Duns welcomed Trinity Accies to the Hardens on Saturday in their final home league fixture of the season, knowing that a win would secure the East 1 championship, and after surviving an early battering from their visitors they ran out comfortable winners by 36 points to nil.
Trinity defeated Duns in Edin-burgh last October, the only side to have beaten Duns so far this season, so a tough encounter was expected - and that was exactly how the match turned out.
The home side were at full strength for the match, with Scott Lindsay and Dale Robertson returning to the side after injury and illness respectively, and Ryan Selkirk started on the bench after completing his suspension.
More than 40 players have represented the first XV this season, but of course only 20 could be selected for the Trinity match. The club therefore invited all surplus players to lunch in the clubrooms before the game, together with a number of sponsors, and there was a real atmosphere of expectation tinged with nervousness as kick-off time drew closer.
The buffet lunch was quite splendid, and the club is indebted to Shirley McCraw, Jane Reed, Barbara Hutchison and Morag Poole, and all others who helped in its preparation in any way.
The Hardens pitch was in good nick for the game, if a little soft in places, and the weather was perfect. Duns kicked off up the slope, and in the early exchanges it was all Trinity. They used their bulky pack to good effect, although the ball was rarely passed beyond their big inside centre, who cut inside continually to link up with his big forwards.
Trinity were given an early penalty opportunity after three minutes, but their full back’s effort drifted wide. With the benefit of hindsight, that was probably his best attempt of the afternoon.
Midway through the half Duns were awarded a penalty. Skipper Dale Robertson handed the ball to Danny Lamb, obviously impressed by his 10 out of 10 record at Penicuik seven days previously, and the scrum-half calmly slotted the goal with a minimum of fuss.
In the next 10 minutes Trinity were still the more prominent team, but Duns repelled every-thing which was thrown at them. The home team did concede a number of penalties, but when-ever Trinity elected to have a shot at goal their young kicker’s attempts were getting progressively worse as the confidence almost visibly drained from him - surely one of the more experienced players in their side should have taken charge of the situation and suggested a different kicker, but it was not to be.
Duns scored their first try on the half-hour mark. A punt from Trinity went straight up in the air just outside their 22, and was gathered by Duns. The ball was spun quickly to the left where David Hutchison was standing in open prairie, and he crossed for his 23rd try of the season, now only one shy of the record of 24 in a season which is currently held by Iain Grant. Danny Lamb added the extras.
There was no further scoring before half-time and Duns turned round 10-0 up and with the slope in their favour in the second half.
It took Duns only five minutes to score after the interval. Richard Burns, who had a great game with some thundering runs up the middle of the park, took the ball close to the line and after a series of drives by the forwards Cammy Hill almost literally burrowed over the line for his second of the season. Once again, Danny Lamb’s conversion was good.
Jamie Renton was next to score for Duns. After a prolonged period inside the Trinity 22, by which time the visitors’ defence had been stretched to breaking point, the ball was spun to the right where the flanker was waiting unmarked. He charged 10 metres or so and dived over in the corner for his 14th try of the season - the most productive in his long Duns playing career.
Duns now relaxed and played some very good rugby, although when the bonus point try arrived it came from a Duns mistake. Ged Lamb at stand-off was passed the ball, but it went behind him and he had to stop in his tracks and go back to retrieve it. Opponents closed in on him, but his quicksilver feet skipped him clear of the trouble and all of a sudden he was in the clear. His acceleration over 10 metres is amazing, and this pace took him clear of all but the Trinity full back, whom he rounded with consummate ease to score a quite brilliant solo try under the bar. His brother obliged with the conversion.
Now 29 points to the good, the Duns players - and also the sizeable crowd of around 250 - knew that the game, and with it the East 1 championship, was in the bag, but there was more to come.
Ged Lamb once again sprinted clear and outstripped the cover defence to score by the posts, with Danny Lamb kicking the conversion.
Trinity, to their credit, never gave up and they enjoyed a five- minute spell of pressure inside the Duns 22, until a thumping tackle knocked one of their big forwards into touch. The referee’s final whistle signalled the start of the celebrations, with champagne corks popping on the pitch, and local press and radio taking photographs and doing interviews.
There was also time for SRU representative Alistair Forsyth to present the East 1 championship quaich to Dale Robertson, before everyone decamped to the rugby club to continue the party.
Duns coaches Brian Richardson and Peter Gallagher should be proud of what has been achieved at the club this season.
The First XV are currently in a run of irresistible form which has resulted in wins by 43-0, 89-0 and 36-0 in the past three matches, and three games won to nil on the trot is a very rare achievement indeed.
There are still two league matches to be played, away to both Lismore and Hawick Harlequins, and the dates of those games will be determined by Duns’ progress in the Regional Bowl.
Duns entertain Edinburgh Northern in the Bowl at the Hardens this Saturday in the last 16 stage of the competition. The match kicks off at 3pm - please come along to support the team.
The Duns side against Trinity Accies was: Dale Robertson; Kevin Aitchison, Colin Tait, Scott Lindsay and David Hutchison; Ged Lamb and Danny Lamb; Scott McCraw, Allen Whellans, Barry Hamilton, James Thorburn, James Weir, Chris Blaikie, Richard Burns and Jamie Renton. The replacements were Chris Archer, Cammy Hill, Stuart Blyth, Dane Ivison and Ryan Selkirk.