Third win takes Blacks top of Shield section

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Berwick 21, Hawick Linden 8

Following back to back wins and the inclement British weather causing the cancellation of all other games in the RBS Border Regional Shield competition, Berwick went into their game against Hawick Linden knowing that a win would send them to the top of the league.

A victory would also put them one step closer to representing the Borders at Murrayfield on Cup Finals Day.

More importantly, a third successive win, would further enhance the momentum quietly building within the young playing squad in readiness for a return to league action next week.

When the game kicked-off, on a very heavy pitch, it was the Linden who took charge of the early exchanges, moving the ball wide at every opportunity and asking questions of a resolute Berwick defence, which stood up well. However, the first scoring opportunity of the game fell to Berwick in the fourth minute, when following strong close punch-up runs by Berwick forwards Richard Ayre and Tony McDougal, the Linden were caught off-side at a ruck on the 40 metre line. Gareth Hill stepped up to the mark but pushed his penalty kick just pass the left hand upright.

From the resulting 22 metre re-start, the Linden forwards worked hard to retain possession and once recycled; their backs were allowed the opportunity to advance up field, with fly half Sutherland turning the Berwick defence with a deep tactical kick. As Berwick defended and gathered the kick, some loose handling in the midfield backline led to centre Roy McFarlane being isolated in a tackle and having to hold on, resulting in a penalty. Linden’s Sutherland duly slotted from straight in front of the posts in the eighth minute to give them a 3 – 0 lead.

For the next twenty minutes, a combination of the heavy pitch conditions, poor handling and poor decision making by both teams, resulted in the game being played between both 22 metres with no real scoring opportunities being created. At this point, the game needed a spark and on twenty five minutes it arrived when McFarlane picked a great line to pierce the Linden backline defence, quick recycled ball and vision by David Gilchrist then allowed McDougal to score his customary try from five metres out, close to the posts. Hill converted to take Berwick into a 7 – 3 lead. However this score only seemed to galvanise the Linden and they went on to create the next few scoring opportunities of the half. On thirty five minutes, Linden were allowed to work scrum ball from 22 metres out wide along their backline, to winger Gracie, who with the try line beckoning knocked on from five yards out. From the resulting scrum, Berwick turned the ball over and were then forced to concede a penalty. A quick tap by open side flanker Mitchell caught the Berwick defence napping and a soft try was conceded wide out. Sutherland missed the conversion and Linden held the half time lead of 8 -7.

Whatever was said to the Berwick team during the half time interval by the coaching staff certainly had the desired effect. As straight from the restart, the Berwick forwards, Geoff Logan in particular, took control and punched forward at every opportunity and with quick recycled ball; the backs were able to work the ball wide to winger Hill. Hill found himself with a one on one opportunity with his opposite number, but a lacklustre chip kick brought this attack to a halt. However, it wasn’t long before Hill was given a second chance. From a penalty Hill converted on forty seven minutes, from straight in front after Linden were caught offside at a ruck on their own 22 metres. This took Berwick back into a 10 – 8 lead.

With fifty five minutes on the clock, Berwick were forced to withdraw McDougal from the playing field after he sustained a leg injury, but in the evergreen Paul Pringle, they have more than a worthy replacement and a player who leads by example. And so it proved, within thirty seconds of his introduction, Pringle picked up a loose ball and set-off on one of those direct, jinking runs, which the supporters at Berwick know he’s capable of. As Berwick continued to move up field, referee Douglas had no option but to penalise the Linden for hands in a ruck. Hill duly converted from straight in front to further extend Berwick’s lead to 13 – 8.Within two minutes, spectators would be forgiven if they thought they had witnessed déjà vu, as once again a tired looking Linden were penalised for hands in a ruck, allowing Hill the opportunity to kick his third penalty of the match and further extend Berwick’s lead to 16 – 8.

As the game progressed, and like the first half, the heavy pitch started to take its toll, with both teams making too many unforced errors and play being played out between both 22 metres.

It wasn’t until the final play of the game that Berwick would conclude their afternoon’s scoring. From a scrum on Linden’s 22 metre line, Berwick’s Gilchrist picked up from the base, and for the second week running, placed a perfect grubber kick through, causing problems for the Linden’s full back. The Full back watched the ball pass through his hands and to his despair Pringle pounced on the loose ball to claim the score in the corner. Hill missed the difficult conversion and the game concluded with Berwick winning 21 – 8 and moving to the top of the table at the halfway stage.

This Saturday, Berwick return to league action with a tough away game against Preston Lodge. Supporters wishing to travel on the bus should contact the Club for details.

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