Glorious sunshine over Mayfield greeted supporters turning up for the first match of season 2017/18, with pitch looking in super condition. Huge credit to Dave Connor and his groundstaff for this.
A quick glance at the Dundee team in the programme revealed the usual close season player turnovers, with stalwarts such as Andy Dymock and Ewan Fox moving to Division 1 clubs , whereas Jonny Gibson , Jack Anderson and Blair Cochrane had left Dundee after completing their University courses. In addition, new captain Duncan Leese had injured his shoulder and was out for the first 2 months of the season.
New faces in the Dundee starting line-up included Evan Fairweather and James Forrester from Perthshire, Campbell Cunningham from Grangemouth , Andrew Hamilton from Falkirk and Rory McGinn , straight out of school and about to start at Dundee University wearing the number 10 shirt.
Rory McGinn debuted at 10
In addition, there was a hugely welcome return for centre Neil Herron, back for his first match in almost 2 years, following a serious injury sustained against Marr.
The crowd at Mayfield got 2 games for the price of one , with the Dundee Titans facing Biggar on the bottom pitch. At the start of another season , it is worth noting that the Titans teamsheet once again contained the name Davie Mason , giving it , in his own words “one more season , but this will be the last”. Good on you , Davie – we look forward to watching you again next season.
Dundee entered the match v Falkirk in confident mood – according to Coach Colin Sangster , pre-season had gone well and the players were keen to get to get the season off to a positive start.
The match got under way and the initial stages were fought in midfield, with Falkirk being awarded 3 penalties, a trait that was to continue throughout the match.
Following Dundee’s first period of pressure after 5 minutes, new flanker Campbell Cunningham went down as he attempted to cross the try line in the corner and it was immediately apparent that he had suffered a very serious injury, having broken his left ankle.
The medical and physio staff attended to him, with an ambulance being immediately called for.
The match was held up as Campbell – 5 minutes into his Dundee career – was attended to and he was stretchered off awaiting the arrival of the ambulance.
The match restarted with a penalty to Dundee and a yellow card for Falkirk’s lock Calum McPherson. Dundee – for whom Tony Franco had replaced Campbell Cunningham – opted for a scrum and after driving the Falkirk pack back , number 8 Ally Mackie dived over for a try.
This try was significant as it was the first points scored to be recorded on the new Mayfield electronic scoreboard (a generous and very welcome donation from Charles Sharp , the recently retired bursar at the High School of Dundee and a loyal supporter of Dundee rugby.)
A cheer went round Mayfield as the correct number of 5 points was flashed up on the scoreboard – well done Harvie Findlay , who displayed the techy skills of a 14 year old in operating his new toy.
Fraser McKay converted . 7-0 to Dundee after 10 minutes.
5 minutes later , Dundee doubled their advantage . Neil broke in midfield , Josh and Danny kept possession with Danny’s scoring pass letting Ronan in for a try.
Fraser again converted. 14-0 Dundee after 15 minutes.
Dundee were now beginning to click into gear and went further ahead when Josh and Rory combined to enable Neil Herron to accelerate through a gap and romp in between the posts for a hugely popular try. Welcome back Neil – we have missed you.
Neil Herron dots down
Fraser again converted – 21-0 to Dundee.
As Neil raced towards the post , the Mayfield crowd enjoyed one of those special moments when the First XV and the Titans each score a try at the same time – when Neil was touching down , Bretton Bekker was diving in at the corner for the Titans.
It was noted that the ambulance called for had still not arrived and Campbell was still on a stretcher by the side of the pitch.
For the first time in the match , Falkirk were increasing their possession , partly due to the number of penalties conceded by Dundee which were racking up. The inevitable then happened . Another penalty to Falkirk and this time a yellow card for Dundee , with Broonie being the unfortunate recipient. Off he stomped , obviously nae happy.
Half time approached and still no ambulance , 45 minutes after it was called.
Half time – Dundee 21 Falkirk 0
The word from coach Sangster at half time was to keep the intensity for longer periods ,cut out any errors , time the final pass and cut down on the penalties.
As the second half got under way , the welcome sight of a blue flashing lights and an ambulance heading down Old Craigie Road. It was 4.10pm , one hour after the ambulance had been called.
The word in the clubhouse after the match was that the ambulance service have a priority system where call outs are prioritised with life-threatening injuries first. Granted , this makes sense but while your reporter has no desire to seemingly add to the Scottish Government’s woes in a week when NHS waiting times in Scotland have come under severe criticism , surely it cannot be right that a seriously injured rugby player has to lie on a stretcher for a full hour after calling an ambulance.
Anyway , rant over and back to the rugby.
The first period of the second half was played out in midfield , with Falkirk enjoying their best period in the match. Every so often , Dundee upped the ante and got some high tempo rugby going but “first game of the season” mistakes ie knock ons, dropped passes , crept in.
Dundee then got back on top with Ally Mackie’s forceful runs prominent and following a kick to corner penalty , a secured line out and forward drive , prop James Forrester rumbled over for a debut try and a bonus point.
Fraser missed the conversion – 26-0 to Dundee.
James Forrester forces himself over the whitewash
Young Rory McGinn , after a very accomplished display , was then replaced by Henry Sampson , with Josh moving to 10 , illustrating the selection options that the coaching team have available to them in the midfield area.
A break in play for an injury to a Falkirk player afforded the Mayfield crowd the chance to briefly take in the Titans match on the bottom pitch- the match v Biggar was a close encounter – in time to see Titans number 8 Andy Clarkson display some of the genes of his hugely talented and enviably skilled father by diving over for a try.
Talking about hugely talented and enviably skilled Dundee rugby personnel , the scoring in the Dundee v Falkirk game was rounded off by Man of the Match Danny Levison , with a superb solo try .
MotM Daniel Levison
Danny won the ball at a line out in midfield , burst through the Falkirk lineout , then outpaced the backs to score near the posts.
Fraser converted to make the final score 33-0.
Final Score – Dundee High 33 Falkirk 0.
5 tries , 33 points , a bonus point and a clean sheet all made for a pretty damn good and satisfying afternoon for Dundee High Rugby . And the new scoreboard worked . And the pitch looked great.
However , the coaching staff will point to unforced errors and an exceptionally high penalty count of 17 against as areas to be worked on ahead of next week’s difficult away trip to Gala.
Overall , a very encouraging start although it has to be said that the whole afternoon was over-shadowed by the injury to Campbell Cunningham , sadly just 5 minutes in his Dundee High career. All at Mayfield wish Campbell very best wishes for a full and speedy recovery.