No cross-Border derby delight for Dingers against Berwick

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Berwick entertained Duns at Scremerston in the first of this season’s derby matches in BT East Regional League Division 1 – and after an exciting game, which could have gone either way until the death, came out on top.

Conditions for the fixture could not have been better. Warm autumn sunshine shone throughout, there was barely any wind to trouble the kickers, and the pitch was in perfect nick.

The referee was on an exchange visit from Bannockburn RFC, but unfortunately for Duns there was to be no repeat in this cross-Border clash of the Scottish triumph over the English.

Berwick had an opportunity to take the lead after only six minutes, but the penalty attempt by Jack Webster was well wide of the mark, setting something of a trend for missed penalty attempts by both sides throughout the match.

Duns also had a chance to score, and in fact were over the Berwick line, but Chris Williamson’s try was disallowed by the referee for a double movement.

The match was very evenly contested, and although Berwick enjoyed slightly more possession and territory than Duns, they were not able to breach a very resolute visitors’ defensive line in the opening quarter.

It was during this opening period that Duns lost the services of back-rower Williamson, who left the field with a suspected dislocated shoulder and was replaced at No.8 by Dale Robertson.

The deadlock was finally broken after 22 minutes when Keiran Wilkinson kicked a drop goal for Duns.

The home side went straight onto the offensive from the restart, and after several forward drives had taken them to the Duns 22, sucking in the cover defence, they exploited a three-on-two overlap on the left when Duncan Hardie went over for his side’s first points. Jack Webster added the conversion.

Wilkinson narrowed the gap to one point with a penalty for Duns only two minutes later, but missed with another shot at goal moments later which would have given his side the lead.

Duns then enjoyed their best spell of the half, and took the lead with a try in the corner. Berwick made a mess of fielding a speculative chip into their 22, and in a despairing attempt to keep Duns out they deliberately handled the ball into touch.

The ref awarded a penalty to Duns, which was quickly tapped by skipper Ollie Smith. He was hauled down just short of the line but from the ruck a quick pass found Robertson on the blind side and he went over in the corner.

Berwick had the final say in the first half, and scored after putting together an impressive passage of handling play. Last up from the melee of bodies was Gareth Hill, and the simple conversion was knocked over by Jack Webster to give Berwick the lead by 14-11 at the interval.

After the end-to-end stuff of the first half, the match settled into a far less frenetic pattern in the second, with Duns being the side which enjoyed much more possession and territory.

Both sides fluffed very kickable penalty attempts at goal, and Duns came close to scoring their second try after a period of sustained pressure on the Berwick line but their best efforts were repulsed by the home side.

Berwick were conceding a string of penalties, and from one of these Smith took a quick tap and set off towards the Berwick line. He was hauled down 15 metres short, but the ever-alert Danny Lamb at scrum-half picked up and had the strength to make it all the way to score close to the posts. Wilkinson added the conversion, and suddenly the game’s momentum had swung back in Duns’ favour.

It was only in the closing 10 minutes or so that Berwick offered any real threat to Duns, but in that spell they showed patience and determination in equal measure, gradually going through the phases before delivering the killer blow. The ball was moved left, then right, then finally to the left again where an overlap allowed Jack Dalrymple to cross in the corner for an unconverted try.

Duns still had a couple of minutes left to turn things around, but a long-range drop goal attempt was charged down, and moments later a second drop goal effort was wide of the mark.

There was no time left for any further chances at either end and the referee blew for full-time.

Duns: Fleming, J Thomson, S Thomson, Lamb, Burns, Wilkinson, Lamb; Turnbull, Melrose, Smith (captain), Markby, Orr, Hume, Walker, Williamson. Replacements: Robertson, Mania, Hill, M Thomson.