And so to Braidholm, home to that interesting rugby ménage a trois between Glasgow Southern, Hutchesons and Aloysians, known as GHA, whose happy cohabitation is still going strong to this day! (Speaking of which, some of us old enough to remember the good old days when Britain and Europe fell for each other in the 70s, those innocent years before their bitter Brexit divorce battle of today, will also recall that Glasgow Southern were at that time known as Clarkston!)
The rain had been battering Braidholm for most of the week, with their pitch under pools of water on Friday, but the improved drainage (which has been an unexpected bonus from their construction of a 3G training pitch and lights on their 2nds pitch next door) meant the surface was perfectly playable and held up remarkably well for the whole 80 minutes.
Making his debut for Dundee at No. 10 was Harry Mercer, a 17 year old from Madras, who for one so young (and who due to injury had played so little rugby recently) had a very assured game, not looking out of place at all at a level considerably higher than any he had experienced before. Only 6 out of the 15 Dundee players lining up for the kick off had started in the corresponding fixture at Mayfield some 3 months ago, reflecting yet again the high rate of attrition that so plagues club rugby today.
The GHA pack looked a formidable unit as the game got under way, and they soon established themselves in Dundee’s half, where they were to spend much of the rest of the afternoon. But perhaps to GHA’s surprise, the Dundee scrum fronted up well all game, and the hard work put in at training during the past week meant Dundee were doing well in the set, both scrum and lineout. The backs defence however was taking a little time to come together, and two or three early line breaks put Dundee under pressure that GHA were unable to capitalise on.
With 15 minutes gone, Josh took a quick penalty and Dundee broke out into GHA’s half for the first time. Good rugby took the ball to within a yard of GHA’s line, where frustratingly a knock on ended the opportunity of a classic breakaway score. Dundee held GHA in and around their own 22 for quite some time after that, but without ever really threatening their try line again.
Gradually, GHA regrouped and ground their way back up the field, and went over the Dundee line in the 25th minute, only for the ‘score’ to be ruled out for a forward pass by referee Young, having a first-rate game in his first start at this level (where has he been?). Stand-off Mercer then made a good covering tackle as GHA pressed, and some poor kicking and wrong options meant that their first score was proving elusive.
They build them big in Texas. In fact, very, very big. And eventually the human oil rig known as big Bill Kaspar, visiting the UK for some months and playing in GHA’s second row, proved too much in the 29th minute, bulldozing through the Dundee defence for a touch down duly converted by scrum half George Baird. 7 – 0 to the home side.
Undaunted, Dundee took it to GHA following the restart, and after a scrum 15 metres out, Danny McGinn went in at the corner, only to be ruled out for a foot in touch. A couple of minutes later, however, a big hit on him meant he had to leave the field injured, Paul Ritch coming on in his place. As the first half drew to a close, Fraser McKay slotted a penalty (one of only 4 conceded by GHA in the entire match!) to make it 7 – 3 at half time.
Dundee had done well to keep GHA to one score so far – but would their power and perhaps some tactical rethinking prove too strong in the next 40 minutes?
‘Yes’ is unfortunately the answer to that rhetorical question, as straight after the break, GHA drove forward from a line out maul for the first time, disrupting the Dundee defence and after some good recycling letting No 8 Ross Angus drive over for another converted try. 14 – 3 to GHA.
Dundee were coming under increase pressure, trying to force plays from scraps of possession, with one hospital pass in particular putting scrum half Josh Rutnagur through the GHA mincing machine from which he was lucky to emerge still in one piece, looking as if he had just had 12 quick rounds with Tyson Fury.
GHA took 2 quick penalties on the Dundee 22, but a great Angus Farquhar steal, backed up by No. 8 Stuart Barlow, forced them back. However, possession was kicked away, and Big Bill revved it up once again to crash over for his 2nd try, stretching GHA to a 19 -3 lead after 47 minutes.
It was becoming one way traffic – when Dundee did have possession, all they could do was kick it back to GHA to run at them once more. Luckily, GHA at times once more started finding ways not to score, helped by some courageous and well organised Dundee defence which twice denied them touch downs when they were over the line.
But Dundee could only hold out for so long, and in the 63rd minute GHA centre Max MacFarlane went over for GHA’s 4th try, the conversion making it 26 -3. A flurry of substitutions for a tiring Dundee side around this time had seen Neil Turnbull come on for Angus Thomson, Lewis McLean for the combative Neil Dymock, Rory McGinn for Kieran D’Aeth, who had looked dangerous with limited possession, and Kevin Franco on for the ever willing Andrew Hamilton. Speaking of which, an injury to hooker Ceillem Stewart a few moments later meant an unexpected recall for Hammy, coffee cup still in hand, as Kevin Franco moved up to hooker and Hammy resumed his back row berth.
These changes gave Dundee some new energy. Paul Ritch had a good run into GHA’s 22, and shortly afterwards, Dundee’s best move of the game saw Fraser McKay just unable to find Stuart Barlow on GHA’s 22, with a clear run to the line if the pass had gone to hand. That was Dundee’s final flourish, however, and at the death another converted GHA try made it 33 -3 as the full time whistle went, a scoreline that did not really do justice to Dundee’s efforts and contribution to a very entertaining game of rugby.
FINAL SCORE – GHA 33 DUNDEE 3.