Duns travelled up the A1 to Pennypit Park, Prestonpans, last saturday to take on Preston Lodge, as East Regional League Division 1 reached its half way point.
Preston Lodge sat at the top of the table with eight bonus point wins from eight matches played, including a 108 - 10 thumping of Hawick Harlequins the previous weekend in a match which was cut short by nearly ten minutes. Duns, conversely, were propping up the table with only one win from eight matches, and there were many amongst the home support who had turned up expecting another try-fest.
Duns had other ideas, however, and whilst they only rarely threatened the home line they put up a gutsy defensive performance to restrict their larger, bulkier hosts to four tries in each half. The young Duns pack, in particular, tackled themselves almost to a standstill and should be very proud of their afternoon’s work against a side which will undoubtedly rise quickly through the leagues after being stuck in East 1 for too many seasons due to a succession of league re-structures which have hampered their upward progression.
There was a series of squally showers as the teams warmed up, but by kick off time they had passed, although a brisk wind blew down the park throughout the match and it was bitterly cold.
It took PL ten minutes to break down the Duns defence, and a converted try by their outside centre was quickly followed by a penalty to put the home side 10 points in front.
The big Preston Lodge pack then got in on the act, with a pushover try from a scrum 5 being followed by another pushover score, this time from a lineout catch and drive. Both scores were well converted in the blustery conditions.
On the stroke of half time PL scored their best try of the match, the whole side going through the phases before Duns ran out of cover and their scrum half ran over from 20 metres out. Another successful conversion took the lead to 31 - nil at the break.
Duns kicked off in the second half with the wind at their backs, and for ten minutes were the better side. PL conceded a series of penalties in this period, with the referee warning their captain that any further infringements would result in a yellow card. From one penalty, Stuart Thomson kicked to the corner and after a successful lineout take by John Walker - the Duns lineout produced a steady supply of good ball all afternoon - Danny Lamb at scrum half took on the PL back row and battled his way through a line of defenders nearly twice his size for an excellent individual try. He converted his own score.
Preston Lodge gradually gained the ascendancy and scored tries at regular intervals as the half wore on. Three unconverted tries were followed by a fourth on the stroke of full time, and as the touch judges raised their flags the referee blew for the end of the contest.
Despite losing by 53 - 7 there were a lot of positives for Duns to take from the match. Preston Lodge will win most of their home matches by a bigger margin than they achieved against Duns, and with Langholm, Portobello and the two Hawick teams still to play there this season they will undoubtedly have a massive points differential once the second half of the season has been completed.
The Duns team was :- Iain Sim; Ross Turner, Jamie Semple, Noel Hooke and David Hutchison; Stuart Thomson and Danny Lamb; Scott McCraw ( captain ), Cammy Hill, Clayton Rowland, James Thorburn, John Walker, Stevie Crawford, Colin Tait and Graham Letham. The replacements were Scott Turnbull, Nathan Chisholm, Jamie Thompson and Johnnie Thorburn.
This week Duns take a break from league duty as they kick off their Shield campaign away to Berwick. The Shield is once again being played on a round robin format, with further matches to follow against Langholm, Hawick Harlequins, Hawick Linden and Earlston. The league winner progresses to the national semi finals.
The fixture at Scremerston kicks off at 12.30pm due to the Scotland fixture against Japan in the afternoon. The Seconds and Colts will also be at Berwick, so please try to get along to support all three teams.