plough over, making it 26 – 10 to the home side. A quick penalty in reply for Dundee made it 26 – 13 at the break, but injuries meant that by the break 2nd row Angus Thomson had been replaced by Sean Gauld, and winger Kieran D’Aeth by Josh Rutnagur, who took over the No. 9 role, with scrum half Lathangie moving to centre, and Scoular to the wing.
Manna from heaven could not have tasted better than the life saving hot pies consumed by the Dundee faithful at half time, but the thinking was that that last Aberdeen try had maybe just pushed the game out of reach.
A quick Aberdeen try after half time reinforced that view. As we tried to get back into the game, another injury blow meant centre Hamilton had to depart after a knock. Sean Gauld moved from the pack to centre, pairing up there with scrum half Lathangie, in what could only be called a rough and ready midfield combination! Taylor Smith came on at 2, with hooker Craig Mackenzie moving to the back row. The disrupted Dundee team did well to keep competing against a good Aberdeen side, despite these enforced changes, with our starting back rowers of Barlow, Franco and Farquhar all still working tirelessly at the breakdown to help keep us in the game. The team got due reward as prop Jack Newth went over for his first Dundee try after a break by skipper Fraser McKay, whose successful conversion brought it back to 31- 20 after 55 minutes.
However, Aberdeen were too good not to take advantage of Dundee’s makeshift midfield defence, and centre Murray Mitchell eventually sliced through a few minutes later to make it 38 -20 and put the game beyond reach. Ruaridh Hood now went off injured, to be replaced by Danny McGinn, and though Dundee kept their heads up, their depleted side leaked two more tries as Aberdeen started to overpower them in open play and in the set in the final quarter. However, right on full time, Dundee had the last word, with another front rower, this time No. 2 Craig Mackenzie, touching down for the final try after good build up play by Josh Rutnagur and Stewart Lathangie. So it finished 50 – 25 to the home side, who retained the Dallas Allardice trophy, against a battling Dundee outfit who refused to lie down.
Reflections: An entertaining game, albeit perhaps one too far for a rather battle weary Dundee side who had put in a big effort to win their 3 previous games and stave off relegation! Four Dundee players departing injured in the one game shows the ridiculous attrition rate in modern rugby. 54 players have turned out for Dundee’s 1st XV this season, a statistic that will be familiar to quite a few other National One sides this season. (Check out the Player Stats on the website, which give full details for the season – https://www.dundeehighrugby.club/scorers/)
So now it’s on to next season, with the visits from the club sides of the Super 6, plus Kelso, Musselburgh, Cartha, Biggar and (in all probability) Highland, not to mention the small matter of a Rugby World Cup, now lying ahead, after the close season break from what has been another full on season. Bring it on!
Dundee Team: 15 Fraser Mackay, 14 Ruaridh Hood, 13 Kieran Scoular, 12 Andrew Hamilton, 11 Kieran D’Aeth, 10 Harry Mercer, 9 Stewart Lathangie; 1 Jack Newth, 2 Craig Mackenzie, 3 Darren Donaldson, 4 Liam Quarm 5 Angus Thomson, 6 Kev Franco, 7 Angus Farquhar, 8 Stuart Barlow
Replacements 16 Taylor Smith, 17 Sean Gauld, 18 Josh Rutnagur, 19 Danny McGinn