Berwick 22 Royal High 12: Royal victory extends Berwick's lead at the top

Berwick have extended their lead at the top of the table to six points
Berwick have extended their lead at the top of the table to six points

Berwick led Royal High by two points going into this top of the table clash, so there was everything to play for.

Berwick started the game playing up the hill in determined fashion pinning their Edinburgh visitors into their 22. Both defences tackled well but eventually Berwick gained a penalty attempt following Royal High straying offside. Andrew Skeen returned to kicking duties after missing last week’s victory and he confidently slotted it through the posts to give the Blacks a well-deserved early lead 3-0.

Berwick retained possession and launched various attacks to test out the Royal High defences and eventually one of these attempts unpicked the defence. The score came from a deft grubber kick from Andrew Skeen which allowed Berwick winger Jamie Pick to run onto the ball. The race for the ball was a neck and neck affair with his opposite number but Pick managed to get there a fraction in front to claim the score on 15 minutes. Skeen added a good conversion from the far side touchline to give Berwick a deserved lead of 10-0.

Berwick started to give away penalties as they couldn’t seem to get on the right side of the referee’s interpretation of the breakdown. However frequent kickable penalties for Royal High were passed by due to them not having a kicker.

Eventually, Royal High gave up with trying to penetrate the centre defences and moved it to the wing only for Gareth Hill to use all his craftiness and experience to intercept a pass. Having gathered the ball Hill was off and running with ball in hand which allowed him to ghost passed the defence streaking up his stand side wing to score. He should perhaps have cut inside to go nearer the posts as the conversion was missed by Skeen but Berwick had a comfortable lead at 15-0 with only five minutes to go until half time.

The home side’s comfort didn’t last long as Royal High at last turned their own pressure into points. Berwick were giving away penalty after penalty and each time the visitors chose to take the tap penalty and run at the defence. Eventually they managed to get a maul going near the line and with their big pack lending weight to proceedings they got over the line to score. The conversion was added to make the score line 15-7 at half time.

The referee spoke to both captains at half time but it seemed that Berwick weren’t able to help themselves as the penalty count went heavily against them. Eventually Jamie Pick was yellow carded as he tried, and failed, to intercept the ball just as Hill had done in the first half. Unfortunately, Pick wasn’t quite able to gather it and the referee yellow carded him for a deliberate knock on.

The second half became a war of attrition but Berwick were able to score through Hill again who finished off a good passage of play which allowed Andrew Skeen to stretch the lead to 22-7 with 10 minutes to go. It was to prove a long 10 minutes as Captain Tom Jackson was then sin binned for giving away a penalty at the wrong time. Royal High upped their attacks and eventually they managed to get over the try line but time ran out with no further scoring to give Berwick a deserved win against a determined Royal High side 22-12.

The win sees Berwick sit at the top of the BT East League 1 with a six-point lead over their defeated opponents. They have one more league match before the Christmas break, which is next week against another tough opponent – Ross High in Edinburgh.