A remarkable five-try performance from inside-centre Emily Jones saw the St Andrews Women’s Rugby 1stXV claim a much needed 53-10 triumph over rivals from across the Tay (Dundee) on a sunny yet freezing February day at the Sports Centre.
Talking with club figures beforehand, it wasn’t hard to appreciate the Saints’ desperation for a victory in this clash. They lay rooted to the basement of Scottish Division 1, without a win in any of their 8 matches thus far and with time running out to mount a comeback before the season’s close. Nevertheless, a fixture against their close rivals was always something to look forward too, with Dundee boasting a reputation as a friendly team who play the game in the right spirit.
The Saints’ desperation for victory was evident from the kickoff, as they almost immediately asserted pressure on the visitors’ try line, with Dundee eventually gaining a reprieve courtesy of some ill-discipline from the hosts at the breakdown. It wouldn’t take long for the Saints to register, however, as following a penalty inside the Dundee 22, Jones dived over for what would be the first of many to make it 5-0. This however triggered an almost instant response from the visitors however as a sweeping backs move stemming from the Saints losing the kickoff saw their winger fly into the corner and level the scores at 5 apiece. The next passage of play saw the Saints in the ascendency benefitting from the slope, yet basic errors such as not finding touch with penalties and general indiscipline would constantly hamper them. Dundee were also beginning to find joy from the scrum as well.
However, just as soon as spectators started to assume St Andrews wouldn’t capitalise on their dominance did they embark on a scoring blitz, running in 4 tries in the final 10 minutes of the half to leave the Dundonians shellshocked. First fullback Robyn Dunne burst through the defensive line and over with the conversion making it 12-5, with the Saints now camped in Dundee’s 22 it was only a matter of time before another score – this time Mhairi Falconer collected from the base of the scrum and barraged over from 5 metres out for 19-5.
A break from the ensuing kickoff led the Saints back into familiar territory, this time outside centre Phoebe Drew registered an opportunistic score; diving over from close range with Dundee’s rearguard defence not operating to full effect. Morale in the visitors’ ranks must’ve been through the floor, yet it would get worse before the halftime whistle blew with Jones again going over in the final play of the half to leave the score 29-5. Ultimately the Saints could now be extremely content with a high standard of play throughout the first 40 minutes; handling errors had been rare – no mean feat considering the frigid conditions – even if the perfectionists amongst them would’ve been concerned by the fact the visitors registered a try in their only visit to the St Andrews 22.
When the second half commenced, anyone concerned that the hosts might lose their upward momentum were quickly reassured otherwise – renewed pressure on the Dundee line led to a dodgy clearance straight to the fearsome Jones, who scythed her way through some flimsy tackles to register her hattrick and take the score to 34-5. Almost immediately after the restart, a mazy run from Emma Stormonth led to back row colleague Falconer dashing over from close range with the conversion from Jones making things 41-5.
At this point, it was hard not to feel for Dundee, who probably couldn’t wait for the final whistle to go and who exchanged some harsh words when they reconvened again under the posts. After a scrappy period of play however, they were able to prove their worth as they registered perhaps the try of the game: with their aforementioned speedy winger running 70 metres past St Andrews defenders whose minds had perhaps turned elsewhere to go in for a superb solo effort. Unfortunately though for the visitors this perhaps awoke the hosts out of their slumber as they rallied for a strong finish. It would be who else but Jones – the player Dundee simply had no answer to all day – who was to run in 2 more tries before the game was up. Moreover, she converted one of them in impressive fashion to put an exclamation point on a resounding 53-10 home win.
In conclusion, despite the chilly temperatures, it was clear from the off that the Saints would have no trouble turning up the heat. Morale was understandably through the roof at the final whistle as the girls will hope sincerely this is a result that can act as a catalyst for a strong finish to the season.