Duns played their first match of 2019, and their first fixture for a month, when they entertained Livingston at Castle Park, and eased to a bonus point win in an entertaining game which was very evenly poised until half time.
The match kicked off on a still, chilly afternoon, with the pitch in perfect condition. Livingston had all of the early possession and territory, using their big pack to gain ground, but the Duns defensive line held firm.
After weathering the early storm from the visitors, Duns took the lead. A penalty was kicked to touch inside the 22, and from a clean catch by Sam Tullie, and then a popped pass to Richard Burns who made 5 metres before setting up a ruck, the ball was spun along the line to Mark Alexander who shrugged off his opposite number to score the game's opening try. Dale Robertson converted.
This setback did not deter Livingston, who stuck to their game plan and played some very enterprising rugby, belying their position towards the foot of the table. They scored a try after 20 minutes which was almost a carbon copy of the Duns score, and then took the lead from a penalty try. A lineout catch and drive by the visitors was heading inexorably towards the Duns line when the maul collapsed - deliberately in the opinion of referee Colin Reavley from Gala - and he awarded Livingston a score between the posts. No conversion is needed for a penalty try these days, and so the visitors lead by 14 - 7.
Duns huffed and puffed, but they didn't manage to draw level until the stroke of half time. With the Livingston right wing nursing a calf strain, there was always going to be room for a speedster such as David Hutchison to exploit, and quick ball along the Duns line gave him the space to run 30 metres or so before cutting inside the covering defenders to score between the posts. A simple conversion by Dale Robertson tied the scores at the break.
Duns brought on Michael Thompson and James Murphy at the start of the second half, and they had an immediate impact as the home side scored try number three within seconds of the restart. A breenge by skipper Bert Grigg - celebrating his 26th birthday - made some ground, and Michael Thompson was on hand to take a nicely-weighted offload. His pace took him clear of the defence to score his 10th try of the season.
Duns then lost Michael Burns for 10 minutes for a tackle which took his opponent beyond the horizontal, but scored their bonus point try while a man down. Jordon Patterson and Josh Herbert, the latter never far away from the centre of the action throughout the match, made busts up the middle and Michael Thompson was once again on hand to take a scoring pass to touch down close to the corner. Dale Robertson kicked a super conversion from wide out on the left.
Immediately from the restart kick Duns scored again, taking the match away from Livingston. Not for the first time this season, Michael Thompson caught the kick-off, beat the first man, and sprinted into open prairie in the Livingston half. The full back got to him on the 22, but he had the equally speedy Nathan Melrose on his shoulder to receive a deft offload and he went over for another converted try.
Livingston were reduced to 14 men for the final few minutes, and from a scrum to the home side Duns were able to exploit their numerical superiority. Quick ball along the line reached Ryan Burns, and he made good ground before stepping off his left foot once, and then again, to beat the cover defence and he went over close to the posts. Dale Robertson converted to complete a perfect afternoon with the boot.
Duns had only trained once in three weeks, and were clearly rusty in the first half. However, once the cobwebs had been blown away they played some good stuff in the second half and in the end they thoroughly deserved their win.
There is another home match this week - the fourth home game on the trot - and the visitors are Royal High who sit in second position in the table, one place above Duns. Kick off is at 2 pm - please try to get along to Castle Park to support the team.