National Two round-up: high drama at Anniesland as Saints pip GHK at the death

Stewart's Melville bolstered their position at the top of the league with a big win over Whitecraigs. Image: Jax MacKenzie
Stewart's Melville bolstered their position at the top of the league with a big win over Whitecraigs. Image: Jax MacKenzie Photography

THERE was drama at both ends of the National League Two table on Saturday with Dumfries Saints beating GHK in the dying seconds and Falkirk edging out Gordonians.

While nerves were jangling elsewhere, leaders Stewart’s Melville were having an easier day of it by beating Whitecraigs 69-5, and Peebles secured an eighth league win on the bounce at Kirkcaldy to stay right in the promotion battle.

With promotion chasing GHK and Dumfries meeting on the day of the home club’s former players lunch there was always going to be an electric atmosphere at Old Anniesland – and the bumper crowd was treated to a great 80 minutes.

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Saints started well and took the lead through when Bobby Douglas scored his 12th try of the season and Alan Birdsall added the extras for 7-0, and that was the way things stayed until half-time. Home skipper Cammy Hughes went over for a try, converted by Kyle Henderson, to level things up early in the second half, then an exchange of penalties between Birdsall and Henderson edged the scoreboard forward to 10-10.

Cue late drama, when in the last play of the game GHK worked the position for a drop-goal well, but Henderson’s effort was charged down by Miller, before Rory Steele released Andrew Whiteford down the wing. Dumfries then went the full length of the pitch and, after a few phases, won a penalty. Deep into time added on, Birdsall slotted the difficult shot at goal to give the visitors a 13-10 triumph.

“Alan showed amazing composure to kick the points at the end for the win and it was a great feeling to grind out the result,” said Dumfries head coach Euan Mack. “It was a really tight game, both teams played well, we thought it was lost when they went for the drop-goal at the end but the boys showed amazing character to charge that down and go down the other end and win a penalty.”

The result puts Dumfries in the second promotion spot while a losing bonus point leaves GHK fourth, but with games in hand over the three other teams fighting it out for a top two finish.

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Falkirk had not played a league match since mid-January before this weekend, but Stevie Leckie’s men fought hard to see off fellow strugglers Gordonians at Horne Park. The 5-0 win sees Falkirk leapfrog Gordonians into 10th spot and, although both sides are on 22 points, the former have four games in hand.

In a match where both sides gave it everything, David Stoddart bagged the all important unconverted try in the second half.

“The boys played very well and were very unlucky not to score more points,” said Leckie. “The set-piece, defence and discipline were the key factors. Every player gave their all, they are all an inspiration to me. We now just have to try and kick on, this win was nice, but there is a lot of hard work ahead and we won’t get complacent.”

Gordonians head coach Ryan Morrice said afterward that it was one of his most frustrating games in charge of the Countesswells side. “We did the hard part in the first half when we played into the strong wind, containing them and turning round looking to capitalise on our effort in the second half,” he reflected. “We had, in fact, numerous chances to score in both halves, but managed to squander them.

“It was most frustrating, as has been our entire season, but we’re not relegated yet. We have three games to play, two of them at home to Stewart’s Melville and Newton Stewart, while we are away to promotion chasing GHK next week, but we’ll need teams to beat Falkirk who have seven games to play and are on the same number of points as us. It’s not a good position to be in.”

Stew-Mel attack coach Alex Hagart was a happy man after the Edinburgh side scored 11 tries to overpower bottom outfit Whitecraigs at Inverleith. Doug Randall, Fraser Morrison, Jamie Thomson, Mathew Watson, Scott Alldritt, Sean Murchie, Joe Bailey, Ben Dollery, James Ferguson, Ally Scott and Darren Miller all crossed.

With France No 8 Gregory Alldritt in the crowd to see his brother Scott play, Euan Bowen kicked five conversions and Mike Miller two to round things off. Whitecraigs’ solitary try came from Daniel Clarke after a good move involving Graham Murchie and Michael Christine.

Peebles, in third, are just two points behind Stew Mel after a 27-15 bonus point win at Kirkcaldy. David Collins, Murray Brown, Ryan Stewart and Murdo Anderson scored the Peebles tries at Beveridge Park.

“I thought the boys played really well. We led 12-3 at half-time, but Kirkcaldy came out hard in the second half and got the first points on the board,” said captain Stewart. “We didn’t let that get the better of us and we all knew what we had to do and that was to get a further two tries to get the bonus point which we fought for until the very end.

“The boys are in high spirits now given how well the recent games have gone and we are looking forward to the remaining games.”

Fifth placed Kirkcaldy’s promotion bid looks to be over now, their points on the day coming through Chris Mann and Dayle Turner tries and a penalty and a conversion by Craig Letham.

Newton Stewart are sixth, level on points with Kirkcaldy, after a 22-14 home win over Preston Lodge. Jamie Smith led the way with two tries with Russell Morton also crossing and Jack Gaw kicking seven points for the victors.

Glasgow Accies are 10 points clear of the drop zone, but still not completely safe after a 25-12 defeat at Hamilton Bulls. Eighth placed Bulls scored tries through Billy Simpson, Ross Inglis (2), and Andrew Wilson in the bonus point win at Laigh Bent, with Inglis kicking five points. Sean Alton and Fin Neilson scored the Accies tries, the latter kicking one conversion also.

National League Division Two results –

Falkirk 5 Gordonians 0

Stewart’s Melville 69 Whitecraigs 5

GHK 10 Dumfries Saints 13

Newton Stewart 22 Preston Lodge 14

Hamilton Bulls 25 Glasgow Accies 12

Kirkcaldy 15 Peebles 27

How it stands –

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About Gary Heatly 456 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.