Howe of Fife (6) v Dundee HSFP (32), Duffus Park , Saturday 12 December 2015.
Dundee went into this BT National One match, sitting in 3rd place in the league despite the home match v Kelso the previous weekend cancelled due to a waterlogged Mayfield.
They faced a Howe of Fife side who had won the corresponding match at Mayfield in the opening game of theseason – and with it the inaugural Ian Rankin Rosebowl . Howe sat in 4th place so a close game was in prospect, with not just the Ranks Rosebowl at stake, but also the all-important Tayside/North East Fife bragging rights.
The heavy rain earlier in the week had cleared and an 10am pitch inspection at Duffus Park saw the all clear given, although it would not have taken a Phd in horticultural studies to confirm that the pitch was heavy.
With a 3pm kick off under the Duffus lights in prospect, the committees, buffties and blazers convened in the Howe clubrooms at 12midday. Included in their ranks was Ranks himself – as always very convivial company but again as always never giving a hint of where his loyalties lay between the clubs. While the great and the good had a very pleasant pre-match lunch at the Howe clubrooms, an intrepid and adventurous element of the Dundee support had trained it across the Tay and were well under way in their pub crawl of Cupar.
Having secured the Dallas Allardice Cup was at Rubislaw 2 weeks previously, the coaches reported a determination amongst the Dundee team to make it a Cup double and get back across the Tay Bridge with the Ranks Rosebowl safely in Captain Broonie’s large paws.
The Dundee team was still not a full strength, with centre partnership Tim McKavanagh and Neil Herron still out injured and Daz unavailable. Nick Alston returned in the centre, John Brady took Daz’s place at hooker and Conor Wood a student at Abertay Uni got a deserved promotion after starring with the Titans to take his place in the second row. On the bench was Euan Fox, the current captain of the Dundee High school team who had turned 18 on Wednesday and under SRU age rules was now eligible to play senior rugby.
As the crowd built up at Duffus – a large proportion kitted out in the Cupar Casuals uniform of barbours and green wellies -, it was noted that there was a bigger than usual Dundee support, including the pub crawl gang who had successfully made it to the ground in time for kick off. However, disappointment awaited them when they realised that there were no stand seats as the stand was under construction as part of the new clubhouse/stand development. Standing for the entire match after a liquid lunch was not part of the deal, but they, to a man , accepted their lot , albeit grumpily.
When your match reporter took up his position behind the goal he noted that there was a football match taking place on the adjacent 3G pitch. Further investigation revealed that this was a Fife Amateur Championship match between Auchtermuchty Bellevue and Glenrothes Rosebank and the score early in the second half was 1-1.
The Duffus pitch was naturally heavy after the midweek rain but the Dundee team confirmed their coaches’ view that they were well up for this game by getting tore into Howe from the start. Dundee got their first chance to go ahead in 5 minutes but Duncan’s penalty hit the post. However, the points were only delayed by 2 minutes after a Captain Broonie dummy and break, the ball was shipped wide for Matt to score in the corner. Duncan’s conversion was wide. 5-0 to Dundee.
The incessant pressure continued and after 12 minutes Duncan nailed a penalty. 8-0 to Dundee.
It was following the Howe restart that Danny took a mid-air catch that for anticipation, timing and sheer athleticism would not have looked out of place in the recent Rugby World Cup.
At this point, your match reporter’s attention was drawn to the football where the referee – who could comfortably qualify for his bus pass – was getting dogs abuse from the Glenrothes players and bench (no barbours and green wellies here) for apparently not awarding Glenrothes a penalty.
Your match reporter (an amateur footballer of note in his dim distant youth) then indulged himself by watching the Auchtermuchty Bellevue v Glenrothes Rosebank match for a few minutes, during which time it came flooding back to him what a rammy amateur football was.
This , ladies and gentlemen , was Scottish football at it rawest – committed players, with varying degrees of skill and bodies to match , getting stuck into each other both physically and verbally. Ford Super Sunday on Sky Sports 1 it was not.
Every decision that the referee made was questioned. By players. By the coaches. By the kitmen. Loudly and offensively. The thought went through your match reporter’s mind that whatever the referee was getting paid to endure this, it was not worth it.
Back in barbour and green welly country, for the next 10 minutes, Dundee had all the possession and the play was concentrated in the Howe 22. However somehow – a combination of spirited defence, penalties given away leading to a warning from the referee and sometimes overexpansive play in the conditions – no scores were added in this period.
As often happens, Howe then forced play up the pitch and in virtually their first foray into the Dundee 22, they were awarded a penalty which scrum half and captain Lathangie scored. 8-3 to Dundee.
At this stage, nature was calling for the pub crawl gang who, on enquiring where the toilets were, were non plussed to be informed that the facilities were in fact a portacabin on the other side of the field. Underfoot conditions were particularly slippy and more than one spectator fell on their barboured erse as they approached the toilets. No major harm done, save for a loss of dignity in some cases.
Howe then went through a period when they had the lion’s share of possession and play was concentrated in the Dundee half. The referee then awarded a series of penalties against Dundee, culminating in Broonie getting yellowed after 35 minutes .
This annoyed the Dundee support , some of whom were critical of referee Ian Kenny for awarding too many penalties.
However, this criticism was nothing like what the poor sod of a referee was having to endure in the Auchtermuchty v Glenrothes match where all hell had just broken out.
It would appear that the referee had awarded a late goal to Auchtermuchty which the Glenrothes camp seemed to think was offside. As a result, the referee (of retirement age) was now running backwards at a world record pace, pursued by the entire Glenrothes team, coaches and kitman. Think of Roy Keane and the Man Utd team in their Fergie hey-day and you get the picture.
The advice given to the referee was fairly consistent but the comment from the irate Glenrothes central defender summed up the mood – “he was a f****n mile affside, you auld p***k”. Charming.
The 14 Dundee men held out until half time.
Half Time – Howe of Fife 3 Dundee HSFP 8.
During the half time rugby interval, the Auchtermuchty v Glenrothes match unfortunately finished and one’s faith in human nature was restored as the players all shook hands with each other and with the referee. Credit where credits due, players who had been flying into tackles with each other, were seen to shake hands, with no bad feeling carried over after the match.
The message from the Dundee coaches was more of the same, but with more accuracy.
This message was taken to heart as Dundee, as they had done in the first half, took control from the off.
Restored to 15 men after 5 minutes of the second half, Dundee took play into the Howe 22 and following a number of pick and drives, John Brady was driven over near the corner. Duncan’s conversion missed by a lot, but Dundee had got the important first score of the half. 13-3 to Dundee.
Howe then went straight back up the park and were awarded a penalty in the Dundee 22, which captain Lathangie slotted. 13-6 to Dundee.
Dundee then took control again and after a further series of driving runs, the ball was moved wide where Danny set Ronan diving for the corner. A particularly committed Howe covering tackle led to a sickening clash between Ronan’s head and the Howe players knee.
Play was delayed for several minutes for attention to both players.
There was concern on the touchline as an obviously concussed Ronan was brought round by Mo.
Note should be made of the part played by Graham Thompson the Howe 13 (and ex Dundee player) who used his expertise as a qualified doctor to stay with Ronan and attended to him until he could be safely removed from the field.
Thanks Thommo – you were a great credit to yourself, your club and your profession.
Ronan naturally went off, as did the Howe player and after a 10minute delay, play was resumed,
Ronan was replaced by Ewan Fox, who was making his debut for the 1st XV at the tender age of 18 years and 3 days. Ewan slotted in at centre, with Matt moving to the wing.
When play was resumed – by which time Ronan was safely on the bench, although unaware of the score and as it turned out unaware of what planet he was on – Dundee kept up the pressure and following another dominant scrum in front of the posts, Nick hit a great line to take the ball from Duncan and burst between the posts. Duncan converted to put Dundee 20-6 ahead.
At this stage, the Dundee pack had now secured complete dominance up front and following a searing break from the Iceman (who obviously forgot that a Fijian is not meant to perform on a wet dark and cold Duffus Park in December) the forwards arrived on masse and drove Conor Wood over for a debut score and bonus point. Leesey converted to make the score 27-6 to Dundee and put daylight between the teams.
In what was testament to their team spirit, the Howe team then took play into the Dundee 22 but great Dundee defence kept their line intact. In a carbon copy of the first half, the penalty count mounted against Dundee and this time Danny was the unlucky one to see yellow.
However , the last word was with the superb Dundee pack who drove the Howe pack back and set up another score for debutant Conor Wood to put Dundee 32-6 ahead. The conversion was missed but the very happy Dundee team and support did not give a monkeys about that.
Final Score – Howe of Fife 6 Dundee HSFP 32.
A great performance, particularly by a dominant pack, resulting in a deserved victory and the Ranks Rosebowl being brought back to Mayfield for the first time – Captain Broonie , with a huge smile on his face , accepted the Bowl from the Ranks himself on the pitch after the match.
In summary, a win , a cup , a bonus point , 5 tries scored and no tries conceded – all in all a very satisfactory afternoon’s work.
Satisfaction should also be taken from the fact that 2 young talented players made their debut today – Conor Wood (just turned 20) who helped himself to 2 tries and Ewan Fox (just turned 18) who fitted seamlessly into the back line in his first game of senior rugby.
Young players coming through, resulting in bigger squads and competition for places in both the 1st XV and the Titans can only help Dundee as we strive to get back to the top table of Scottish Rugby.
Your match reporter then took the unfortunate Ronan to be checked out at Accident and Emergency at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
As we all are aware from painful experience, this is not the place that you wish to spend your Saturday night.
True to form, as Ronan and I sat there – him thankfully back on Planet Earth , but understandably complaining of a sore napper , we were joined by the remnants of a Dundee wedding which had obviously gone wrong – a lady in all her finest , with blood over her face , accompanied by her tattoed mate who had obviously been despatched from said wedding to “look after her”.
A very nice lady doctor from the Borders then attended to Ronan – confirmation of concussion , a local anaesthetic and 5 stitches later – he was able to leave and all at Dundee High rugby wish him a speedy recovery