DUNDEE UNIVERSITY MEDICAL SOCIETY, or DUMS for short, were involved in The Offside Line’s game of the year for 2018 (as voted by our readers) when they battled through ‘The Beast from the East’ to take on Panmure in the Midlands Bowl Final last March. The occasion captured the imagination of our readers because it was a heroic demonstration of love for the sport at the most basic level.
The student outfit came up short on that occasion, but when the two sides clashed again at the same stage in the same competition this year, they were worthy 39-19 winners, which propelled them into the National Bowl competition, where they overcame Glasgow University Medics in last month’s semi-final to book a place in Saturday’s Finals Day celebration of club rugby at Murrayfield.
They will kick the day off at 11am when they face Aberdeenshire on the international pitch, and DUMS club President Mark Smith – a fourth year student – is expecting a vocal support.
“The medical school have really got behind us, the society is bringing a supporters’ bus, so it is going to be a great day,” he said. “Aberdeenshire are an extremely large club compared to us, but anything can happen, and we did play in a higher division last year, so you never know.”
In our first Bowl Final back in 2017 it was in terrible weather and we were well beaten up front by Blairgowrie, and it was the same in that Panmure game last year in the snow – we’re never going to have the biggest pack in the world, so we know we have to move the ball. I think Aberdeenshire know how we are going to play, and we’ve got a fair idea of how they are going to play, so it is going to be a bit of a clash of styles.”
DUMS are an interesting amalgam between a typical student union side and a bona fide rugby club, who have carved out a successful niche for themselves in the Dundee rugby landscape.
“We joined the Midland Leagues in 2013. Before that we played in a student development league but we were only getting seven or eight games a year and we decided that if we wanted to take it forward then we are going to need 15 or 16 games a year, so that was the thinking behind it,” explains Smith.
“Initially it was all medics but now a lot of guys who were playing University 2nd XV, or were on the fringes of the 1st XV, have decided they want to come and play with us, I think because they prefer Saturday to Wednesday rugby. I would say we are about 70 percent medics, but the team at the weekend will have two dentists, a nurse and probably four or five non-medics, including our captain (Ewen Cullen, who studies anatomy) and vice-captain (Connall Grieve, who is studying accounting).
“When I first got involved during my pre-med year in 2013, we’d be getting 16 or 17 guys out for our league games in Caley League Four, but it has just grown and grown, to the point where we have nearly 50 players and we should really be thinking about putting a 2nd XV out.
“We’re not affiliated at all with the university sports union, although we do have a great relationship with the rugby team. If they’re short, we’ll help them out, and vice-versa. But we’ve played at Panmure since 2014 because they had a spare pitch and the university pitches were quite expensive, and we generally do our own thing.
“We don’t own our pitch, we don’t have a coach – the captain and vice-captain take care of training – so we are a bit of Baabaas team.”
After winning Midlands Three last season, DUMS finished a solid fifth in Midlands Two this year, with nine wins and seven losses from 16 matches played.
“We had a big group of fifth year medics who left last year, but fortunately we got a big group of first years coming into the team, and we have only one or two moving on this summer, so we should be in pretty good shape next season,” says Smith. “With Blairgowrie – who were far and away the best team in the league – moving up, it is going to be very competitive next year. I’m not sure we would really want to be promoted to Caley One, but it could happen by accident.”
That’s a concern for another day. The immediate priority is Saturday and getting as strong a team as possible on the park, which is a challenge complicated by it not being a great time of year for students.
“The first and second years have had exams this week, although it doesn’t seem to have put anyone off,” explains Smith. “We’re still getting 30 to 40 guys down to training, so fair play to them for keeping up their commitment.
“We submitted our team-sheet to the SRU on Monday, but there could be a few changes. There are a few guys finishing their exams on Friday, so we’ll have to make sure they’re sober.
“It’ll be a great day. A few of the boys have put four or five years of work to get here so we’re going to enjoy it whatever happens.”