Berwick survive late Dunbar onslaught

Berwick RFC vs Dunbar. Will Opwood for Berwick.
Berwick RFC vs Dunbar. Will Opwood for Berwick.

Berwick 21, Dunbar 20

BERWICK ended up clinging on desperately against local rivals Dunbar on Saturday in a game they looked to have won at half time. In the end though they managed to collect the points they desperately need in their relegation battle.

The Blacks got off to an almost perfect start when Gareth Hill converted a penalty in the first minute and they continued to give a confident display in the opening exchanges. Flanker Will Orpwood was prominent in these exchanges as he buzzed about the pitch like an industrious bee.

Eventually Berwick got another penalty which Hill again converted when Dunbar played the ball on the ground to give them a 6-0 cushion.

The game ebbed and flowed and it took until the 27th minute for the next score as Dunbar closed the gap at 6-3 through a penalty awarded for offside.

Berwick struck back immediately through a well worked try from Berwick winger Michael Brennan. The move started in Berwick’s own half with an incisive break from Gareth Hill cutting open the defence. After splitting the defence Hill was able to set Brennan free and the winger used his pace to outstrip the defence to score. Dunbar’s winger stupidly tried to bring Brennan down with a football tackle in a last desperate attempt to prevent the score. Such play is illegal in rugby and he was deservedly sent to the sin bin to reflect on his mistake. Hill added the conversion and Berwick had opened up a lead at 13-3. Berwick pressed their numerical advantage by adding a penalty in front of the posts to 16-3.

As the half time whistle approached Berwick put the icing on their first half display through a try from stand-off Jack Webster. The credit for the score though belonged with Ali Grieve and Roy MacFarlane, who was dragged down on the 5m line, but Webster showed good speed of thought to pick up the loose ball and dot it over the line. The score was out wide and although Hill struck it well the ball bounced off the upright and the whistle blew for half time with Berwick well in front 21-3.

If the Blacks expected more of the same in the second half they were to be mistaken as Dunbar started to show the form they have enjoyed for most of the season. From the first minute they put pressure on the Berwick line and it was only through some great defence from Berwick that they kept the visitors at bay.

The Blacks looked to have weathered the storm as the game moved into its 70th minute but the good luck deserted them when prop Gareth Clark was yellow carded for persistent foul play. With Berwick now a man down Dunbar took the fight to Berwick and an unconverted try from the second row got them back into the game.

Dunbar continued to attack but as the game moved into the last five minutes Berwick still seemed to have the win in the bag. That bubble burst when Dunbar’s stand-off carved up the middle of the field and with good support from his forwards they scored. The conversion was missed but the visitors had a head of steam up and they looked to have won the game when in the last minute they powered over from a line out drive. At this stage it looked as if Berwick had snatched defeat from certain victory.

But the game had one more twist to give as the conversion sailed just wide of the post to finish the game 21-20 to Berwick.

As the crowd caught their breath Berwick were grateful for the win as it secured vital points but it was a narrow escape. The Blacks were fortunate that the loss of a man in the last 10 minutes didn’t cost them the game. If they had lost it would have been hard to bear given the resolute defending that had gone on for much of the second half.