Director of Rugby and Head Coach Colin Sangster’s programme notes described today’s fixture against Hamilton as “a very important match”. Perhaps not quite as dramatic copy as the Courier which described both Dundee and Dundee United’s matches v Hibs and Falkirk respectively as “Must Win” (particularly for the employment prospects of respective managers Neil McCann and Csaba “Victor” Laszlo), but after 3 defeats in the opening 3 matches and Dundee High Rugby occupying the unaccustomed – and indeed unwelcome – position of bottom of the league, there was no doubt amongst the Mayfield faithful that a home win would be a huge benefit.
However, a look at the Dundee team starting line out revealed the seemingly unending injury problems that Colin Sangster has had to contend with since moving south to Dundee showed no signs of abating – Scrum half Lathangie, centre Ward, hooker Campbell plus back row players Hughan and Milne all out. On the bright side, vice captain Lewis McNamara returned.
As the teams came out, it was noted that the Hamilton side looked a bigger unit and with more experienced players than the youthful Dundee side.
The match kicked off in beautiful September sunshine, albeit with a wind blowing down towards Dalgleish Road. Dundee were playing that way and started well, with play focused in Hamilton’s half from the start.
It was noted that the referee was a young man by the name of Ruaridh Campbell while the assistant referee was well known Mayfield ex referee Neil “Paddy” Paterson.
By way of another aside, your reporter was then engaged in conversation with the father of one of the match ball boys whose question to his dad was “Dad, do I have to stay for the full game ?” – to which the answer was “Yes son, that it what ball boys have to do………………”
Dundee’s bright start soon bore fruit, when after a super break by Ross Aitken from midfield, the ball was recycled twice and well timed passes from Ross and Fraser created the space for centre Duncan McIntyre to cross. Fraser added the conversion.
Just the start that the Mayfield crowd was looking for, but the smiling faces did not last long. Slack tackling amongst the Dundee backs (unfortunately a pattern which was to continue) let the Hamilton full back in the corner for a try. The conversion was missed.
7-5 Dundee after 10 minutes
To Dundee’s credit they took the game to Hamilton from the restart and after a period of pressure, with Ross, Lewis and Gus Farquhar to the fore, Fraser nailed a penalty.
Soon after, Dundee went further ahead with another penalty by Fraser.
The coaching team must have been satisfied at this stage, but the Dundee achilles heel of conceding points immediately after scoring emerged again when the Hamilton scrum half – a gentleman by the name of Crush – scampered through a gap to score under the posts. The try was converted.
The remainder of the half showed periods of pressure from both sides – indeed both teams produced passages of good play, but also error-strewn phases on both sides – but there was no further scoring before half time.
Half Time – Dundee 13 Hamilton 12
The chat amongst the Mayfield stand and touchlines at half time was that this game could go either way.
The hope was that Dundee would start the second half like they did the first half but this time keep the momentum going.
However this hope proved to be sadly misplaced as GHA went ahead virtually straight from the kick off when scrum half Crush – lets call him Bobby – scored beside the posts. The try was converted.
This was exactly the start to the second half that Dundee did not want and things got worse 5 minutes later when Hamilton centre Jamieson burst past Dundee midfield tackles to send – once again – Bobby Crush in under the posts. Again the conversion was made.
Bobby Crush – think Opportunity Knocks (Hughie Green) – for those of you under 50, he was a 1970s pianist, often appearing on ITV variety shows.
26 – 13 Hamilton
If things looked bad for Dundee then they got positively catastrophic 5 minutes later, when following another break, Hamilton scored near the posts. Not sure who scored it – some guy in green, but it was not Bobby Crush. The try was again converted.
33 -13 Hamilton
At this stage, the Mayfield faithful were about as happy as Theresa May at the EU Summit in Salzburg – following what was a quite disastrous 15 minutes for the Dundee side.
However, fair play to the players, they went straight up the pitch and got themselves back in the game when following a period of pressure, flanker Gus Farquhar got a try back.
The try was converted by captain Fraser McKay (who kicked well all day).
Josh then replaced Danny McGinn at 9.
Dundee then had a period of good possession and a good inter-passing move resulted in Ross Aitken crashing over near the posts. Fraser again converted.
It was now game on and the spirit amongst the Dundee team was evident to see as they encouraged each other get back up the pitch and get the next score.
At this stage, Hamilton took Bobby Crush off, a move which heightened expectation on the terracing that maybe – just maybe – Dundee could pull this off.
However, Hamilton’s experience told as they slowed the match down and Dundee’s cause was not helped by a yellow card to Lewis.
Hamilton then grabbed the crucial next score when their big unit of a second row Josh White drove over following a line out near the Dundee line. The conversion was added.
You could sense a feeling both amongst the teams and the supporters that this was the clinching try, even though there were still 15 minutes left, and so it proved.
The last 15 minutes were played out with errors on both sides, Dundee never looking like closing the gap and Hamilton playing out the match relatively comfortably.
FINAL SCORE – DUNDEE HIGH RUGBY 27 HAMILTON 40
Well, the “important match” did not bring the victory that the Dundee coaches, team and supporters craved.
The first 15 minutes of the second half were catastrophic and the tendency to concede tries immediately after scoring means that the team are not giving themselves a chance to build confidence.
This was frustrating as the team started really well. Indeed some passing moves – with Ross pulling the strings – prior to the first try, were first class, which showed that this team has the capability to play good and exciting rugby.
Vice Captain Lewis’s passionate and emotional team talk to the players on the pitch after the match shows how seriously the players are taking the current losing run and they are hurting.
As has been documented before, this team is young and inexperienced and this season was always going to be difficult as any team in the division would miss leaders such as Broonie, Leesey, Neil and Andy Dymock, Ally Mackie and George Arnott, as well as matchwinners like Ice and Neil Herron.
However, these players are no longer playing for Dundee High Rugby and nothing was ever achieved in sport, or indeed in life, by harking back.
The Club focus has now to be on all of us working together – Committee, helpers, supporters and indeed the entire Dundee rugby community – to support the coaching team and players as they strive to get things back on track, ideally starting at Cartha QP next week.