ALAN Brown has perhaps ridden the scariest club rugby rollercoaster in a 12-year career with Dundee, but there was no hiding his pain after Saturday’s 39-38 loss to Hawick.
It was writ large across the big tighthead prop’s features. The introduction of the RBS Premiership play-off did what the SRU hoped it would, injecting excitement into the end-of-season denouement, but, coming nearly a month after it was scheduled, it merely prolonged Dundee’s misery.
A good try by Richie McIver, a stand-out for Dundee on Saturday, followed by three penalty tries earned by the Dundee pack and one by Brown himself, ensured a dramatic finale, but there was a sense in Dundee’s lack of intensity at key moments that too many in navy blue had given up the fight a month ago.
The season after finishing second to Melrose in the RBS Premiership and bringing British and Irish Cup rugby to Mayfield, Dundee were the losers in a hugely competitive top flight. They defeated Melrose home and away among seven victories and finished 12 points clear of Boroughmuir and just six points short of fourth place, but a leaky defence and big defeats pushed them to second bottom of the division. And, on Saturday, the momentum of a team on the slide met that of one on the rise.
Brown admitted: “This is devastating. It took so long to get to the Premiership, a lot of building, right from Premier Three with Ian Rankin, and when we lost a lot of boys five years ago Ranks built the squad up again and made us the second-best team in Scotland.
“But things have gone wayward this season. The British and Irish Cup brought extra pressure, but that was good for us. We’ve just lost some form this season; some guys not playing as well as last season; the pack not starting the season well; we’ve lost our way a bit.
“This is a horrible way for Ranks to leave. He’s in that dressing-room, very emotional. I don’t know where we go now. We’ll lose players probably.”
Brown revealed that the players are coming together this week to plan ahead and try to persuade each other not to abandon ship when Dundee rugby needs support.
“Looking at the positive, if we could keep everyone, then maybe the National League could be a learning one for us,” he added.
“It might not be a bad thing to get knocked down, and for Colin Robertson [new head coach] to come in, build up the squad again the way he wants to and then challenge for a title, and promotion.”