DUNS 19 BERWICK 12
Duns entertained Berwick at Castle Park on Saturday as fixtures in East 1 resumed following the previous week’s postponements due to frost.
The home side were keen to make amends for their 15-6 loss at Scremerston in the reverse fixture last October and at the same time put an end to a run of five successive wins by Berwick in cross-border derby matches.
A dense, swirling fog consumed the ground from start to finish, making it almost impossible to see the entire length of the park, but conditions were otherwise perfect for the fixture, with neither frost nor wind to worry about.
Duns had all of the early possession and territory, although their only reward was three points from a penalty kicked by full back Lewis Craik after just three minutes.
Berwick then took the lead with a well-executed lineout catch and drive. They had a lineout 10 metres out from the line, threw to the middle, and then set and drove the maul over the Duns line for a textbook forwards’ try. Last man up was skipper Gareth Black and he was awarded the score. The conversion was missed, but the visitors had the lead by 5-3 with only eight minutes gone.
The match then settled into a period of relative mediocrity, with neither side seemingly able to string more than a few phases together. The match was contested almost entirely between the two 22-metre lines, with opportunities to score few and far between.
The deadlock was finally broken with five minutes of the half remaining, when Berwick were penalised for coming in at the side at a ruck on their 10 metre line. Lewis Craik stepped up and stroked the ball over to take the lead back for Duns.
Duns seemed to be energised by going in front, and from the kick-off they were straight back on to the offensive. A kick ahead was fielded by Berwick, but the return kick to touch missed its mark and was taken by Craik on half way. He beat one man, made ground into the Berwick half, and then fed Tom Swan on the right wing. Swan made further metres, and when his progress was halted he had Ewan Fleming running a supporting line on his inside.
Fleming took the pass on the 22 and then stepped beautifully inside the covering full back before diving over for the try. The try brought up 10,000 points for Duns in National League matches.
Craik popped over the conversion to give Duns the lead by 13-5 at the interval.
The second half had barely started when Duns were awarded another penalty, directly in front of the posts, and Craik kicked the three points with his easiest effort of the afternoon. Duns had scored 13 points in little more than six minutes of playing time.
With 10 minutes of the half elapsed, Berwick were awarded a penalty from kickable range, but elected to put the ball into the corner. Their faith in their forwards was rewarded with their second try of the match, as the pack caught and drove towards the Duns line.
When the maul’s forward movement was stopped, quick thinking from scrum-half Adam Hardie saw him dart over from five metres out and a successful conversion from Jamie Pick narrowed the gap to 16-12.
Almost immediately, Duns were awarded yet another penalty and Craik’s unerring boot gave his side three more points.
There was no further scoring in the closing 25 minutes of the contest, although both sides certainly had their chances.
Berwick, in particular, could have added to their points tally had they elected to kick at goal each time they were awarded a penalty, but on each occasion they eschewed the chance of three points to kick to the corner looking for tries from the lineout.
Twice the ball was overthrown into the grateful hands of a Duns defender and the danger was cleared, and on two other occasions the Duns maul coped with the Berwick drive. Had they opted for kicks at goal instead, they may well have won the game.
Right on full-time Duns had a chance to score their second try of the game, but a knock-on heralded the referee’s final whistle. That blast of the whistle marked referee David Douglas’s final act as a referee, as he has decided to retire from officiating, and a small presentation was made to him in the clubrooms after the match for his many years’ service to the game.
Berwick remain in fourth place thanks to their losing bonus point, and while Duns stay seventh they have hauled themselves further away from the relegation places. This week Duns travel to bottom club Ross High, while Berwick entertain North Berwick.
Duns: Craik; Swan, Alexander, Robertson, Burns; Fleming, Thomson; Murphy, Hume, Smith, Turnbull, Herbert, Walker, Grigg (captain) and Harkins. Replacements: Turnbull, Whellans, Tullie, Baxter.
Berwick: Hill; Douglas, Pick, Dunse, Rosie; Webster, Hardie; Eagleton, Black (captain), Gilchrist, Logan, Flint, Owens, McDougall, Forrest. Replacements: Nixon, Frost, Wilson, Pearson.