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1st XV Captain’s Report

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A steely eyed band of ambitious young Saints assembled on University Park for pre-season under a sweltering August sun. The Colosseum of BT Murrayfield shimmered on the horizon, with the promise of adulation and veneration for those saints fortunate enough to carry the standard of St Andrews in to battle. Wafting in on a fresh breeze was incoming Director of Rugby Scott Lawson, whose years of experience at the highest level of the professional game quickly helped imbue a tactical clarity across the whole club, as he briskly got to work shaping the programme to a very promising mould. Utilising Scotty’s recent stint on Tyneside, we got our pre season campaign underway with a narrow loss to Newcastle 1st XV, hugely encouraging signs against a team whose last university fixture was a promotion playoff for the BUCS ‘Super Rugby’ league. An insightful hit out against Durham propelled us into the Varsity weekend, where another fantastic occasion was thoroughly well enjoyed. The 1st XV, never shy of a challenge, dared to concede 19 points before deciding to play, whereupon 3 tries went unanswered but unconverted to narrow the gap to 4. Despite relentless light blue pressure, Edinburgh charged down a low altitude clearance missile to cement the match at 26-15, USTARFC were left disappointed but with chins held firmly aloft.

And so to the league, stumbling back into the regional echelons of student rugby is rarely a seamless transition. Mentality is dogged by the indignation of relegation, and irrepressible whiffs of superiority complex. However, in the self effacing ethos of Saints rugby we initially played the role of prize trophy well, industriously getting heads down and eluding ensnarement to familiar old Scottish foes. A bonus point win on the road against Dundee preceded a home victory versus a fired up Edinburgh second team. Yet the heady cricket scores some had dared to predict were not transpiring, and our indoor fixture at the Oriam against first-time fixture Heriot-Watt was as sobering as walking down Canal Street on a Saturday night. It took a powerful last minute line break and dive over the whitewash by vice-skipper Rob Lind to assume the lead and seal the fixture with the jammiest of bonus point victories. Aberdeen visited us at home and we failed to be clinical during multiple jaunts into their 22, allowing the proud granite polishers to claim the spoils for the first time since 2014.

A chastening away loss to Stirling in the cup ensured our saintly humility, yet did little to diminish the spirit and belief that still permeates throughout the team. It has been difficult at times to watch our place in the Scottish hierarchy falter after the halcyon days of late, yet with a capable and committed younger contingent pushing through under Scott’s enjoyable leadership, I feel sure that St Andrews rugby will once more return to giddy heights of performance. A small student body is the perennial impediment, particularly when injuries skim off the cream of the playing crop, an issue we have been playing through in recent weeks. Post Christmas I look forward to rejoining a rejuvenated ensemble of well filled out men, flexing limbs unshackled from the bonds of plaster cast and ready to launch one final charge for the league, for the club.

 

Roland Walker

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