by Adam Drummond
INDISCIPLINE from the visitors handed victory to Berwick in the first local derby of the season.
Duns, who were reduced to 13 men at one stage, conceded silly penalties in dangerous positions and were punished by the boot of Matthew Hackett.
Had it not been for those costly mistakes, the half time score could have been much closer at a blustery, and occasionally very wet Scremerston.
Berwick kicked off with a warm breeze at their backs and the game opened with both teams enjoying attacking spells of play.
But, as Berwick hooker Gareth Black crashed through the Duns defence he was caught high and Hackett fired the resultant penalty over after just five minutes.
With the help of the wind, Berwick managed to get some hefty clearances down field after repeatedly putting a halt to attacks from the visitors.
Duns were looking to play an open and expansive game, with attacks orchestrated by stand off Ged Lamb and centres Scott Lindsay and Dale Robertson. The three combined well and looked the most dangerous players on the park, although Berwick’s defence held strong.
As good as Berwick’s defence was, Duns often ended their own attacks with handling errors or penalties at the breakdown.
It took 16 minutes before either try line was really ever threatened, and in the end Gareth Hill’s dash through the Duns defence was scuppered by the referee’s whistle following some crossing.
Five minutes later Duns were again penalised inside their own 22, this time for a deliberate knock on as they tried to break up a flowing Berwick move. Hackett again knocked over the penalty.
It wasn’t long before Hackett added another three points, after the referee pulled up a Duns tackler at the breakdown.
With a very heavy rain shower half way through the first half and an increasing wind, Duns found it hard going playing into the weather.
Although Robertson and Lindsay broke the Berwick defence on occasion nothing came of their efforts and another Berwick penalty took the hosts to a 12-point lead when Duns captain Lindsay saw yellow for not releasing the Berwick attacker as the home side pushed forward.
About a minute later Duns were down to 13 men - Richard Burns shown yellow for dragging down Gareth Hill after the stand off chipped over the Duns defence.
The second half was a dull affair, and although the weather improved somewhat the rugby failed to do so. Ten minutes in Robertson missed a long range penalty effort, but made up for it soon after with a much easier chance to get Duns on the scoreboard.
Berwick’s Jack Webster just slipped a penalty wide, as did Hackett with 10 minutes to go.
With Duns forcing the game in search of a try, mistakes continued to be made, while Berwick seemed happy to defend and break when they could. With just two minutes left Berwick hooker Black was sin-binned for handling in the ruck, but the result was already safe.
In the end, Duns’ indiscipline cost them, but they can take some positives from a solid display. Their lineout was outstanding and the backline looked dangerous.
However, Berwick’s defence held strong and their pack can be proud of their efforts in the scrum, which had the Duns eight on the back foot.
After the game, Berwick manager Owen Weatherhead said: “I’m very happy with that, it was not the best game of rugby to watch, but our desire was good and the effort was there. We made hard work of it, but I’m very, very happy and really enjoyed that win.
“Gareth Hill was playing his first competitive game at fly half and Lee Douglas came into the forwards from centre and we were colossal all over the park, from one to 18.
“All credit to Duns, their two centres looked dangerous, and I’m happy they never scored a try - neither did we, but I don’t really care. England won ugly and we did the same.”
Despite the defeat, Duns coach Peter Gallagher was pleased with his team’s performance, in the first half at least. “I though we played exceptionally well in the first half. We got good quality ball from all phases and used the ball well, but we made a few silly mistakes in the ‘red zone’ which meant Berwick, with one big boot, put us back into our own 22.
“I was relatively happy at half time with the 12-point deficit knowing we could put pressure on Berwick with the wind behind us. But, we didn’t get the quality ball in the second half to put Berwick under that pressure and we started to play a game we should’t be playing. We got into a dogfight with the Berwick forwards and that’s not our normal game.”
Berwick: R McFarlene, J Webster, M Hackett, N Graham, T Riddell, G Hill, J Patterson: D Eagleton, G Black, J Young, A Grieve, G Logan, L Douglas, D Law, C Young. Subs: D Ord, M Laidlaw, T McCall.
Duns: D Hutchison, S Thompson, D Robertson, S Lindsay, A Baxter, G Lamb, D Lamb: F Howie, C Hill, M Burns, J Thorburn, J Weir, R Burns, D Ivison, R Nimmo. Subs: S Blaikie, J Renton, D Andrew.
Referee: C Reavley