Duns keep Ross High at bay to finish runners-up

Duns 14

Ross High 6

by Derek Simpson

at The Hardens

Duns finished a very impressive second in the league after rounding off their East Division 1 campaign with an error-strewn home win over Ross High.

Given that of their nine opponents in East 1 this season no fewer than six were playing rugby in a higher division last season, Duns can be proud of their performance.

Duns kicked off down the Hardens slope, with perfect underfoot conditions, although a strong wind blew diagonally down the park throughout. Both sides took a while to settle, and it was probably Ross High who had the better of the early exchanges.

No points were scored in the opening quarter, as the teams struggled to cope with the referee’s interpretation of the ruck and maul.

Ross High took the lead after 20 minutes. They were awarded a penalty midway between the halfway line and the Duns 10-metre line, and most thought that their decision to go for goal was speculative, to say the least. However, there was no doubt about the kick as soon as the ball had been struck, as it sailed straight and true between the posts, and Ross High lead by 3-0.

Duns then enjoyed a period of control, but too often they went with the up and under, hoping for defenders to spill the ball in the wind. It was clear that the home wingers – Baxter and Hutchison – had gas, but their pace was used too infrequently in the opening half hour or so.

The home side took the lead on 28 minutes when after a series of forward drives deep into the Ross High 22 the ball came along the line. Dale Robertson outpaced his opposite number on the outside and crossed between the uprights. The conversion of his own try was a formality.

Five minutes later Duns created some space down the left wing and set David Hutchison free on the visitors’ 10-metre line. He ran unopposed to just inside the 22, and as the Ross High full back came across to cover, he stepped inside him and went over for try number two beneath the bar – his 67th National League try for Duns, tying Jock White’s record. Robertson again converted.

At the interval, Duns led 14-3, although there was a feeling among the supporters that the home side may not have done enough with the wind behind them.

The doubts increased when soon after the break Hooke scored his second penalty for Ross High to narrow the gap, but he was to miss two or three other kickable attempts as the half progressed. Ross High pegged Duns back inside their 22 with diagonal kicks to touch, and pounded the Duns line for 20 minutes or so, but resolute defence – particularly at the scrum where Duns repulsed a whole string of scrum 5s to Ross High – kept them at bay. The Ross High lineout was also functioning very well, the catch and drive earning the visitors many yards up the touchline, but they just could not find that elusive score.

In the closing minutes Duns came more into the match, and right at the death were denied what seemed like a perfectly good try when Chris Blaikie appeared to cross in the corner. However the exchange referee from New York, Pat Wickman, saw a knock on where no-one else did, and he denied the try.

Duns: Stuart Thomson; Andrew Baxter, Ross Turner, Colin Tait and David Hutchison; Dale Robertson, Ben Black; Scott McCraw (captain), Cammy Hill, Allen Whellans, James Thorburn, Duncan Budge, David Duncan, Jamie Renton, Dane Ivison. Subs used: Bert Grigg, Richard Burns, Chris Blaikie.

Dalkeith 2nds31

Duns 2nds 27

Despite numbers being depleted, the young Dingers were in confident mood after seeing off Currie in their previous league encounter. But over-confidence proved to be their undoing.

The Duns team, who had been scoring tries for fun all season, were simply awful in the first half and trailed 16-0 at the break.

They responded in positive fashion and produced a much better second-half performance, clawing it back to 26-24 before Dalkeith scored an unconverted try at the death.

Barry Hamilton scored one try and Sokka touched down twice, with Craig Renton adding three conversions and a penalty.

With two league games to go Duns still remain in top spot.