LINLITHGOW 3 DUNS 12
Duns travelled to West Lothian at the weekend to play Linlithgow in the first match of the second half of the league season, and recorded a hard-fought, deserved win – their first victory at Linlithgow in almost exactly 16 years – to take them back above Berwick into third place in the table.
The home side kicked off into the breeze and the setting sun, with the pitch in perfect nick. After a four week break with no rugby at all, Duns may have been excused for being a little ring-rusty but they took the match by the scruff of the neck from the start and were on the offensive straight away.
The visitors had all the early pressure, but Linlithgow matched them with their defensive effort so that despite their best attempts Duns could not score. Duns had a scrum 5 metres out, and after the home side conceded a penalty a kick to the corner gave Duns a lineout just short of the line. Both chances to score went abegging, as did a number of others in the opening quarter.
With 20 minutes gone, a chip behind the defence by Kieran Wilkinson was chased by James Thomson and his tackle on the last defender resulted in a penalty being awarded to Duns. Once again the visitors eschewed the chance to kick at goal and instead took a scrum, but the visitors cleared the threat to their line.
Linlithgow hardly had a chance in the first half, but they turned round with the score at 0-0 and the elements in their favour for the second half.
Five minutes into the second half Dale Robertson received what appeared to be a harsh yellow card for what the referee deemed to be obstruction in midfield. Linlithgow kicked the penalty to lead 3-0, and although they missed a second shot at goal from a similar range shortly afterwards there was a feeling that they might get on top of Duns while the visitors were down to 14 men.
It was while Duns were short handed that they took the lead. A seemingly innocuous chip into the corner by Kieran Wilkinson was chased by wingers James Thomson and Tom Swan, and although the Linlithgow full-back was first to the ball he fumbled in the act of gathering and was engulfed by the two Duns attackers.
Swan stripped the ball from him, and Thomson picked up for an unlikely unconverted score in the corner.
Now restored to a full compliment of players, and with Richard Hume and Nathan Chisholm replacing Dougie Turnbull and Nathan Melrose in the pack, Duns enjoyed their best spell of the game.
The backs strung a few phases together, Danny Lamb was his abrasive best at 9, and the pack got the better of their hosts in the loose exchanges. From a Duns ruck just inside the home 10 metre line, Nathan Chisholm took the ball at first receiver and burst into a big hole.
His startling turn of pace took him clear of the covering full back, and just as it seemed his way to the line was clear he veered off course, seemingly looking for more defenders to take on.
He beat the Linlithgow wing, then crossed for a superb solo try which left the Duns bench cheering and flabbergasted in equal measure. Dale Robertson added the conversion, and Duns had the lead by 12 -3.
There were further chances to score, notably when skipper Ollie Smith went very close from a typically barnstorming run, but Duns could not add to their tally.
Linlithgow ended the match of the front foot as they looked to narrow the gap to losing bonus point range, but the visitors’ defensive line was good and Duns recorded a thoroughly deserved win. Best for Duns was Alex Orr, who got through a power of work in the pack, followed closely by James Thomson on the left wing.
Next up for Duns is the derby fixture against Berwick at Castle Park this Saturday. Kick off is at 2pm, and a large support would be welcomed by the team.
Duns: Stuart Thomson; Tom Swan, Ewan Fleming, Dale Robertson and James Thomson; Kieran Wilkinson and Danny Lamb; Dougie Turnbull, Cammy Hill, Ollie Smith ( captain ), Michael Thomson, Alex Orr, John Walker, Allen Whellans and Nathan Melrose. Replacements: Richard Hume, Nathan Chisholm, Steven Walker and Chip Brailsford (don’t tell his mum).