Saturday 16th October : Park Farm 

Strength in depth. 

You either have it or you don’t and I sincerely believe Stewart's Melville do for despite being without several regulars through injury or unavailability on Saturday, the entire squad rose to the challenge of a well drilled Dumfries outfit who ultimately came out on top. As a Club they will doubtless feel that they are back on track after their unbeaten run had come to an end last week.

In what could only be described as tropical conditions at Park Farm, in contrast to the previous encounter, SM got things underway. Dumfries collected well and although they were restrained in their own half for a significant period, they eventually managed to work their way up the park assiduously to the halfway line and beyond. With a penalty giving them some further advantage, more territory, a line- out and a simple forward drive , they were over the line. 

Ten minutes played Dumfries 5 – Stew Mel 0.

Not the start SM were hoping for having spent the majority of that time within the Dumfries half. But the hosts heads were well up regaining and retaining possession once more. This time they were looking for width and the second try soon came in the corner. Like the first however unconverted and with fifteen minutes on the clock, the scoreboard read Dumfries 10 – Stew Mel 0.

A wake-up call perhaps and with a bit territory and a favourable penalty award, it was SM who now were given the opportunity to attack the Dumfries line which they did relentlessly varying their options. Prior to Dumfries’s second try, Darren Miller was forced to leave the action temporarily with James Bradley manning up in the front row. Unfortunately, his afternoon was also cut short succumbing to an injury early on with Darren being forced, bravely, to return. 

This meant further reshuffling being necessary with Adam Greig joining the forwards and finding himself in an opportune position to get over the line for the first and only SM try of the afternoon. Euan Bowen converted. 

Thirty minutes in Dumfries 10 - Stew Mel 7

The score certainly added confidence to the visitors as pressure was exerted although was well soaked up by the hosts, their only consequential price being a penalty and three points. 

Half time Dumfries 10 – Stew Mel 10

As the SM bench was now depleted, and the second half well underway, there was immediate and sustained pressure from Dumfries and they were over once more with around forty-five mins played

Dumfries 17 – Stew Mel 10

Stew Mel had to use whatever resources they had at their disposal and in whatever position demanded. Make no mistake this was a gutsy performance. Their share of possession however was not as they would have liked but did manage a promising sortie into their opponent's half only to lose possession allowing Dumfries to resort to the big boot tactic. 

This however gave some temporary possession and a penalty, in close range, was soon awarded and Happy duly pulled the trigger. Sixty minutes in Dumfries 17 – Stew Mel 13 

At this point the game was certainly on a knife edge but unfortunately possession was lost and in another impressive passage of play, Dumfries found gaps in the by now stretched Stew Mel defence and along with slick hands, the next score was inevitable and at sixty-five minutes Dumfries 22 – Stew Mel 13

The gap was now significant but still all to play for. Another penalty came SM’s way after more pressure and some infringements from Dumfries, narrowing the gap as significantly as it had been widened earlier. At seventy minutes it was Dumfries 22 – Stew Mel 16. 

The spirited revival at this juncture was soon quashed as Dumfries scored once more and in the dying moments, with uncontested scrums, it was all over. 

Full time Dumfries 27 – Stew Mel 16.

It was certainly a tough game and an exciting one at that. On reflection Dumfries probably deserved their victory particularly the way they played in the second half with the Steele/Miller show on display. There were, as always, encouraging signs from SM. Euan “Happy” Morrison was back in fine form in open play, and of course with his reliable boot and thankfully this time avoided a trip to Dumfries Royal Infirmary. The forwards gave it their best despite injuries, uncontested scrums, and assistance from their backs who also had to adapt accordingly to positional changes. Willie Malcolm was once more at the forefront of SM’s attacks but could only do so much against a formidable defence. It was good to see Michael Miller back albeit not perhaps in his favoured position. 

Home fixture on Saturday against Falkirk - hopeful we can get the show back on the road.

Kevin Murchie