LANGHOLM travelled through to Duns on Saturday for the first time in almost seven years and clinched victory by a single point in a very closely fought encounter.
The early pressure was all Duns and the game was played in the Langholm 22, but resolute defending by the visitors prevented any points on the board. Several times the Dingers were held up short of the line, the wrong option was often taken and scoring opportunities were lost. On 15 minutes with Duns again close to their opponents try line and with a penalty advantage, the referee saw some foul play, second row Stewart Cockburn was shown a yellow card and the penalty was reversed.
At the midpoint of the half Scott McCraw entered the fray at prop, Allen Whellans moved into hooker to replace Cammy Hill. Duns continued to press despite being a man down and Dale Robertson had a penalty attempt at goal but the ball hit the post and bounced back into play.
Langholm to their credit defended resolutely against the slope and elements but were unable to show anything in attack and were rarely out of their own half.
The home side’s dominance was eventually rewarded on 35 minutes with an excellent try from Keiran Wilkinson. Langholm kicked ahead, the ball was retrieved by Richard Burns who made yards and passed to the stand-off still in his own half. Wilkinson then beat several defenders to cross for the try without a hand laid on him. Robertson’s conversion made the score 7-0.
Langholm’s response was immediate. Duns knocked on from the kick off, the Dumfriesshire men won the scrum and kicked into the corner, the ball was guddled by a home defender and the Langholm winger Gavin Campbell dived on the ball to dot down for his side’s opening score. The conversion from the touchline was missed, bringing the half time score to Duns 7 Langholm 5.
With the amount of possession and territory the home side should have been more than just two points up and now faced the strengthening wind up The Hardens slope.
At the start of the second period Colin Tait entered the contest in the centre, Dale Robertson moving to full back, David Hutchison reverting to his accustomed wing berth. Jamie Renton moved to the back row with Chris Williamson making way.
The pattern of play remained similar to the first period with Duns having most of the ball in their opponents half, any turn-over, however, was kicked deep into the Dingers’ half on the wind. Duns did get close to the try line on several occasions and with overlaps apparent out wide, continually bundled the ball close to the breakdown. Langholm’s defence during the entire contest was superb, Keith Davidson at stand-off and Number 8 Steven Nicol marshalling their side well.
Ten minutes into the half, Duns did unlock the defence, Keiran Wilkinson chipped ahead over the cover into the goal area, Dale Robertson won the race to dive on the ball for Duns second try of the afternoon, Dale converted for a 14-5 lead.
Richard Burns was replaced by Dane Ivison and Duns seemed to have found some form with some fluid rugby combining forwards and backs, but sadly it was not to last.
After 17 minutes Langholm responded positively and had their best spell of pressure in the Duns half. A series of drives brought them into the home 22, a penalty was awarded, scrum-half Mark Young took the quick tap and squeezed over at the posts. Niall Cubbon’s conversion brought the scores to within two points again.
Langholm gained in confidence and took the lead for the first time with a successful Cubbon penalty.
Hooker Cammy Hill returned in place of Scott McCraw with Allen Whellans moving back to prop.
It took Duns five minutes to regain the lead with a well struck penalty into the wind from Dale Robertson, but again the visitors responded immediately. Langholm’s kick-off was again knocked-on by a Duns player to give the Dumfriesshire side possession in the Duns half. Hands in a ruck by the home side in front the posts gave centre Cubbon accepted the opportunity to restore his team’s one point advantage with his second penalty.
Richard Burns returned to the fray for Ivison, in the hope that his ball-carrying would spark some life into the Duns challenge. For the remaining 10 minutes of the contest The Dingers pressed for the all important score. Yet again they came close but were thwarted by Langholm’s defenders. Deep into to time added on Keiran Wilkinson attempted a drop-goal but his kick drifted wide and the contest finished Duns 17 Langholm 18.
Duns will reflect that it was a game they should have won and will have to pick themselves up next week for a trip to the Capital against Portobello.
Saturday’s match ball was kindly sponsored by Anderson Engineering, Clockmill, Duns.
Duns: David Hutchison, Andrew Baxter, Dale Robertson, Kevin Aitchison and Jamie Renton, Keiran Wilkinson and Ben Black, Allen Whellans, Cammy Hill and Andrew Connor, Stewart Cockburn and Duncan Budge (captain), Chris Williamson, Richard Burns and Chris Blaikie, replacements were Scott McCraw, Dane Ivison, Colin Tait and Ross Turner.