Edinburgh Accies v Dundee HSFP , Raeburn Place , Edinburgh , 20th January 2018
There is an oft-used phase ”a week is a long time in politics” (coined by then UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the mid 1960s).
Well if that is the case, a week in amateur rugby in Scotland is an eternity.
On Thursday 11 January, the Dundee High Rugby coaching team were wallowing in the satisfaction of being able to select the 1st XV and the Titans team from virtually a full complement of players , with several long term injured players returning to the fray. Roll the clock forward one week and the scene at Mayfield on Thursday 18 January resembled that of the BBC programme “Casualty.” Injured in the matches the previous week and not available for selection were Broonie , James Forrester , Ceillem Stewart , Andy Redmayne , Ally Mackie , Neil Herron , Andy Hamilton. In addition , Ice and Josh were unavailable ,so it was a hugely changed 1st XV.
As if facing the league leaders Edinburgh Accies on their own patch was not challenging enough, it was the front row selection that was giving Head Coach Sangster sleepless nights – unavailable or injured were Broonie , James Forrester , Ceillem Stewart , Keg , Angus Fraser and Chris Cartnell.
It has been well reported that Scotland have selection problems at front row as the 6 Nations approaches – well Gregor Townsend should spare a thought for Colin Sangster too.
The other concern in the Clubhouse on Thursday night was the weather. Arctic conditions had battered Scotland earlier in the week and with the forecast not great for Edinburgh for Friday and Saturday, there was severe doubt as to whether the game would be on.
However, come Saturday morning, the word from the Accies committee was that they were confident that that they could get the game to go ahead.
The Dundee bus therefore departed on Saturday morning, with a much changed team on board. Keiran was back at 15, Ronan and Danny on the wings with Leesey and Fraser McKay in the centre. Harvey and Henry were the half backs . Lewis and Murphy were props – not a difficult choice as they were the only props available – with Kevin Franco bravely stepping up to take on the role of hooker for oh , the 3rd time in his career. The back 5 were on reasonably familiar grounds being George , Neil , Danny , Gav Hughan with Lewis McNamara at 8.
Edinburgh Accies had a full lunch club , with many well kent pusses in attendance.
There has always been a good relationship between Dundee and Edinburgh Accies . underpinned by several players representing both sides, including such legends as Eric Young and Torchy Lindsay.
Both these gentlemen were to the fore as the Accies Clubhouse Bar was packed to the gunnels at 11.30am . Indeed Eric Young and Co – along with Lindsays – were the main sponsors of the match with the lunch attendees including several past and present Dundonians and in particular ex Scotland coach and Crown Legend Frank Hadden.
It should be pointed however that the common trend amongst the masses in the Accies clubhouse was experience and not youth. Indeed an independent observer could justifiably have concluded that this was a Saga Holiday convention, but it was a happy bunch, if an elderly one, that got stuck into the pre-match libations.
The chat in the clubhouse was, at this stage, the match was still on.
The Dundee team arrived and as they walked to the changing rooms it was noted that the touchline flags were up on the main pitch, signifying that it was intended to play the match on this pitch. This was a tad surprising given that there were patches of ice on the pitch on which Torvill and Dean could have had a training session. Indeed, one member of the Dundee party , who shall remain nameless was heard to say “It is rugby we are playing , not curling”……………………..
After deliberations between the referees, the captains and the coaching staffs, it was agreed that the Raeburn Place pitch was not playable and that the match would be moved to an alternative pitch.
This alterative pitch was at New Field, the playing fields of The Edinburgh Academy.
This presented a challenge as New Field is across Inverleith Park. A very pleasant walk in a lovely part of Edinburgh, but it has to be said more preferable walk in June than in January.
However, New Field it was and the news was relayed to the lunching guests , by this time getting wellied into the Chilean Merlot and the port.
Credit to the Edinburgh Accies committee – they provided the crampons and the ice axes necessary to make the trip across Inverleith Park – and the exodus from Raeburn Place started. Edinburgh worthies claimed that the trip would take 10 minutes. Well, maybe for Mo Farah but certainly not for the average elderly luncher.
Your reporter was part of this Great Trek and I can vouch it was longer than 10 minutes.
As a result , it was 7 minutes past 2 when I arrived at New Field.
I then asked the first spectator I encountered what the score was.
This refined and well-dressed Edinburgh lady (nae hoodies or tracky bottoms at the Playing Fields of The Edinburgh Academy) very kindly replied “Seven nil to The Academy”.
I assume that this was a faux pas (google it to find out what it means) and she actually meant Edinburgh Accies , but her comment did divulge the close relationship between Edinburgh Academy and the Edinburgh Academical Football Club to give Accies their correct title.
Further discussion with an Accies committee man revealed that the opening try had been scored by captain Jamie Sole (son of ex Scotland captain David Sole), converted by Kiwi Luther Hirini.
Accies were on top, having the bulk of the possession, with the Dundee defence already stretched and following a period of pressure in the Dundee 22, Accies went further head.
Number 8 Lawrie Seydak broke off a scrum near the line, burst through 2 lines of tackles to crash over near the posts. Richard Mill converted. 14-0 to Accies.
Unfortunately a couple of minutes later Accies scored again. A good passing move created the space for hooker Black to score under the posts. Mill again converted .21-0 to Accies.
At this stage, Dundee were finding it hard to match the pace and power of the Accies team who were displaying the form of worthy league leaders and it was no surprise when Accies scored their 4th try, this time through Snape . This was again converted . 28-0 to Accies.
Accies were dominant at this stage and proceedings were threatening to get very horrible as Accies scored again after 30 minutes . In an admission of shoddy journalism, I have no idea who scored it as I was talking to a bunch of Dundee supporters. I can confirm that it was converted. 35-0 to Accies.
Captain Leese gathered his troops together under the posts and encouraged them/extolled them to “ show some pride , get the tackles in , secure the ball and keep the ball” in an attempt to curb the one-way traffic of the half to date.
This seemed to work as although the first 30 minutes had been an unmitigated disaster for Dundee , they upped their game in the last 10 minutes. They secured the ball , made some telling forward advances and got a reward when young number 8 Lewis McNamara crashed over for a try. Harvey’s conversion attempt missed. By quite a bit. In fact by a lot.
Half Time Edinburgh Accies 35 Dundee 5.
The New Field is a lovely part of Edinburgh – overlooked by multi-million £ properties and with a view over Inverleith Park and onto the city. However it is unlikely that the idyllic surroundings were in the forefront of coach Sangster’s mind as he stomped onto the pitch to address his underperforming troops.
However, whatever Colin said at half time , it had the desired effect.
Right from the start of the second half, Dundee performed better . The tackling was more clinical and the ball retention a lot better. Passes were still being spilled, but territory was even for much of the second half. Granted , at 35-0 up and with the bonus point secured , the Accies team understandably took their foot off the gas, but Dundee’s performance was upped hugely across the team.
There was only one score in the second half. It went to Accies who scored a break away try after a period of concerted Dundee pressure. The conversion was missed
Full Time Edinburgh Accies 40 Dundee HSFP 5
A much improved second half display cannot camouflage a disappointing and under-par first 40 minutes. This point was admitted by Colin Sangster after the match,
There were undoubtedly mitigating circumstances – the uncertainty of knowing whether the match was going ahead and the move to another pitch certainly disrupted the team’s preparations. In addition , it was a young and understrength team , there was no front row cover (huge credit to Lewis , Murphy and Kevin for the shift they put in) and it was revealed that early in match both half backs suffered injuries – Harvey (leg) and Henry(hand) , neither of which were helpful to an already difficult cause.
Edinburgh Accies are a good side . They now have 14 victories out of 14 league matches, have failed to secure a bonus point in only one of these matches and look a shoe-in to go up as champions.
Best of luck to them and also thanks to their committee for the hospitality yesterday.
Anyway for Dundee, onwards and hopefully upwards , as we look forward to GHA’s visit to Mayfield next Saturday. Our best performance this season was arguably the match against GHA in Glasgow and a repeat of that in front of the home supporters next week would do very nicely thank you.