National Two: Dumfries Saints go top again after battling past Whitecraigs

Only one match in the division managed to survive Storm Ellen to go ahead this weekend with Ewan Millar scorig a decisive double

Ewan Miller scored two tries for Dumfries Saints against Whitecraigs. Image: Garry Roper Photography
Ewan Miller scored two tries for Dumfries Saints against Whitecraigs. Image: Garry Roper Photography

Whitecraigs 19

Dumfries Saints 31

DUMFRIES SAINTS are back on top of  National League Division Two after they got the better of a battling Whitecraigs outfit on Saturday with a 31-19 bonus point win, setting-up a mouth-watering clash against second placed Stewart’s Melville this coming weekend at Park Farm.

With wind and rain causing havoc, especially for grass pitches around the country, and West Lodge out of action, Whitecraigs moved Saturday’s home game to the 3G surface at Lochinch Sports Pavilion within the grounds of Pollok Country Park in Glasgow to make sure that it went ahead.

Dumfries had defeated Whitecraigs convincingly back in September, but with the home side fighting for their lives at the bottom end of the league gadded they knew this would be a much tougher 80 minutes.

Add to that the fact that the team warm-ups had to be abandoned due to a horrendous hail shower and 60 mph gusts of wind in the lead up to kick-off, and this was always going to be a slog for both teams.

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Whitecraigs came out all guns blazing and scored the first try when Stuart Murchie providing the final pass to Michael Christine. Dumfries fought back to get a foothold in the game resulting in a try under the posts from Alan Birdsall, which he converted himself to edge the visitors into a narrow lead..

Ewan Miller then got another seven pointer before half-time for the visitors, but Grant Berry’s score which he converted kept Whitecraigs in things at just 14-12 down at the interval.

After the break, Ali Jackson scored Dumfries third try which Birdsall again converted, then Miller got another to claim the four try bonus point before having to go off injured. Lewis Young bagged Dumfries fifth try before Whitecraigs scored a late converted effort through Stuart Fish.

“With the weather conditions it would have been easy to call the game off, but the Whitecraigs boys had put in a lot of work to get the game played at Lochinch,” said Dumfries team manager Stan Johnstone, who was keeping head coach Euan Mack in Rome updated throughout the afternoon. “We were keen to play if we could although the hail caused the lines to be swept before kick off.

“Our scrum was a weapon all day and a great source of good ball, but we gave away some silly penalties. With the conditions we were happy to get the five points. I played for 30 years and I have to say they were some of the worst conditions I’ve ever seen.

“All credit to Whitecraigs, they put up a great fight and played to the death. It’s all to play for now in terms of promotion.”

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Whitecraigs are still eight points from safety, but head coach Ian Hamilton took “plenty of positives” from this game. “It was a closely contested game, and although the weather tried its best to interfere, both teams played well,” he stated. “Dumfries stuck to a simple game plan of picking and going and hitting their forwards off their scrum-half and made some good yardage, but we also caused them problems.

“There were certainly plenty of positives, we brought our style of play to proceedings and capitalised on their defensive errors, but the conditions made it difficult for us and tested our skill set.

“We will now prepare for a crunch match against [10th placed] Falkirk and try to build on this excellent performance by the players while also looking to utilise our field position more and turn our attacking pressure into more points.”

Storm Ellen was the winner at three grounds, with Kirkcaldy v GHK, Hamilton Bulls v Preston Lodge and Stewart’s Melville v Falkirk all postponed.

How it stand –

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About Gary Heatly 437 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.