The sun was shining over Mayfield as the 52 lunch-clubbers arrived for the first home match of the season against GHA – a good turn out and the troops were entertained by the talents of Gerry Tosh and Tom Dymock.
A look at the Dundee team revealed the extent of the player turnover that Director of Rugby Colin Sangster has had to contend with over the close season, with virtually a whole team of players with 1st XV experience moving on. It would certainly be strange to see a Dundee team without Broonie (now spending his Saturdays coaching Strathmore ) , while the lure of potential Super 6 rugby has resulted in the departure of Ally Mackie , George Arnott , Murphy Walker and Angus Fraser to Premiership clubs . Ice is back defending the Realm in Cyprus, James Forrester and Harvey Young have left the area , while the end of their 4 year University degrees has resulted in Leesey , Ronan and Paddy Hamilton moving on.
New faces in the young Dundee team led out by this season’s captain Fraser McKay were the highly rated half back partnership of Ross Aitken and Stuart Lathangie recruited from Howe of Fife. The new faces would also have included winger Kieran D’eath and Chad Ward, but a delay in registration and injury denied these guys of their Mayfield league debut.
GHA has a new coach in Euan Clark and they travelled to Mayfield in confident mood after an opening day win over Cartha QP. As the teams warmed up, GHA certainly looked the bigger side.
GHA kicked off , playing towards the Glasshouse and almost immediately play was concentrated in the Dundee half. The Dundee defence held firm initially but the pressure eventually told when GHA took the lead with a penalty after 10 minutes.
Although the Dundee team had gone through wholesale changes over the last 3 seasons , there were still some constants around Mayfield , including the legendary Leslie brothers (Roger and David) watching proceedings from the touchline. Even several years after either of these wonderful players had graced a rugby field , they still represent a fearsome combination . Oh for a time machine to enable DG Leslie and RT Leslie to line up again in the Dundee back row……
The pattern of the first 10 minutes continued , with Dundee struggling to get out of their own half and it was no surprise when GHA extended their lead when slick handling sent flanker Dario Ewing in at the corner . The conversion was missed . 8-0 GHA.
Dundee then got into their stride and a superb break by Ross Aitken took play into the GHA 22 . The ball was recycled twice and then set up for Neil Turnbull to take the ball on the run 10 yards out to batter his way over under the posts. Fraser converted . 8-7 GHA.
Stuart Lathanie then went off injured , with Josh -sorry Dr Rutnagur – going to 9 and Ruaridh Hood coming on on the wing.
GHA were looking the more dangerous team , with their backs willing to run the ball at every opportunity and play was soon back in the Dundee 22 again. GHA ran a penalty close to the Dundee line and prop Michael Scott rumbled over. The conversion was unsuccessful.
Half Time – Dundee High Rugby 7 GHA 13
The chat amongst the Mayfield faithful at half time was that GHA were worth their lead, having had significantly more possession and looking more dangerous with the ball in hand. However , as the Mayfield worthies agreed , there was only one score in it and the feeling was that with Ross Aitken looking in the mood , Dundee would create chances in the second half.
Unfortunately , the aspirations of the Mayfield worthies went up in smoke as announcer McKay informed the crowd that Ross Aitken – apparently injured – had been replaced by Andy Hamilton at half time.
As a result , the much vaunted new Dundee half back combination were both off the pitch by half time – would Colin Sangster’s injury jinx ever end ??
However , Dundee started the second half on the offensive and were rewarded when flanker Gus Farquhar scored in the corner. The conversion was missed.
Hopes were raised in the Mayfield stands that Dundee could push on from here ,but unforced errors did not help the cause. In addition , GHA are a strong and skilful outfit , with the possession statistics definitely favouring the team in green and red. This possession then paid off when flanker Ewing went over for his second try to make the score 18-12 to GHA.
The next score was vital and after further pressure from GHA , their replacement scrum half went over between the posts to give an easy conversion. 25-12 GHA.
The lead was further increased when the GHA man of the match Charlie Lonergan (memorably referred to after the match by Ken McKay as son well know skiffle singer Donnie Lonegan) broke through to score in the corner. 30-12 GHA.
The spirit that the young Dundee side showed at Marr the previous week then came to the fore as a break by teenage hooker Angus Campbell supported by young Lewis McNamara took play to the GHA 22. Following a couple of penalties , Andy Hamilton crashed over , with the try converted by Fraser. 30-19 GHA.
Dundee chased the bonus point 4th try and Josh seemed to have secured it by diving over near the posts but the referee – not for the first time – saw things differently from the Dundee team and support – and ruled a knock on.
Insult was then added to injury as GHA then scored a converted try with the last play .
FINAL SCORE – DUNDEE 19 GHA 37.
GHA certainly deserved this win. They play fast running rugby , have some big units , took their chances and made less mistakes than Dundee.
The young Dundee team kept at it throughout , but the loss of the half back combination by half time – allied to the 2 call offs before the match – meant that Dundee never got much rhythm going in the backs.
Credit to both teams for a sporting high tempo game in hot conditions.
It was not the best weekend to be a sports supporter from Dundee – the weekend started on Friday night with our national football team getting humped by Belgium and Saturday saw the ice hockey team Dundee Stars lose to Belfast Giants and Dundee United – predictably but still disgracefully – lose to Alloa in some nonsense cup called something like Irn Bru Cup or Wallace Pehs Cup . Granted Dundee FC did not lose but that was simply because they did not play.
However , as we all know , next weekend heralds the opening of the V&A at Dundee Waterfront , the iconic building that will propel our city to that of a global tourism mecca.
We can only hope that the Sporting Gods shine on our teams next weekend in the historic weekend for our city .
Dundee High Rugby head for Gala – not a hugely happy hunting ground in recent seasons , but with no injuries , a full strength squad and the rub of the green , this young but talented team may just kick start their season.