DUNS entertained Linlithgow at the Hardens on Saturday in the first of the reverse fixtures in East League 1, and recorded a very welcome, if rather nervy win.
Linlithgow arrived minus the bag containing their First XV strip, and as Duns had already donned their blue kit, in deference to the away club’s usual red strip, the visitors played the match in the old Duns 2nd XV strip of red and black hoops.
Duns got off to a lively start, playing up the Hardens slope, and were rewarded with a penalty which was kicked by Keiran Wilkinson after only nine minutes. A few minutes later, second row Stuart Davies was forced to leave the field with a hip injury and was replaced by James Thorburn.
For the most part of the first half play was scrappy and Duns looked a little pedestrian. Fortunately, Linlithgow weren’t on their game either, and it wasn’t until the 34th minute before there was any addition to the scoring. A cross kick to the left gave the visitors’ wing an open run to the line and the successful conversion gave his side the lead by 7-3.
Another Duns penalty chance just before half time was missed, so at the interval the home side trailed by four points.
In the second half Duns woke up and immediately pressurised the Linlithgow line. After only one minute, good turnover ball resulted in Martin Aitchison - the Duns man of the match - crossing for a try, but the conversion attempt was missed. Another Duns penalty, this time by Dale Robertson, extended the lead to 11-7.
Midway through the half Linlithgow were in possession just outside the Duns 22. A pass in the centre was intercepted by Dale Robertson, and he set off for the opposite end of the pitch. In the old days he would have made it without any difficulty, but on this occasion he only just had the legs to get there, particularly inside the bottom 22 when the boggy ground slowed his progress.
The game was made safe by Duns in the 77th minute, when a penalty from Keiran Wilkinson extended the home side’s advantage to 19-7, and there was no further scoring.
Former Duns prop Chris Archer now hooks for Linlithgow, and because Linlithgow were wearing a strip borrowed from Duns he was presented with the number 3 shirt he wore during the match in the the clubrooms afterwards. Chris gave Duns many seasons of sterling service, often travelling long distances to train and play, and the award of his old strip was richly deserved.
Bottom club Berwick lost at home to Portobello, and with Langholm also losing Duns have leapfrogged them into eighth place in the table, with a game in hand on the clubs around them.
Saturday’s match ball was kindly sponsored by Denis Lawson Ltd, Plumber.
There is now a break from league matches until December. This coming Saturday, November 10, Duns entertain Gala YM in the Border Shield. The Shield is played on a regional basis, and is contested by clubs in Divisions 1 and 2 of the various regional leagues - each of the four regions plays down to a regional winner, who then progresses to the national final.
Because there are only seven clubs - Duns, Gala YM, Earlston, Hawick Linden, Hawick Harlequins, Langholm and Berwick - in the Borders section, it has been decided to hold a round robin tournament rather than a straight knock-out, and so each of the seven clubs will play six matches with the winner of the ‘mini-league’ going forward to the national semis. Kick off at the Hardens is at 2pm.
Team: Keiran Wilkinson; Ross Turner, Stuart Thompson, Scott Lindsay and David Hutchison; Dale Robertson (captain) and Danny Lamb; Scott McCraw, Cammy Hill, Andrew Connor, Stuart Davies, Stewart Cockburn, Chris Blaikie, Richard Burns and Martin Aitchison. The replacements were James Thorburn, Chris Williamson and Neil Graham.