Dundee welcomed the famous maroon colours of Gala to Mayfield on what was otherwise a very gray autumnal day indeed at Mayfield. There was hardly a breath of wind in the air to trouble the players, but that also meant the pitch was still a bit greasy on top, making the ball a bit like the proverbial bar of soap at times. It felt almost like being in Japan, as one World Cup aficionado who had clearly overdosed on their recent surfeit of sofa rugby, remarked!
Colin Sangster, Dundee’s oppo to Eddie Jones, had once more been forced to shuffle his deck, with 9 changes from last week’s squad of 20. It was good to see Rhuairidh Hood returning to the wing after a few weeks out injured. Dundee kicked off, but Gala were quickly on the attack and winger Cooke slotted a straightforward penalty after 3 minutes to edge them ahead. Dundee surged right back, and from a fine midfield break by centre Rory McGinn the ball was slipped on to No. 8 Finlay Ormiston. With just the full back to beat, perhaps he should have backed himself, but instead his attempted pass to the Dundee support was batted down by the Gala defender, and the chance was gone.
And then Dundee’s usual injury woes started to kick in. Hooker Andrew Elton was forced off after less than 10 minutes, with Ceillem Stewart coming on in his place. Meantime, Gala were busy establishing squatting rights in Dundee’s half, as, for the next half hour, Dundee found it virtually impossible to get past the halfway line. The pressure first told after 12 minutes. A scrum 5 metres out was well held by the Dundee 8, so Gala ran the ball but turned it over, and the danger seemed have been cleared as Dundee punted to touch. However, Gala’s quick throw bamboozled the defence, and Cooke streaked over for a bit of a sucker try in the far corner, well converted by himself. 10 – 0 to the Maroons.
From the restart, Gala simply steamrollered their way back into attack, and only some good scramble defence, plus a couple of notable tackles by Hoffie and McGinn, kept the maroon tide at bay. Three times Gala were held up when over the try line, and each time Dundee somehow held out from the resulting 5 metre scrum. The third time, a scrum penalty awarded to Dundee was gratefully accepted with both hands, and the pressure was momentarily relieved.
But only momentarily…for eventually the Dundee resistance crumbled, as first winger Johnston got on the scoresheet with a try after half an hour, followed by another 3 minutes later from centre Nicholson, from a midfield break. Both were converted by Cooke, pushing Gala out to a 24 point lead.
As the half drew to a close, however, Dundee at last got on the front foot, and some sustained attacking in the Gala 22 saw the ball well recycled a number of times, until eventually space opened up on the right for winger Hood to finish off a good spell of play in the corner, well converted by No. 10 Paul Kerr.
Half time reflections: Dundee’s try at the end of the first half had given them a glimmer of hope, with the scoreline now standing at 24 – 7, but with Gala’s bigger pack dominating the line out and giving us problems in the set scrum, it was hard to see a way back.
As the second half started, Dundee’s replacement hooker Stewart also had to leave the pitch injured, and on came No. 18 Sam Cardosi as our 3rd hooker of the match! The first 20 minutes of the 2nd half were something of a no scoring stalemate. One promising Dundee attack broke down on Gala’s 22 and their kick ahead from there put Dundee in all sorts of bother as No. 10 Kerr scrambled to tidy up in his own 22, but he was forced to hold on on the deck as the Dundee support were slow in arriving. Gala went for the corner from the penalty, and Dundee did well to hold out from the resulting 5 metre lineout.
Sean Gauld came on for 2nd row Iain Lockhart, and Andrew Hamilton for Callum Hoffie, either side of a Dundee penalty after 20 minutes, kicked by Kerr, which brought them back to 24 – 10 down. Sam Cardosi then showed good footballing skills to trap a Gala kick ahead, following which Kerr’s clearing kick and chase put us back in the Gala 22. But gradually Gala’s power was wearing Dundee down, and as play moved back towards Dundee’s line, a 25 metre rolling maul sucked in all the Dundee defence, letting winger Johnston cross comfortably for Gala’s bonus point try, and making it 29 – 10 with 15 minutes left.
Flanker Tim Brown now limped off, and Dundee’s last replacement Addie Weir came on. Now Addie is an out and out prop! To accommodate him at tight head, James Shellard moved across to loosehead prop, with Jack Newth moving to hooker and Sam Cardosi to the back row, meaning Dundee now had their 4th different player at hooker during the game, but still with contested scrums! That can’t happen often.
Frustration was now creeping in on both sides. Gala’s No.5, John Crown got shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Rhuairidh Hood. Then some tetchy pushing and shoving between the teams, following a knock on by full back Gavin Ross, as Gala winger Fergus Johnston milked the error, led to Ross also being yellow carded, although Johnston looked equally culpable. As the game petered out, Gala got a closing try, with No. 17 Chambers crossing and Cooke converting, to make the final score Dundee 10, Gala 36.
Full time reflections: the final scoreline was probably just about right, unfortunately. 2 tough away trips to Kelso and Heriot’s Blues lie ahead in the next 2 weeks – it doesn’t get any easier! The Thorntons Dundee Man of the Match was No. 8 Finlay Ormiston.
Dundee team 15 Gavin Ross 14 Rhuairidh Hood 13 Callum Hoffie 12 Rory McGinn 11 Cailean Baird-Chalmers 10 Paul Kerr 9 Finlay Jacobs 1 Jack Newth 2 Andy Elton 3 James Shellard 4 Angus Thomson 5 Iain Lockhart 6 Fraser Black 7 Tim Brown 8 Finlay Ormiston
Replacements 16 Ceillem Stewart 17 Addi Weir 18 Sam Cardosi 19 Andrew Hamilton 20 Sean Gauld