Despite staging a late rally which brought them to within touching distance of the lead, Duns Colts came up short in a very entertaining Border Plate final at Netherdale.
This was the fourth match between the sides during the course of the season. Peebles had won both league matches, while Duns won the Cup match in February when the teams had faced each other during the group phase of the tournament.
Duns kicked off and in the opening minutes had Peebles under pressure, but their defence held firm. Gradually, however, Peebles worked their way upfield and a kick ahead was touched down by Duns for a 22 drop out. It was from the drop out that Peebles scored their first try, and what a soft try it was. A Peebles player caught the ball direct from the drop out, dummied the first man, and then ran 30 metres unopposed to touch down for the game’s opening score.
The conversion was missed, but only three minutes later Peebles increased their lead when a simple penalty from directly in front of the posts made it 8 - 0.
Straight from the re-start Peebles were penalised, and Dom Ginn calmly slotted the goal to get Duns back into contention.
With five minutes of the half remaining Peebles scored their second try. Their forwards were much bigger than the Duns pack, and they used the lineout catch and drive to good effect all evening. Duns were often able to sack the catcher, but nevertheless when Peebles got the drive going after a lineout they were very difficult to stop and they dotted down in the corner next to the scoreboard.
Despite being up against it in the lineout and also at the set piece, where the Duns scrum creaked all evening against the big Peebles forwards, Duns probably shaded the loose exchanges. Scrum half Murray Perrin, diminutive by comparison to his opposite number, made a break from just outside his own 22 and ran half the length of the park. The forwards then took the ball through a couple of phases before Brandon Pollock crashed over for Duns’ first try of the evening. A successful Dom Ginn conversion made it 13 - 10 to Peebles when the referee blew for half time.
Peebles kicked off in the second half and the ball was caught at full tilt by Ollie Smith who made good yards up the park. However, possession was lost and Peebles kicked ahead. A clearance kick by Duns was sliced across the field on the open prairies of Netherdale, and found two Peebles players who took advantage of a two on one overlap to score in the corner.
Dom Ginn kicked another penalty to once again peg Peebles back, and the score was now 18 - 13.
The referee had warned the Duns skipper about the penalty count at the breakdown and when his patience eventually snapped a Duns forward was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes. If it was difficult to compete with Peebles at scrum and lineout with a full complement of players it was going to be well nigh impossible one short, and so it proved. Peebles scored two tries during this period, both converted, to stretch their lead out to 32 - 13.
The first Peebles try came from their tried and tested lineout catch and drive, and the second came after a scrum 5 metres from the Duns line. Peebles wheeled the scrum slightly to the right and their number 8 picked up and drove powerfully over the line. Both tries were superbly converted from opposite sides of the ground and only a few feet in from touch.
These setbacks seemed to spur Duns on, and for the final 15 minutes or so there was only one team in it. Peebles had a player sinbinned, and just as he returned to the fray another player was shown a yellow card.
Duns put together some good stuff, with forwards and backs combining very well. One flowing move was rounded off by Scot MacEachen, who sprinted clear up the right wing and touched down in the corner, with Dom Ginn converting.
In the closing minutes Duns added their third try when Patrick Anderson dived through a melee of bodies to score by the posts. The conversion drifted wide, and at the same time the referee blew for full time, bringing a very entertaining game of rugby to a close.
The players from both sides were then presented with their medals by Ian Hair, President of the Border Semi Junior League, before the presentation of the Plate to the Peebles captain.
Many thanks to Gala RFC for allowing the match to be played at Netherdale, probably the biggest pitch many of the players from both sides had played on before. Thanks, too, to the referee Ross Mabon from Langholm.
Nine of the starting team for Duns were playing their final Colts match, and will play senior rugby next season. They will be made very welcome into the senior ranks at Duns.
Duns: Dom Ginn; Scot MacEachen, Kyle Semple, Callum Redden and Zander Martin; Patrick Anderson, Murray Perrin; Dougie Turnbull, Brandon Pollock, Elliot Paxton, Wes Hirst, Aidan McColme, Alex Watson, Michael Thomson, Lewis Craik (cap). Subs: Ollie Smith, Jack Clayworth, Angus Baker, Cameron Burnett, Ollie Manderson, Rafael Goncalves, Jack Sanderson.