Dingers show their strength to grind out important victory

Keiran Wilkinson touches down between the posts for Duns
Keiran Wilkinson touches down between the posts for Duns

DUNS 15 
FORRESTER 13

Duns entertained Forrester at Castle Park in the latest round of fixtures in BT East Regional League Division 1, and ground out a hard-fought win against previously free-scoring opponents to keep up the pressure on Hawick Harlequins and North Berwick at the top of the table.

Duns kicked off on a very mild, still, October afternoon, but a heavy shower of rain half an hour or so beforehand meant that the ball was slippery and this contributed to an error-strewn contest with knock-ons a-plenty from both sides.

Forrester didn’t have a huge pack, but they were well drilled and had perhaps more structure to their game than Duns.

They kept possession well, went through the phases well, and were a threat whenever the ball got to the wing.

They took the lead after only 10 minutes when patient build-up play eventually created an overlap on the right and their wing crossed in the corner. An excellent conversion from the touchline gave the visitors a 7-0 lead, and Duns knew they were in a game.

Duns picked up the tempo of their game after that early setback, and came more into the match, although they were still being hampered by some uncharacteristic handling errors in attacking positions.

From a scrum 5 to the home side, deep inside the Forrester 22, Richard Hume at No.8 picked up and barged over for his third try of the season. The conversion attempt was missed and so Duns still trailed by two points.

The home side were playing very well now, and were straight back onto the attack inside the visitors’ 22.

A forward pass by Duns only five metres or so from the line gave Forrester an opportunity to relieve the pressure from a scrum, and although they secured possession at the set piece their clearance kick to touch failed to find its mark. The ball was taken by Lewis MacAndrew and after heading infield a short pass found Keiran Wilkinson running a great line from full back, and he sliced through the visitors’ defence to score between the sticks. Dale Robertson’s conversion was good, and Duns had the lead for the first time at 12-7.

For the remainder of the first half Forrester threw all they had at Duns, but resilient defence kept the home try line intact. The visitors did score a penalty from in front of the posts almost on the stroke of half time and the teams turned round with Duns ahead by 12-10.

The second half was just as keenly contested as the first, but clear scoring opportunities were much fewer and further between, with the game for the most part being played between the 22 metre lines.

Duns ought to have scored when Michael Thompson burst through from close range, but the ball escaped his grasp with the line at his mercy.

With 25 minutes gone, Duns were awarded a try, but after the referee had consulted the TMO ( well, James Royan, who was running touch for Duns ) he reversed his decision.

Gavin Young put in a speculative kick and chase, and the Forrester full-back seemed determined to let the ball run over the goalline and touch down for a 22 rather than pick it up and kick to touch.

In the end Young, who had followed up his own kick, and the defending player dived on the ball almost simultaneously with the Forrester player’s touch coming just a split second sooner than Young’s firmer grasp of the ball. The referee correctly awarded a 22m drop-out, and Forrester breathed a sigh of relief.

Perhaps spurred on by that let-off, Forrester went onto the offensive and were awarded a penalty with less than 10 minutes remaining. A good goal from long range gave the visitors the lead at 13-12.

With time running out, and really no-one knew how much time remained because the referee’s watch had stopped working, Duns were awarded a penalty on the 10-metre line directly in front of the posts.

Some ill-timed backchat by a Forrester forward saw the referee march the penalty 10m closer to the Forrester line from where Dale Robertson held his nerve to kick the goal to retake the lead.

All was not yet done, however, and Forrester had a gilt edged chance to take the honours on the stroke of full-time. They seemed destined to score with an overlap on the right but a great tackle in the Duns centre saw the ball dislodged and the referee signalled first a knock-on by Forrester and then full-time.

Great relief from players and supporters alike, and Duns are now clear in third place in the league table.

Next week Duns are on the road with a match at old friends Livingston – kick-off at Almond Park is at 3 pm.

Duns: Wilkinson, Marshall, Young, Robertson, MacAndrew, Fleming, D Lamb; Murphy, Hill, Smith (captain), D Orr, A Orr, Walker, Hume, Thompson. Replacements: Melrose, Turnbull, Seed, Douglas.

On Friday, November 17 a fundraising dinner will be held in the clubrooms in aid of Doddie Weir’5 Trust.

The Trust, making use of Doddie’s jersey number in the title, has been set up to support the former Scotland and British & Irish Lions player in his fight with Motor Neurone Disease, and also to raise funds for research into MND and to provide grants for people living with the condition.

Tickets are going fast, but some are still available at £40 each – please contact club president Eric Robertson to reserve your place.