Dumfries Saints 29-26 Falkirk: Thrilling return to competitive rugby action
After a sabbatical of 18 months due to coronavirus, Falkirk Rugby Club finally made a long awaited return to league action at Dumfries Saints on Saturday.
And this Tennent’s National League Division 2 clash turned out to be a topsy-turvy affair, with Falkirk leading at half-time before Dumfries fought back to eventually prevail 29-26.
Falkirk director of rugby Kenny Grieve said: “There are still things to work on. Defensively we were pretty good in the first half and our work in training paid dividends.
"We probably made a couple of poor decisions at crucial times which allowed Dumfries to get back into the game early in the second half.
"But in the main we were quite happy with the performance. There’s not many teams will go down to Dumfries and come away with any kind of points at all and we came away with two bonus points.
"One for scoring four tries and one for finishing within seven points of them.
"While we were disappointed we didn’t get the win, it was a decent start.”
An incredible statistic – considering the players could have been forgiven for being rusty after so long away from competitive rugby – saw the ball remain in play for 24 of the first 26 minutes.
The first try arrived on 20 minutes when Falkirk turned the ball over and Harry Russell went down almost underneath the posts. Duncan Tomkins kicked the conversion. Things soon got even better for the visitors when Russell scored his second try – again converted by Tomkins – to make it 14-0 after 33 minutes.
But their lead was reduced to nine points at half-time as Dumfries landed a try scored from a driving lineout after the ball had been kicked to the corner, conversion missed.
The hosts came out strongly in the second half and scored two converted tries to go 19-14 ahead.
A successful Dumfries penalty extended their lead to 22-14 before another converted score increased their lead to 15 points.
Falkirk battled on manfully in the final 15 minutes and sustained attack was rewarded when they were awarded a penalty try after a drive following a lineout. Dumfries were penalised for collapsing the driving maul 5m out and had a player sin binned.
For Falkirk, hooker Andy Gillespie also had to leave the field after being penalised for committing a crocodile roll.
Trailing 29-21, Falkirk kept the pressure on and 1st XV debutant Tom Main scored a try. Falkirk were now going for the win but sadly they conceded a penalty and Dumfries kicked the ball out of play to end the match.
Despite losing their league opener, Falkirk stalwart Grieve is optimistic about the season ahead.
"I think if we get things right we could be challenging or certainly in the top five,” he said.
"If all rules apply as previously, it’s supposed to be the top two teams in the league who get promoted.
"I would hope that we can get in the mix for that,” Grieve added. "I would be quite happy with a top five finish but promotion ultimately would be our goal if we could possibly get it.
"It just depends on how the season pans out. If you get two or three good results you get on a bit of a front footing and before you know it you are still winning even when you’re playing badly.
"You get onto a roll and you never know what can happen.”
Falkirk continue their league campaign this Saturday with a home game against Kirkcaldy, kick-off 3pm.
Grieve said: “That will be just as tough as Dumfries. Kirkcaldy are renowned for being strong up front in the forward pack with some good backs.
"They’ve had a bit of transition in the last few years so they’ve got a younger side. There are no easy games in this league.”