Duns RFC made the short trip up the A1 to Dunbar for their final away fixture of the season and continued their recent run of good form with a low-scoring, but entertaining, win by a converted try to a penalty goal.
The first eight matches of the season saw Duns register only one win, but since playing Dunbar in the home fixture last November there have been six wins from nine games.
That turnaround in fortunes has been underpinned by a steely resolve in defence, a resolve which was never more evident than at Hallhill on Saturday when Duns tackled and tackled to keep their try line intact for only the second time this season.
Dunbar kicked off with the wind behind them, in smirry rain, but as the match progressed the rain stopped and the wind dropped so that the fixture was played in almost ideal conditions.
Duns had all of the early possession, and were camped inside the home 22 for long periods, but could not register the crucial opening score. Twice the visitors were awarded a penalty inside the home side’s 22, but on each occasion they elected to kick to the corner rather than take a kickable shot at gal, and each time the danger was cleared by Dunbar.
Dunbar began to enjoy more and more possession, and although they missed a relatively straightforward penalty attempt on 20 minutes they were successful with another kick at goal after half an hour to take a slender lead. Around this time Michael Thomson had to leave the field with a thigh strain, to be replaced in the back row by Gordon Harkins.
Tempers began to flare at the ruck and maul, with the referee seeming to have a different interpretation of the laws of that particular area of the game to all 30 players, and most of the spectators. This lead to outbreaks of ‘handbags’ at various points of the contest, with the teams feeling that if the referee wasn’t going to penalise players - and it was happening on both sides - for putting arms and bodies on the wrong side of the ball, then they should take the law into their own hands.
The half ended with Dunbar 3-0 to the good, and Duns kicked off the second half with the subsiding wind at their backs. The injury toll began to mount for Duns, and when Scot Maceachen on the left wing was forced to retire we were treated to the sight of Steven Markby coming on to replace him - his taped thighs a clear giveaway that he was supposed to be covering the back five forwards positions and had come prepared to be lifted in the lineout!
The replacement Dunbar number 8 seemed to have been given licence to ruffle a few feathers when he came on in the second half, but the only person whose feathers seemed to be ruffled were the referee’s, and he was given 10 minutes in the sin bin.
Duns were able to repel everything Dunbar had to offer, but only briefly threatened themselves, as the half was played out between the 22 metre lines.
Then, finally, some quality attacking play from the visitors. A thrust by the forwards up the right side of the field was taken on two or three times, drawing in the covering defenders, before the ball came along the threequarter line. There was a two-on-one out wide, and Lewis Craik dummied to pass to the wing before stepping inside the last man to score 15 metres in from the touchline. Dale Robertson kicked the conversion to put Duns ahead by 7-3.
There were still 20 minutes to play at this stage, and once Dunbar had been restored to 15 men they threatened to score on more than one occasion. However, the solidity of Duns’ defence held the line secure. Duns conceded penalty after penalty, and whilst many referees would have lost patience and sent one of the visiting players to the sin-bin the man in charge chose to keep his cards in his pocket.
As the half wore on, Dunbar grew more and more frustrated at their inability to breach the Duns line, and this lead to tempers becoming frayed. Their loose head prop was yellow carded for foul play, but took umbrage at the referee’s decision and uttered a few inappropriate words to the official. The yellow card was put away and replaced with a red one, and for the remainder of the match the scrums went uncontested.
Duns held on to secure a victory which was just about deserved on the balance of play. The surprise bonus point win by Dalkeith over Linlithgow means that Duns are not quite guaranteed their place in East 1 next season, but it would mean further bonus point wins in Dalkeith’s last two matches, coupled with wins by Forrester over St Boswells and North Berwick for Duns to slip back into ninth place.
This week Duns play their final home rugby of the season when they entertain promotion-chasing North Berwick at Castle Park. Kick off is at 3 pm - please do try to get along to support the team.
Duns: Callum Redden; Scot Maceachen, Lewis Craik, Jamie Renton and Charlie Woodhouse; Dale Robertson (captain) and Danny Lamb; Dougie Turnbull, Cammy Hill, James Murphy, Gavin Tait, Angus Tullie, Allen Whellans, Richard Burns and Michael Thomson. Replacements - Gordon Harkins, Steven Markby, Bert Grigg and Scott Turnbull.