Our first away game today, against another Super 6 franchise, this time Watsonians, saw us rolling up to Myreside, Edinburgh. One of the biggest pitches in Scottish rugby, some renovations were underway at both ends of the ground – whether in readiness for Super 6, or a hangover from Edinburgh Warriors’ recent occupation, being unclear.
What was clear, however, was that it was yet again a makeshift Dundee team, patched together as injuries and unavailability once more took a heavy toll on a club which is looking threadbare in numbers up front, especially in the front row. Both starting props from last week’s starting XV were out injured, as was the hooker, meaning debuts for props Scott Teister and Stuart Cameron (the latter off the bench), and a return for veteran Davie Mason as replacement hooker. The backs had a more familiar look, with exciting prospect Callum Hoffie making his first start on the wing in place of Callum Nicol, and Hammy taking over at centre from Sean Gauld.
Team 15 – Kieran Scoular, 14 – Callum Hoffie, 13 – Duncan McIntyre, 12 – Andrew Hamilton, 11 – Ruaridh Hood 10 – Paul Kerr, 9 – Danny McGinn
1 – James Shellard, 2 – Andy Elton, 3 – Scott Teister, 4 – Cameron Fraser, 5 – Finlay Ormiston, 6 – Stuart Barlow (capt.), 7 – Fraser Black, 8 – Lewis McNamara
Replacements 16 – Davie Mason, 17 – Stuart Cameron, 18 – Angus Thomson, 19 – Rory McGinn, 20 – Finlay Jacobs
Dundee won the toss, and elected to play with the wind blowing strongly down Myreside. A long range penalty from stand off Paul Kerr, wind-assisted, after 4 minutes edged us in front, but not for long. Following the restart, our set scrum creaked under pressure, and the large specimen that is Watsonians 2nd row Kieran Watt broke through the Dundee midfield and looked set to score before being felled inches out by a strong covering tackle from Dundee’s No. 15, Kieran Scoular. Alas, this just delayed the inevitable, as after a couple of recycles, scrum half Willie Thomson popped over for an unconverted try to make it 5 – 3 to the home side.
Frustratingly, Dundee’s No. 4, Cameron Fraser, making his debut, had been injured in the lead up to the score and limped off to be replaced by Angus Thomson, a near ever present last season but making his first 1st XV appearance of this season.
It got worse. After 15 minutes, an accidental high tackle on hooker Andy Elton resulted in a twisted neck, and a few minutes later he had to leave the fray to be replaced by Davie Mason. In the interim, a second Kerr penalty had let Dundee get their noses in front once more, 6 – 5.
Dundee were now having their best spell of the game. A Kerr chip ahead, taken on at pace, engineered a half overlap out wide, but a knock on put an end to the move. A lineout steal moments later led to a Lewis Macnamara break, and a flip to Kerr, whose pass to supporting scrum half Danny McGinn was kicked through and flopped on over the line by the No. 9 for Dundee’s opening try. Kerr duly converted and it was 13 – 5 to Dundee after 25 minutes.
Unfortunately, moments later Dundee’s injury jinx hit yet again. After winger Ruaridh Hood had bravely snuffed out a wickedly bouncing Watsonians kick ahead deep in his own 22, captain Stuart Barlow took a knock and had to leave the field, with replacement prop Stuart Cameron coming on to make his debut. As Dundee struggled to regroup and reorganise, Watsonians camped on their line, and Dundee’s valiant defence finally leaked an unconverted touch down, making it 10 – 13 after 33 minutes.
Watsonians were soon back on Dundee’s 22 metre line, but for once Dundee used the wind well as Kieran Scoular’s clearing kick took play from our 22 to theirs. A Dundee scrum penalty on the stroke of half time followed, after a good ruck clear out by No. 1 James Shellard, letting Dundee’s Man of the Match Kerr slot his 3rd penalty, to make it Watsonians 10, Dundee 16 at the break.
Half time reflections: Injury hit Dundee are down to the bare bones up front, and with the bigger Watsonians pack having the wind in their sails for the next 40 minutes, the feeling was Dundee would do well to hold out.
And so it proved. It seemed Watsonians were over the try line right from the off, but somehow they were held up by some mongrel Dundee defence. The resulting scrum 5 metres out was the trigger for a series of ‘penalty’ scrums for Watsonians there, as Dundee’s makeshift pack struggled to hold them, during which time referee McIntosh eventually yellow carded Dundee No.1 Shellard as Watsonians kept on trying, but failing, to secure the pushover (or penalty!) try. Finally, Dundee were somehow awarded a penalty of their own as yet another scrum wheeled, and gratefully cleared their lines. Frustratingly, a squint throw at the resulting lineout let Watsonians fire up their scrum once again, but this time they more sensibly moved the ball along the line and centre Ferguson broke through the short handed Dundee defence for an unconverted try. Dundee were still 1 point up at 16 – 15 ahead, but looking distinctly groggy, with half an hour still to go.
Watsonians duly scored once more against Dundee’s 14 men (I made it 13 minutes our prop was off for, one of the problems of not having neutral touch judges) and the conversion made it 22 – 16 in their favour. Next it was Fraser Black’s turn to limp off injured, with Hammy moving to the back row and Rory McGinn coming on in the centre. And to complete the wholesale changes, replacement Angus Thomson also had to depart, forcing Stuart Barlow back on, with Danny McGinn also being replaced by Finlay Jacobs.
Barlow’s return did not last long. The attempt to free his foot from a clinging Watsonians’ arm being deemed overly violent by the referee, his ensuing yellow card meant he had another 10 minutes to spend on the sidelines.
The wheels were now coming off an inevitably disorganised Dundee side as the mounting injuries, combined with 2 yellow cards, and the difficult windy conditions, took their expected toll. Watsonians went over for 3 more tries in the last 10 minutes as the depleted Dundee team finally cracked. Fittingly, there was then only time for 1 last Dundee player, Ruaridh Hood, to leave the field injured, before the final whistle then blew. Final score Watsonians 39 Dundee 16.
Reflections So, by this correspondent’s count, 6 Dundee players left the pitch injured, plus there were 2 yellow cards. For a makeshift team low on confidence, it became too much for them to cope with in the last quarter. But, trying to look on the bright side, it’s worth noting that we were still within 6 points of Watsonians with only 10 minutes to go, despite all these problems. Nevertheless, some plain speaking at the end by the coaches needed saying, and let’s see how well the guys can respond and pick themselves up for a tough game next week against another Super 6 club side, Boroughmuir.