Duns finish league campaign with another hard-fought win

Lewis Craik
Lewis Craik

PENICUIK 17 
DUNS 30

Duns completed their East 1 league programme with a trip to Penicuik, the first time they have played there in just over six years, and returned with all five points following a dour match which only fleetingly sparked into life.

A warm spring sun and only a very light breeze suggested that the sizable crowd were set for a feast of end-of-season running rugby.

That suggestion was quickly knocked on the head, however, as the playing surface resembled a paddy field of thick, clawing mud which made sprinting difficult and changing direction at speed almost impossible.

Duns played up the slope in the first half, and for the opening 10 minutes or so were on the back foot but Penicuik could not break through.

The visitors came more into the match after weathering the early storm from the home side, but were hampered when Lewis Craik had to retire temporarily due to a head knock. During his absence Dale Robertson gave Duns the lead with a penalty goal.

It took 25 minutes for the opening try to arrive, and it signalled a flurry of scoring by the visitors which took the match away from Penicuik by half time. Duns had a scrum 8 metres out from the line, from which No.8 Bert Grigg picked up and broke on the blind side. He had the strength to break through a couple of tackles and cross in the corner.

Five minutes later Penicuik fumbled in midfield and the loose ball was picked up by a Duns player. A popped pass found Bert Grigg in open prairie, and he galloped over from fully 40 metres. The mud did its best to slow him down, and he was a very tired laddie by the time he reached the try line.

Dale Robertson’s simple conversion took him to 1,149 league points for Duns, exactly equal with the previous record holder Stuart Barton.

Almost straight from the restart kick, Duns put up a high kick-and-chase deep into the Penicuik 22.

The covering home winger made a hash of gathering the ball, which bounced kindly for Grigg – the first of the Duns players to arrive on the scene – and he picked up to cross the line yet again. A hat-trick of tries in barely eight minutes is no mean feat, and means that Grigg finishes as the club’s leading try scorer for the season.

On the stroke of half-time Penicuik were rewarded with a try of their own – no less than they deserved – when their stand off crossed from close range. He received a nasty bang to the head whilst scoring, but thankfully was able to return to the fray. A successful conversion made it 20-5 at the break.

With the second half only a couple of minutes old, a Penicuik clearance kick was gathered by full-back Hayden Martin. He made progress as far as the 22, where a pass to Lewis Craik allowed the latter to dance through a couple of attempted tackles for the bonus point try.

Within minutes, Duns were on the attack again. A penalty was awarded just outside the home 22, where Craik dinked a pinpoint chip to the corner of the park.

Josh Herbert, alert to the possibility of a score, had raced up his wing and he caught the ball on the full and dived over the line all in one motion for a superbly taken try.

The conversion was again missed, but at 30-7 ahead the Duns players knew the match was won – even with half an hour remaining – and their attention seemed to turn towards their end-of-season night out in Edinburgh.

The bench was emptied, with Alex Orr, James Thorburn and Colin Tait all coming into the pack and Callum Redden going to left wing, and all urgency and fluidity seemed to desert the team. As a result, there was a litany of errors an no continuity to the match.

Penicuik scored in the corner with 15 minutes remaining to narrow the gap to 30-12, and scored again almost at the death.

Hayden Martin had the ball for Duns, but his long, floated pass was picked off by Penicuik right wing David Zavaroni and he crossed unopposed in the corner.

It was fitting that Zavaroni – Penicuik’s captain – should score the final try of the match as it was also his final game of rugby after a senior playing career of around 30 years.

A presentation was made to him in the clubrooms after the match to mark his almost unparalleled service to the sport of rugby union – thoroughly deserved, too.

Duns thus maintained their unbeaten run in 2017, including six league wins on the spin. They currently sit fourth in the table, and will finish there unless Berwick are able to win their final two fixtures.

Duns: Martin, Woodhouse, Alexander, Robertson, Herbert, Craik, Lamb (captain), D Turnbull, Harkins, Smith, S Turnbull, A Tullie, S Tullie, Grigg, Walker. Replacements: Orr, Thorburn, Tait, Redden.