Our 11th league game of the season today at Kelso saw us reach the half way point in the league. And is has not been a good season for us so far. We’ve generally been competitive, and haven’t had any real cuffings, but our young, inexperienced and ever-changing side have just not been able to keep it going for the full 80 minutes. Could we do so against 3rd bottom Kelso today, under the lights at Poynder Park…?
Playing with the wind, Dundee’s opening kick off soared high up into the dreich grey sky, but unfortunately came down unerringly in the safe hands of Kelso’s No. 4, Paudie Lawlor, as did any number of Dundee restarts. And, as it happens, Lawlor is simply an absolute mountain of a man. He also has a simple kick off return strategy – head down, Route 1, and plough straight up the middle, where this time it took 3 Dundee men to haul him down! It looked like a long afternoon lay ahead…
Dundee’s Keiran Scoular put in a couple of good clearing kicks as Kelso tested the Dundee defence early on. We were keeping our composure and shape well enough, but eventually a series of good recycles by Kelso led to extra men for them out wide, and winger Mark Wilson went over for a try in the left hand corner, converted by their No.10, the assured Craig Dodds, to make it 7 – 0 for the home side with 9 minutes on the clock.
This time another good kick off thankfully evaded the Kelso No. 4, and Dundee managed to hold them in their own half. A knock on resulted in a strong Dundee scrum – the forwards put in a good shift in the set all afternoon, with especial credit to the front row – and the ball was shipped left. A poor pass to winger Cailean Chalmers looked to have brought the move to an end, but he did well to regather, and after a ruck a few yards out, Rhuairidh Hood, filling in at No. 9 today, darted round the side for an unconverted try. 7 – 5 after 13 minutes.
It was Kelso’s turn to produce a fine kick off and reclaim possession, but a clattering tackle from flanker Fraser Black snuffed out the danger. However, as before, getting away from our line was not proving easy, and eventually stand off Dodds had too much savvy for a stretched Dundee defence and went in under the posts, to make it 14 – 5 to Kelso just before the 20 minute mark.
Dundee’s kick off once more went like a magnet to Kelso’s No 4, who for a big lad also had good hands, but this time Dundee were able to keep Kelso pinned in their own half, and mount some decent attacks of their own. A 5 metre line out led to some good one-out drives, and eventually Andrew Hamilton, playing at No. 6, went over for another unconverted try. 14 – 10 to the home side.
There was to be no more scoring in the remaining 20 minutes of the first half, but not for the want of opportunities. After some brave covering by scrum half Hood from a Kelso kick through, and the unusual sight of the Dundee touch judge over-ruling the referee as to whose throw-in it was (ours!), Dundee worked their way back up the field. The decision was taken to scrum a penalty on the Kelso 22, bang in front of their posts, rather than take the 3 points, but it backfired as the ball was held in the scrum too long. Minutes later, Kelso repaid the scrum/penalty favour, likewise opting to scrum a penalty on our 22. A good tackle by winger Chalmers helped ensure they too got nothing from it, bringing the first half to a close.
Half time reflections: 2 tries each, and a goodish first 40 minutes against a team that had beaten Ayr last week. The strengthening wind in Kelso’s favour made them favourites, but perhaps with a little bit of luck…
The rain was sheeting down as Kelso restarted the second half, on a pitch getting increasingly heavy by the minute. And also you have to make your own luck! After a fairly even first 10 minutes, what was about to be an innocuous scrum around half way became a penalty to Kelso for, seemingly, some Dundee back chat. The kick to touch put us under pressure from the lineout, and our defence then strayed offside, giving the Kelso No. 10 a ‘kick to nothing’ opportunity. Unfortunately, it was one he took full advantage of! His precision cross-field kick bamboozled the back pedalling Dundee defence, and left Kelso winger Wilson clear on his own to fall on the ball over the line. 19 – 10 to Kelso.
The Dundee faithful were then treated to a rare sight this season, a 10 metre plus drive from a set scrum resulting in a Dundee penalty, but the chance fizzled out at the resulting lineout. Dundee’s difficulties were now starkly illustrated by 3 great wind assisted clearing kicks from Kelso over the heads of the Dundee defence, one in particular gaining 75 yards from Kelso’s own try line. Each time Dundee had try to work their way back through the Poynder Park glaur, increasingly becoming a bigger and bigger ask.
Yet another of these clearing kicks ended up with a Kelso lineout not far from our line, from which a surprise 10 man rolling maul caught us napping and let Kelso rumble over for a try by tight head Cunningham, well converted by Dodds. 26 – 10 Kelso, with around 20 minutes of the second half gone.
Surprisingly, however, like the first half there was to be no more scoring. Each time Dundee attacked, at the first opportunity they were pushed right back into their own half by some strong Kelso kicking, and they never really threatened to mount any sort of sustained pressure. But a final mention should go to the pack, who never stopped competing all afternoon. As full time loomed, a Kelso 5 metre scrum looked ominous, but the Dundee eight won the put in, the danger was cleared, and our line remained intact as the referee blew for no-side. Final score Kelso 26, Dundee 10.
Full time reflections: Kelso used the strengthening wind well in the second half. Their nous and calculated kicking game kept them just far enough ahead of us to mean they were never under any real scoreboard pressure. Let’s hope for a better second half to the season for us than the first!
The Thorntons Dundee Man of the Match was James Shellard.
Dundee team 15 Callum Nicol 14 Gavin Ross 14 13 Kieran Scoular 12 Chad Ward 11 Cailean Chalmers 10 Rory McGinn 9 Rhuairidh Hood 1 Jack Newth 2 Connor Crawford 3 James Shellard 4 Angus Thomson 5 Finlay Ormiston 6 Andrew Hamilton 7 Fraser Black 8 Sam Cardosi
Replacements 16 Calvin Nelson 17 Julian D’Aeth 18 Davie Mason 19 Finlay Jacobs 20 Ryan Doherty