Duns travelled to Hawick for their opening fixture in Tennent’s East League One and won a highly entertaining match in which almost 100 points were scored.
Linden had been promoted from East 2 at the end of last season, winning all their games, and so a tough match was on the cards.
It was a swelteringly hot afternoon and the heat was undoubtedly a factor, as the bigger forwards began to flag in the second half.
Duns were deprived of the services of a number of players owing to work commitments. On top of that, there were three call-offs on the morning of the game, and so coaches Bert Grigg and Fergus Thomson were pressed into service on the bench.
Dale Robertson, freshly stitched from an equine injury sustained the previous evening, started his 19th season of league rugby for Duns at full back and Euan Rhind, not even born when Robertson made his debut, played his first league match at scrum half.
It took Duns only three minutes to open the scoring. Danny Lamb, playing in the centre, broke a tackle and made ground into the Linden 22, where he had Archie Bogle on his shoulder to take a scoring pass. Keiran Wilkinson converted.
Next to score for Duns was Michael Thomson, who continued his prolific scoring form from last season with the first of his four tries during the match. The flanker was a constant thorn in Linden’s side all afternoon with his direct, abrasive running, always making ground when he got the ball.
With less than 15 minutes gone, Duns increased their lead. Mark Alexander outstripped the cover defence to score between the posts and Keiran Wilkinson’s conversion made it 19-0.
Linden then seemed to realise they were in a game and scored the first of their six tries after a brilliant 80-metre solo run from their left wing, Ryan Elliot. He was halted inside the Duns 22, but had Dylan Ali in support to take a scoring pass.
Stung by the Linden score, Duns upped their game and scored three more tries in quick succession. Michael Thomson scored his second, converted by Keiran Wilkinson, before David Hutchison grabbed a brace, both scored wide on the left. Both conversions were missed but Duns still had a handy 36-5 lead and the bonus point was in the bag.
Linden scored their second try on the stroke of half time when the covering Mark Alexander was deceived by the spinning ball following a kick ahead and Rory Graham pounced for an easy score. The teams turned round with Duns 36-10 ahead.
The visitors scored first in the second half. Keiran Wilkinson broke clear inside his own half and made 50 metres deep into the Linden 22.
He was tackled but had skipper Cammy Hill in support to provide the link to Bert Grigg, temporarily playing at full back, who scored by the posts. Keiran Wilkinson converted.
Linden scored their third try, this one converted, before Duns brought up their half century. Dale Robertson sent a long kick towards the Linden line, and Hawick’s full back was tackled by three Duns players as he picked it up and was bundled back over the line for a scrum 5 to the visitors. Linden managed to disrupt the Duns scrum but Michael Thomson was still able to pick up and dive over for his hat-trick try. Robertson kicked a good conversion from wide out on the left.
With 50 points on the board, Duns clearly thought their work was done for the afternoon but Linden had other ideas. They scored three tries in quick succession, the first a penalty try, to pull the deficit back to 50-36. At the re-start kick, the referee said there were still eight minutes to play. But Duns sealed the win with a try from the final play of the game.
A huge overlap on the right allowed Thomson to cross for his fourth, and Duns’ ninth, of the game. Another Robertson conversion, this time from wide on the right, heralded the final whistle.
Next for Duns is a home match against Forrester at Castle Park this Saturday, at 3pm.