Duns 18-31 Berwick

Duns and Berwick go head to head under the Castle Park floodlights.
Duns and Berwick go head to head under the Castle Park floodlights.

Tommy McColl scored two tries as Berwick came from behind to beat Duns under the floodlights at Castle Park in the BT Borders Shield.

Michael Brennan and Roy McFarlane also touched down for Berwick, with flanker Shane Armstrong landing all four conversions and a penalty on a cold night in Berwickshire.

Dale Robertson and Ewan Fleming scored first-half tries for the home side, and Robertson also kicked another eight points with his boot.

Duns dominated the first 25 minutes, but Berwick managed to stay in the game and finished the first half on top. The Blacks were too fit and strong in the second half, running out deserved winners.

With St Boswells safe bets to win the six-team pool, there was little to play in terms of the BT Borders Shield itself. But when Duns and Berwick lock horns in a cross-border derby there is always plenty at stake. Pride for a start.

Berwick went into the game determined to maintain the winning momentum that has put them within touching distance of clinching the East League Division 1 championship.

The last of their three remaining league games is against Duns at Scremertson, so Colin Young’s men were out to ensure that a psychological edge was not surrendered ahead of what could be a pivotal fixture.

Berwick started as clear favourites. But any neutral who didn’t know better and watched the first 20 minutes of this match could have been forgiven for believing that Duns were the team riding high.

The home side came flying out of the blocks, pinning the Blacks back on their own line. Berwick’s resistance held for seven minutes until an attacking lineout position on the left led to the opening score. The ball was quickly fed along the backs and inside centre Robertson found a gap to slice through under the posts. He converted himself to give Duns a deserved 7-0 lead.

Shortly after the restart, a surging move down the left flank gained Duns 40 metres to keep Berwick on the back foot.

But despite monopolising territory and possession, the Dingers were unable to turn their early pressure into more points.

They paid a heavy price. In what was Berwick’s first foray into the Duns half, the visitors replied with a quick-fire try of their own.

The pack made ground with a forward drive before captain Gareth Black emerged with the ball. With quick hands, he popped a pass inside for McColl to surge under the posts from ten metres. Armstrong converted to level the score.

Berwick suddenly had their tails up. Duns had to scramble to stop Armstrong in his tracks after he burst through the line. But the flanker then booted a huge penalty through the posts from just five metres inside the Duns half.

With Armstrong, McColl and full-back Gareth Hill all looking dangerous with ball in hand, Duns looked vulnerable when Berwick went on the attack.

When Duns did manage to turn the tide and put together another sustained attack through several phases, they found the Berwick defence well drilled and tough to break.

Perseverance paid off though. Camped on the Berwick line, the Dingers were held up time and time again until stand-off Ewan Fleming managed to squeeze over the line from close range.

Robertson missed his conversion attempt from out wide on the right, but five minutes later he landed a penalty from 25 metres to put Duns 15-10 ahead.

Berwick missed a golden opportunity to cross the line when they had a two-on-one overload on the left flank, but when Gareth Hill’s pass to Lee Douglas didn’t stick the chance was lost.

Right on the stroke of half time the visitors made it click when it mattered. Breaking from a scrum, stand-off Neil Graham made an incisive break through the middle before slipping a pass to McFarlane. The outside centre showed strength to overpower his tackler and dive under the posts. Armstrong’s easy conversion made it 17-15 to Berwick at the interval.

The second half began like the first half ended, with Berwick on top. Loosehead prop Gareth Clark was the architect behind the third Berwick score, deft hands enabling Hill to release McColl for a touchdown in the right corner.

It was his second try of the night and capped a very impressive performance from the big inside centre, who was wearing the No 17 jersey.

Armstrong’s superb kick from the tight on the right touchline gave the Blacks a nine-point advantage.

Duns stand-off Fleming and centre Lewis Craik combined well to briefly threaten the Berwick line at the other end, but Brennan darted back to run the ball out of danger and kick clear.

It was a fleeting moment for Duns in a second-half dominated for the most part by the men from south of the border.

Even though Robertson landed a penalty for Duns, the home side were tiring and the visitors got stronger as the game entered the last quarter.

Berwick thought they had scored again in the right corner, only for the referee to rule it out for a forward pass.

After Armstrong smacked a penalty attempt off the crossbar, Duns prop Allen Whellans was sin-binned for kicking the ball away when grounded. With Duns short of front row cover, it meant scrums were uncontested. Berwick made their one-man advantage count in open play when winger Brennan went over for the fourth try in the right corner. Armstrong’s conversation put the game out of sight.

Duns: H Martin; E Reed, L Craik, D Robertson, C Redden; E Fleming, D Lamb; S McCraw, C Hill, A Whellans, S Markby, G Tait, G Letham, R Grigg, J Walker. Subs: R Hume, S Calder, S Turnbull, S Crawford.

Berwick: G Hill; M Brennan, R McFarlane, T McColl, L Douglas; N Graham, J Webster; G Clark, G Black, T Jackson, S Owens, G Logan, A Frost, T McDougall, S Armstrong. Subs: J Pick, D Eagleton, M Broadbent, J Young, T Riddell.