Two tries in the last 15 minutes were not enough as an under-strength University of St Andrews Men’s Rugby 1st XV fell to a 30-21 defeat against local rivals Dundee this past Wednesday at University Park.
Saints had entered the game as favourites, despite having to make four changes, as they had beaten Dundee 24-12 away last month and responded well to their first league defeat of the season against Aberdeen 1s on Halloween by posting a dominant 38-7 triumph away at Aberdeen 2s last week.
Things went from bad to worse for the Saints just two minutes into the game when influential forward Alex Hodgins went off with a painful looking shoulder injury, being replaced by Dan Cox. Hodgins injury, and the last-minute withdrawal of Killian Faith-Kelly from the matchday squad, will only add the mounting injury concerns facing Saints Director of Rugby Scott Lawson.
Dundee got their first try of the afternoon a little over five minutes after Cox’s introduction. It came from a scrum on the halfway line, which saw one of their wingers come central and hit a hard line to break into the Saints 22, before offloading to a teammate to dot down under the posts.
Their inside centre made the conversion but Saints were back on level terms on 13 minutes. The home side were awarded a penalty on the five metre line for an infraction at the breakdown and whilst Lind was unable to get over from the first phase, second row Stephen Tue did find his way over, with Jamie Kelly duly adding the extras.
The game l with both sides struggling when in possession but demonstrating strong defensive performances, a likely consequence of Wednesday morning’s rain which moistened the playing surface and made handling difficult, but Dundee were able to add a second try on the stroke of half-time.
After Saints went close Dundee were able to clear their lines and again make maximum use of the scrum. Their scrum-half was able to provide quick ball to their full-back, who hit a strong diagonal line that created a massive overlap, allowing their right winger to go over in the corner. Their inside-centre made the conversion from the touchline and that late try seemed to take the wind out of the Saints sails.
The Dundee 12 was able to add three penalties to the away side’s score in the opening twenty minutes of the second half, pushing their lead out to 16 points, before they scored their third try on 62 minutes.
Again the scrum proved St Andrews downfall, as Dundee were able to get a mild shove on and retain possession, before spreading wide and dotting down in the corner. Unsurprisingly the Dundee centre made the conversion, taking his personal tally to 15 points for the afternoon with six successful kicks from seven attempts.
That score, and perhaps the realisation that they needed a minimum of four tries to win the game seemed to spur St Andrews on and they scored their second try of the afternoon just three minutes later. It came after some strong direct running that allowed the home team’s forward line to burrow over.
Kelly added the extras and he got a try of his own six minutes later. He charged down a Dundee box kick in their own 22 and manage to dive on top of the loose ball to score. That took his tally, after a third successful conversion, to 11 points for the game, and seemed to give the home side hope that they could stage a sensational comeback.
It wasn’t to be however, as whilst Saints got themselves in a number of scoring positions, they were unable to convert their chances and ended up walking away from the game with nothing.
In truth, there wasn’t a lot between the two sides. Stephen Tue and Jamie Kelly impressed for the home team, but what mattered in the end was Dundee’s speed in moving the ball around, their ability to spot the gaps that were there and getting the basics right. They seemed a little more settled as a unit than Saints, although that likely stems from the lengthy injury list the home side currently face, which could well be longer after Jack Terrett limped off in the second half with what looked like an ankle knock.
Saints face Stirling away next week in cup action under the lights before returning to University Park on Wednesday 28 November for their last game of 2018 against the Aberdeen 2s.