It was a full Lunch Club as 84 early Christmas revellers descended on Mayfield on a raw December morning, including 3 tables of guests at well known Dundee High Rugby supporter Colin Dargie’s birthday celebrations.
President Tosh was in fine form, insulting, in turn, the sponsors, the honourable guests and the Gala committee in such a kind and caring way that they laughed along with everyone else.
As the chat turned to the match, it was felt that the young – and again injury hit – Dundee side would have to be at their best against a Gala side sitting in mid-table. Vice President McDonald’s programme notes provided a sobering reminder of how rugby used to be down Gala way when he stated that in March 1971 there were 6 Gala men in the Scotland team that beat England in 2 successive Saturdays at Murrayfield. However, as Sandy pointed out . Dundee High School FP were also represented in the form of our legendary Chris Rea.
Changed days indeed.
A glance at the Dundee team saw a new name at 10 – Harry Mercer , a 17 year old Madras Academy schoolboy. In recent years , Dundee High have fielded a number of 17 year olds – Euan Fox , Chris Jollands , Sean Gauld , Angus Fraser – so we are certainly doing our bit for Scottish youth rugby.
To accommodate Harry , Ross Aitken moves to 12 where his centre partner is Marshall McLeod. Marshall is the grandson of club legend Gordon Bruno Burnett . The fact that Marshall has graduated from Oxford University , led to the question being asked at the Clubhouse Bar – “name another Oxford – or indeed Cambridge graduate who has played for Dundee High Rugby “?”. Answers on a postcard , please………
And so to the match :
Dundee were attacking the Dalgleish Road end and were immediately under pressure – indeed camped in their 22 , as Gala went through several phases. A pattern emerged whereby the Dundee defence held firm , eventually won the ball , then kicked it back to Gala. Time after time Gala recycled the ball , but Dundee’s defence was looking up for the challenge and was not breached.
Eventually , Gala were awarded a penalty which seemed eminently kickable.
However Gala 10 Keddie – in possibly his only mistake of the match – pulled the kick wide.
However , rather than relieving the pressure , the Dundee drop out went straight to Gala who ran it back and the same pattern emerging. Once again the Dundee defence held firm , with the back row – Gav , Gus Farquhar and Baz to the fore.
Unfortunately , Baz was deemed by the referee to be too much to the fore as one of his tackles was deemed to be a “no arms tackle” and a yellow was brandished.
This would not be the last of the menage a trois between the referee , his cards and Baz…….
Although a man down , the Dundee defence held firm and eventually a Ross Aitken kick freed the pressure.
This allowed Dundee to spent time in the Gala half , but came up against determined Gala defence until Gav Hughan secured a turnover and a penalty.
Fraser nailed the kick.
Dundee High 3 Gala 0,
This seemed to give the young Dundee side confidence and they went further ahead , when following an Aitken break , the ball was moved wide and Harry combined with Marshall to send Gus Farquhar over in the corner.
Dundee High 10 Gala 0.
This was an impressive performance by Dundee given that they were down on 14 men and Baz then returned to take them back to full strength.
Things got better when following a Stuart Lathangie break , Gus was in support to take the ball forward with Fraser set to take the ball on , Gala were penalised for blocking Fraser .
This seemed to upset the Gala bench and shouts of complaint were heard in an unfamiliar language – not English – but thought to be a particular dialect of “Borders speak”.
Regardless , Fraser was not deterred and kicked the penalty.
Dundee High 13 Gala 0.
The pattern of the opening phase of the first half was then restored with Gala maintaining possession around the Dundee 22 , going through several phases , bur the Dundee defence in good form.
The Dundee defence stood firm to half time.
Half Time – Dundee High 13 Gala 0.
At half time, Dundee brought on Franco for Stewart at hooker and Neil Turnbull replaced Euan Grewar in the second row.
The second half commenced in the same vein as the first half, with Gala basically having the ball and keeping the ball.
The feeling amongst the Dundee support was that this could be a long half if Gala continued to dominate possession and Dundee conceded early, particularly if Dundee conceded early in the half.
Unfortunately, 10 minutes into the second half Gala did score and it was unnecessary from a Dundee perspective. A squint thrown in near their line gave Gala a scrum, their number eight Euan Dodds picked up, and fed 9 Fairburn who waltzed unchallenged over the line.
Keddie converted with a super kick.
Dundee High 13 Gala 7.
Dundee then tried to force the play into Gala’s half , with young 10 Mercer showing admirable confidence in throwing the ball around.
Then , following a passage of play in midfield , Stuart Barlow did what seemed like a “tip tackle” on the Gala 9 . This did not go down well with the Gala players and there was a bit of handbags between the forwards. After the referee had resumed order , he went to have a consultation with the assistant referee. This episode was unlikely to end well for Baz who had already been yellow-carded in the first half , with the only question being which colour of card would be produced this time.
This question was answered when the referee flashed a red card and it was jotters for Baz.
Was it a red card offence ?
Your reporter took the views of 3 Mayfield legends on the touchline – Harvey Wright , Sandy Hutch and Neil Paddy Paterson and each confirmed that it was in their view a red , so it was difficult to complain about the ref’s decision.
This would undoubtedly make Dundee’s task harder and Gala took advantage quickly .
After a period of possession near the Dundee line , one of their forwards burrowed over for a try.
Fly half Keddie’s conversion hit the post and in keeping with Dundee’s luck this season , dropped over the bar to get the extra 2 points.
Dundee High 13 Gala 14
With 10 minutes left , Gala went further ahead when centre Edmunds broke from midfield and went over.
Keddie again converted.
Dundee High 13 Gala 21
Gala were continuing to enjoy the majority of the possession at this stage and were looking to add to their lead , when a loose pass was intercepted by Dundee winger Paul Ritch who raced away to score , with Fraser converting well.
Dundee High 20 Gala 21.
This seemed to set things up for a grandstand finish , as the consensus of opinion amongst the Dundee supporters on the touchline was that there were around 5 minutes left,
However , after 2 minutes play in midfield , the referee’s whistle went for no side, to put the tin lid on a disappointing afternoon for Dundee.
FINAL SCORE – DUNDEE HIGH 20 GALA 21
It is always desperately disappointing to lose a match by one point , but this was particularly agonising given that a conversion hitting the post and dropping over as opposed to short was the difference between Dundee winning and losing the match.
Gala could point to the fact that they had by far the greater share of possession , but the Dundee defence was strong and committed throughout.
The efforts and commitment of the Dundee players could not be faulted and more of the same will be required as the team head for Hamilton and a crucial match next Saturday.