And so to the Kingdom of Fife this week – Beveridge Park to be precise – where for the first time in many years we travelled to take on old rivals Kirkcaldy RFC on their home patch. We narrowly won the corresponding fixture at Mayfield earlier in the season in a thrilling match, a game which Courier Rugby correspondent Steve Scott described as one of the best adverts for club rugby he had ever seen. The large Mayfield faithful travelling support were hoping for more of the same…
Dundee were missing influential playmaker Ross Aitken and the experienced Donald Sangster from last week’s starting XV, as well as hooker Andy Elton, but it was good to see Danny McGinn returning to the squad after being out injured since December. Ex-Dundee player Dayle Turner started for Kirkcaldy, who fielded an impressive centre pairing of ex Leeds Carnegie professional Axle Black and the talented local boy Josh Laird.
Last week, scrum half Stewart Lathangie scored his first try of the season. For him, tries are clearly a bit like buses – score one and next thing four more come along! His first today came as he dummied over from a ruck near the Kirkcaldy line in the 5th minute, after a fast start by an initially dominant Dundee had seen No. 8 Danny Levison just fail to score seconds earlier. Fraser McKay missed the conversion, but popped over a penalty a few minutes later to make it 8 – 0 Dundee. Straight from the kick off, No. 4 Lewis Macnamara took and drove, No. 10 Harry Mercer made 50 yards, and Kieran Scoular went over in the far corner to make it 13 – 0 Dundee.
The previous fixture had seen Kirkcaldy jump out to a convincing lead, only to be gradually overhauled by a determined Dundee side. For the next few minutes, it suddenly seemed like the same in reverse might be happening, as the Kirkcaldy team abruptly came to life, using their big forwards to drive at the Dundee defence. And as too often the case this season, Dundee started to miss some first up tackles, with first Kirkcaldy’s lock forward Struan Robertson, and then ex Dundee man Dayle Turner, going over for tries. Had both been converted, Kirkcaldy would have been in the lead after the first quarter, much against the run of play, but with one attempt going just astray, Dundee still held a narrow one point lead, 13 – 12.
Sport is all about turning points, and luckily for a rattled Dundee, one was just around the corner. Try scorer Turner went from saint to sinner as he was yellow carded some 10 metres out from the Kirkcaldy line. And Dundee took full advantage, scoring 3 tries during his enforced 10 minute absence. In a carbon copy of his first try, No. 9 Lathangie once more dummied over from close range, with Fraser adding the 2 point extras. Dundee 20, Kirkcaldy 12 after half an hour. Straight from the kick off, Angus Thomson fielded and made good yards, Harry Meadows took it on and did the same, and good hands let Fraser McKay cross in the far corner, to increase the lead to 25 – 12.
The first scrum of the game came, surprisingly, after 37 minutes, and the Dundee eight twice drove the short-handed Kirkcaldy scrum backwards in their own 22 at a rate of knots, with Danny Levison picking up at the base and going over for another converted try, to make it 32 – 12 to Dundee. Kirkcaldy were reeling, and after a trademark Levy take from the kick off, centre Duncan McIntyre made a good break down the middle, and cleverly fed Stewart Lathangie to let him round the full back at pace and score his 3rd try of the half. The conversion made it 39 -12 to Dundee at the break.
It took just 3 minutes of the 2nd half for Dundee to score their 7th try, No. 9 Lathangie crossing under the posts to take it out to 46 – 12 to Dundee. It looked like another score might come straight from kick off as receiver Stuart Barlow burst some Kirkcaldy tackles, and Man of the Match Craig Mackenzie, who had been finding his man well at the line out all afternoon, drove on into the Kirkcaldy 22, but the move petered out. The score wasn’t long in coming, however, as Fraser McKay put in a kick ahead for Duncan McIntyre to win the race and touch the ball down. The successful conversion made it 53 – 12.
With the clock starting to wind down, Liam Quarm came on for Jack Newth at loosehead, as fellow prop Harry Meadows got in on the scoring act under the posts in the 60th minute, the kick making it 60 – 12. More replacements followed, with Kevin Franco replacing Angus Thomson and Ruaridh Hood taking over from Kieran D’Aeth. And it was Ruaridh who sparked a quality try for Dundee down the far touch line, running from his own half and linking with Harry Mercer, then on to Fraser McKay, who put in a lovely grubber kick for No. 8 Levison to get the score in one the best demonstrations of support play you’ll see. That lung bursting effort proved to be his last contribution, with Taylor Smith coming on in his place.
After a lengthy injury stoppage for one of the Kirkcaldy forwards, some of the energy understandably went out of the Dundee team. Although Stuart Barlow scored a final try, making it 11 in all for Dundee, two late Kirkcaldy efforts secured them their try bonus point, bringing the game to a close with the final score reading Dundee 70, Kirkcaldy 26.
Reflections: so Dundee escape the relegation trap door, after 3 wins on the bounce, and a huge improvement on earlier season displays. Coach Colin Sangster was rightly satisfied afterwards, by the planning undertaken early in the New Year as to how to turn things around, by the commitment shown by the boys in training, especially throughout the 6 weeks off during the Six Nations in February, and by the much improved team performances in March. Building for next season starts now…!
Dundee Team: 15 Fraser Mackay, 14 Kieran Scoular, 13 Duncan McIntyre, 12 Andrew Hamilton, 11, Kieran D’Aeth 10, Harry Mercer 9 Stewart Lathangie; 1 Jack Newth, 2 Craig Mackenzie, 3 Harry Meadows, 4 Lewis Macnamara, 5, 6 Stuart Barlow, 7 Angus Farquhar, 8 Danny Levison
Replacements 16 Taylor Smith, 17 Liam Quarm, 18 Kevin Franco, 19 Danny McGinn, 20 Ruaridh Hood