Duns’ fine run continues with an excellent win at the seaside

Stuart Thomson  touches down for Duns against Dunbar at the weekend. Picture: Jennifer Charlton Photography
Stuart Thomson touches down for Duns against Dunbar at the weekend. Picture: Jennifer Charlton Photography

Dunbar 24 
Duns 48

Duns travelled to Dunbar on Saturday in one of only two matches in East 1 to survive the heavy overnight rain, and recorded an excellent win to continue their unbeaten start to 2017.

The pitch at Hallhill was in almost perfect condition, and while matches elsewhere fell foul of waterlogged pitches the playing surface held up very well indeed. Even the sun put in a brief appearance.

Dunbar kicked off, playing away from the clubhouse, and Duns took the lead before a home player had touched the ball. The visitors went patiently through the phases, taking play up to the home 10 metre line, and when a defender strayed offside Lewis Craik kicked a penalty from nearly 40 metres.

Straight from the restart the visitors were on the offensive again, and made ground deep into the Dunbar 22.

From a scrum to Duns, a beautifully-executed loop move in the centre created an overlap which was exploited by Stuart Thomson, who had come into the line from full-back and he crossed for the game’s opening try.

The home side showed that they hadn’t come just to make up the numbers, and scored a fine penalty after nine minutes from their stand-off Charlton, to narrow the gap to 8 - 3.

Undettered, Duns went straight back up the park to score try No.2. The visitors were awarded a scrum five wide out on the right, and from quick ball Bert Grigg at No.8 picked up and drove to the line. He had the determination to get past the home back row and half backs’ papier-mâché tackling to ground the ball for an excellent solo try. Lewis Craik kicked the conversion, and Duns lead by 15-3.

The topsy-turvy nature of the opening quarter of the match continued when Dunbar were next to score. Their pack took the ball on for several phases, gradually drawing in the covering defenders, and finally spun it along their back line for a well-executed score. The conversion narrowed the gap to 15-10.

Almost immediately from the restart Duns were awarded a penalty 15 metres in from touch and 10 metres shy of the home line. Quick thinking from Grigg saw him take a tap penalty and again he shrugged off some despairing attempted tackles to score his second of the day. Craik once again added the extras, and with barely a quarter of the match gone the visitors held a 22-10 advantage.

Dunbar were reduced to 14 men shortly afterwards when their young centre was very lucky to only receive a yellow card after a tip-tackle on Duns stand-off Ewan Fleming. Fleming had put in an assured performance until then, but the impact he sustained as a result of the tackle compelled him to take no further part in the match.

While Dunbar were short handed, Duns scored their bonus point try. After a thundering breenge up the middle of the park by Ollie Smith had set up an attacking ruck, a couple of quick passes later the ball found its way to Allen Whellans, who crashed over by the posts. Craik once more added a successful conversion.

With the clock running down at the end of the half, a Dunbar clearance kick was gathered by the Duns threequarters who set off in attack. Dale Robertson took a pass just outside the 22, and using Charlie Woodhouse as a foil to draw the defender to his outside, he dummied and carried on his solo run to score almost at the corner flag. No sign of an arthritic back in the old boy this week. Craik kicked a super conversion from the touchline, a when the referee brought a frenetic half of rugby to a close Duns held the lead 36-10.

The second half was never going to be as entertaining as the first, and Duns were hampered by the loss of their 8/9/10 axis who were all forced to retire. As well as Fleming’s injury, Grigg left the field with a sore shoulder, and Ged Lamb’s match fitness is such that he isn’t yet quite fit enough to last a full game.

The tempo visibly dropped, and at the same time Duns seemed to revert to their ways of old where they incurred the wrath of the referee and conceded penalty after penalty. As the half progressed first Allen Whellans and then James Murphy were sin-binned for various offences, so that the visitors played half of the second period a man down.

Dunbar were first on the scoresheet in the second half. Duns were penalised at a scrum on the home 22 and the Dunbar No.8 Patrizio –the home side’s best player – took a quick tap and set off on a solo run. His progress wasn’t finally halted until well inside the Duns half, but he had supporting runners, and a well directed pass saw Dunbar cross under the bar. A quick conversion pulled it back to 36-17.

One of the Duns half-time replacements, Josh Herbert, came on at right wing, and in the space of five minutes he scored two tries to put the result beyond any doubt.

For his first, he received the ball with little room to work in, stepped off his right foot and powered through two or three tackles to dive over. The second was almost a carbon copy, and once again the big winger shrugged of several bodies to dive over. Craik converted the second of these tries, and the result of the match was all of a sudden put beyond any doubt at 48 - 17 with 20 minutes remaining.

The final quarter of the game was played to the almost constant refrain of the referee’s whistle, as he penalised Duns – quite rightly on most occasions – for offence after offence which twice saw the team receive yellow cards. The Dunbar full back Thomson scored a good try in this period when he entered the line at a lovely angle to split the defence and score between the posts, but it was too little, too late and his side lost 48-24.

Duns have now taken 19 league points from a possible 20 in 2017 and at the same time have climbed to fourth in the table.

Duns: Thomson, Burns, Alexander, Robertson, Woodhouse, Fleming, Lamb, Turnbull, Harkins, Smith, Tullie, Turnbull, Walker, Grigg, Craik. Replacements: Murphy, Whellans, Herbert, Sam Tullie.

This Saturday Duns play their final home match of the season when they entertain Linlithgow at Castle Park in a fixture re-arranged from January. Please note that kick off will be at 2pm to allow players and supporters to watch the Calcutta Cup match between England and Scotland from Twickenham, which kicks off at 4pm.