DUNS 27 LINLITHGOW 20
Duns entertained Linlithgow on a perfect, warm, sunny afternoon at Castle Park in their opening fixture of this season’s BT East Regional League Division 1, and won an enthralling, highly entertaining match.
The match was delayed as a result of Linlithgow’s coach breaking down not once but twice en route to the Borders, their transport eventually giving up the ghost at Pathhead. By the time a replacement vehicle had been dispatched, it was well after 4pm before proceedings got under way.
The home side started rather sluggishly, perhaps as a result of their warm-up lasting an hour longer than it normally would.
The opening 10 minutes or so were evenly-contested, with neither side being able to create any real scoring opportunities, and the deadlock was finally broken when Linlithgow’s No.8 kicked a penalty after a quarter of an hour. Keiran Wilkinson replied with a penalty for Duns with a quarter of the match gone.
Duns were on to the attack straight from the restart kick. The home side had a lineout just outside the Linlithgow 22, and scrum-half Danny Lamb – back to his abrasive best after missing the whole of last season through injury – broke through the home pack and set off towards the line. He was hauled down only a metre or so short, and from the ruck Nathan Melrose picked up and drove over for an unconverted try.
Duns were playing really well at this stage, and should have added to their try tally when a three on one overlap on the right was squandered, and the visitors cleared the danger.
Back on the attack with half an hour gone, Duns scored their second try when Stuart Thomson entered the line at a beautiful angle and took a short pass to slice open the visitors’ defence. His pace, and running line, meant that he crossed untouched between the posts, and Keiran Wilkinson’s conversion made it 15-3.
Undaunted, Linlithgow gradually took more influence in the match, and ended the half the stronger side. On the stroke of half-time they scored their first try, the Duns defence eventually cracking after absorbing phase after phase of attacking play by the visitors, when No.8 Martin went over wide out on the left, although he was unable to convert his own try. Duns led by 15-8 at the break.
It was important that Duns scored first in the second period if they were to snuff out the Linlithgow resurgence, and they seemed certain to do so after only two minutes of the half. Great lead-up play by the pack sent flanker Michael Thomson clear, but he had the ball dislodged from his grasp after crossing the line and the referee awarded a 22 drop-out.
Linlithgow came straight back at Duns and tied the scores with 10 minutes gone. A missed tackle in the Duns centre created an extra man in attack, and after the visitors’ right wing received a pass on the Duns 10 metre line he raced clear and came round behind the posts to make the conversion a formality. The scores were suddenly tied and everything was to play for.
The home side then enjoyed a purple patch when they scored two tries, but perhaps should have scored at least one more. A great break up the left flank, with forwards and backs combining, seemed to have come to a halt 10 metres out. However, the ball shot out of the maul on the Linlithgow side and over the goal line, and Steven Markby was first to react by touching the ball down. The referee awarded a try, explaining that the ball had been stripped in the maul by a Linlithgow player, rather than having been knocked on by Duns.
Five minutes later Duns scored their bonus point try. Linlithgow were on the attack on the home 22, but a great tackle by Chris Williamson turned the ball over and the Duns backs set off upfield. A great break by Andrew Baxter took play inside the Linlithgow half, and he then fed Ryan Mania on the left wing.
Mania made 10 metres or so before being confronted by the full back, and tried to chip the ball over his head. The ball actually struck the full-back on the body, but rebounded into Mania’s grateful hands and the 2013 Grand National winner galloped over in the corner before going round behind the posts to touch down. Stuart Thomson added the extras to extend the Duns lead to 27-15.
At this stage it looked all over for Linlithgow, but they are a good side and refused to lie down. Duns were forced to concede penalty after penalty in an effort to stem the tide, and eventually Ewan Fleming was sin-binned to give the visitors a numerical advantage for the closing minutes. They made this count with their third try, which was converted, to narrow the gap to only seven points.
There was very little time left, but the Duns supporters were forced to endure a nervy minute or two of stoppage time before the referee called proceedings to a halt.
A bonus point win in the opening fixture is an excellent way to start the season, and sets Duns up for their visit to Scremerston next Saturday where local bragging rights will be at stake. Kick off is at 3pm – please try to get down to Berwick to support the team.
Duns: Ewan Fleming; Andrew Baxter, Ged Lamb, Stuart Thomson, Ryan Burns, Keiran Wilkinson and Danny Lamb, Dougie Turnbull, Nathan Melrose, Ollie Smith (captain), Scott Turnbull, Steven Markby, John Walker, Zander Bruce, Michael Thomson. Replacements: Richard Hume, Chris Williamson, Ryan Mania and James Thomson.
Linlithgow: Cammy Murray; Lewis Herdman, Jamie March (captain), Chris Ronalson, David Martin; John Chapman,Murray Smith, Ally McLean, Chris Archer, Michael Robertson, Neil Lockhart, Sean Hagerty, Andrew Archer, Ross Martin, Mark Caddle. Replacements: Steven Grant, Drew Sommerville, Peter Miller and Craig Scott.