DUNS 41 FORRESTER 7
Duns maintained their unbeaten start to 2017, and at the same time put in undoubtedly their best performance of the season to date, in defeating Forrester at Castle Park on Saturday.
The pitch was a little soft in places, but the conditions were otherwise perfect for the match, with sunshine and only a very light breeze.
Duns welcomed back vice-captain Ged Lamb for his first game since being injured on the opening day of the season, and he played for just over an hour at scrum half in his first match for nearly six months.
Forrester gave the impression from the outset that they knew they were in for a torrid afternoon.
They questioned nearly every decision made by the referee and constantly niggled and snapped at the home side to the extent that skirmishes broke out throughout almost the entire 80 minutes.
Indeed, as the teams ran on to the park together prior to kick off, the visitors were issuing verbal challenges to the Duns players – something this correspondent has never heard in 30 years of reporting on rugby matches. It must be said that the Duns players were not entirely innocent as far as the fisticuffs were concerned, and the referee had a tough job trying to keep control of proceedings.
Anyway, back to the rugby. The Forrester kick-off was gathered by Duns, who immediately passed it along the three-quarter line and progress was made as far as the visitors’ five metre line where a defender bundled the ball into touch.
From the Duns throw-in, quick ball saw Ged Lamb spin a pass to Ewan Fleming and then loop round to create the extra man. He received a return pass and then popped the ball to Stuart Thomson, who had come into the line from full-back and he touched down close to the posts. Lewis Craik added the conversion, the first of seven successful kicks out of seven for the young flanker.
Forrester equalised after only six minutes. Their stand off, who kicked excellently from hand all afternoon, chipped across the field towards the corner, and a mix-up in the Duns defence allowed an attacking player to hack on and then dive for the try. The conversion tied the scores at 7 - 7.
Duns regained, and then extended, the lead with successful penalties on 11 and 14 minutes from the boot of Craik.
With a quarter of the match gone, a Forrester penalty attempt rebounded off the left hand upright and was fielded by John Walker.
He made it almost to the half way line before being brought down, although the Duns support was with him and the ball was quickly recycled. A couple of phases later the ball found its way to the left wing where Charlie Woodhouse made ground towards the line before popping a pass inside to Dale Robertson. The pass was low, but Robertson bent his arthritic back, gathered the ball from his boot laces and dived to score all in one movement. Craik added the extras.
Before half-time Duns had added their third try. From a Lamb cross kick, Ryan Burns on the right wing and his opposite number from Forrester challenged for the ball. Neither was able to collect, and as the loose ball bounced free it was scooped up by Dale Robertson. He set off for the line, drew the last man, and then fed Stuart Thomson who romped over from 25 metres or so for his second score of the day. Craik once again converted to give Duns the lead by 27 - 7 at the break.
After half-time Duns pressed for the fourth try which would have secured their bonus point. It duly arrived courtesy of Ewan Fleming, who scored a sublime try from just inside the Forrester half. Duns had a lineout 45 metres out, and from quick ball off the top Lamb fed Fleming, who showed a clean pair of heels to beat his opposite number on the outside, and then swerved round the attempted tackle of the visitors’ inside centre. Finally, he sidestepped the Forrester full-back to score a lovely individual try between the posts.
The home side saved their best until last, and scored their fifth try with 10 minutes remaining. Duns retained possession for numerous phases, moving from one side of the pitch to the other, until finally an overlap was created wide out on the right. Mark Alexander and Ryan Burns had a two-on-one with the last defender, and although Alexander could possibly have scored himself he drew the defender and then fed Burns, who used his gas to cross in the corner. Craik kicked a beauty of a conversion from the wrong side of the park for a right-footed kicker.
With Dunbar not playing on Saturday, the win takes Duns above their rivals from East Lothian, whom they have still to play this season, into fifth place in the table, and just behind fourth-placed Berwick.
Duns: Stuart Thomson; Ryan Burns, Mark Alexander, Dale Robertson and Charlie Woodhouse; Ewan Fleming and Ged Lamb; James Murphy, Allen Whellans ( captain ), Ollie Smith, Angus Tullie, Scott Turnbull, John Walker, Bert Grigg and Lewis Craik. Replacements: Dougie Turnbull, Gordon Harkins, Tom Swan and Sam Tullie.