Things are looking up for Duns after winning basement battle

Lewis Craik converts for Duns
Lewis Craik converts for Duns

DUNS 23

ROSS HIGH 13

Duns entertained Ross High in an East 1 match at Castle Park on Saturday and won the battle of the bottom two clubs in the table.

Ross High had lost all five matches to date, although the two bonus points they had scored in those defeats meant that they sat just above Duns in the table on points difference. Duns also had two points, secured in their away draw to Linlithgow two weeks previously.

The home side had the luxury of being able to field something like a settled team, with only four changes to the squad of 19 from the trip to Berwick seven days previously. Ross Turner came into the side on the wing and John Walker played in the back row, while Nathan Chisholm and Charlie Woodhouse took their places on the bench.

Ross High kicked off, and immediately Duns were on the offensive. It took the home side only four minutes to open the scoring, and after the forwards had taken the ball forward by 15 metres or so through several phases Ewan Fleming – getting his first start for Duns in the stand-off berth – broke into the Ross High 22. When his progress was halted he found Mark Alexander – recently returned to the area after a spell at Aberdeenshire – with an inside pass. Alexander switched the direction of the attack, then jinked past a couple of tacklers to score his first try for Duns between the posts. Lewis Craik converted.

After this whirlwind start, the match settled into a rhythm which was maintained for most of the remainder of the contest. Ross High had more structure to their play than Duns, but the home defence was excellent throughout. When Duns were in possession they were often plagued by poor decision-making and bad handling which limited their attacking opportunities.

Midway through the half a chip ahead by Ross High saw no fewer than three Duns players looking at each other to decide who would field the ball. Ross Turner eventually picked it up, but he sclaffed his kick to touch and it went straight to a Ross High player with 10 or so Duns players offside. The Ross High full-back put in a perfectly weighted chip of his own, and a kindly bounce allowed him to pick the ball up on the half-volley for a super individual score. An easy conversion tied the scores at 7-7.

Try as they might, Duns could not add to their points tally until injury time in the first half. By this stage the home side had lost skipper Allen Whellans with a recurrence of a long-standing shoulder injury, and his replacement was Nathan Chisholm, who came on at hooker, while Gordon Harkins moved to the back row.

On the stroke of half-time Craik intercepted a pass on the half way line and made good ground into the visitors’ 22. The ball went along the line to the right, and when Duns set up a ruck only five metres out Dale Robertson exploited the lack of bodies on the blind side to stroll over for his 99th first XV try. He had the presence of mind to come round behind the posts to make sure that Craik’s conversion found its mark and Duns lead by 14-7 at the break.

Into the second half, it quickly became apparent that the team which made the fewer mistakes would go on to secure the win. Neither side was able to cross the other’s try line, and the Duns defence in particular was impressive as they kept the Ross High attacking threat at bay.

The only scoring after half-time came from the boots of the two kickers, with five successful shots at goal over the 40 minutes. Craik was on target three times for Duns, with his opposite number slotting two goals for Ross High. Craik’s final effort came on the stroke of full-time, with Duns leading by 20-13. Had the shot at goal not found it’s mark Ross High would have secured a losing bonus point, but the touch judges raised their flags and the visitors finished the match pointless. Quite how important that point might be at the end of the season remains to be seen.

The four points secured for the win see Duns leap-frog their visitors to ninth in the table, and with matches to come in the next three weeks against seventh and eighth-placed Forrester and Penicuik, there is every reason for optimism in the home camp. Forrester are the next opponents when Duns travel to the west of Edinburgh this saturday – kick-off is at 3 pm.

Duns: Robertson; Turner, Craik, Alexander, Burns; Fleming, Martin; Turnbull, Harkins, Smith, Turnbull, Herbert, Walker, Grigg, Whellans (captain ). Replacements: Chisholm, Murphy, Woodhouse, Swan.