Berwick a step closer to title
Berwick RFC 36-12 Duns
The omens for Berwick were not great pre-match when captain Tom Jackson had to withdraw with a foot injury in the build-up to the game.
Stuart Gilchrist came off the bench to start and club stalwart David Eagleton moved onto the substitutes’ list to provide cover. Duns too had their fair share of call-offs so the two teams were changed since the reverse fixture earlier in the season, which Berwick managed to win by a single point.
Berwick started playing down the hill with a strong wind at their back and it took them less than a minute to get the first score on the board through Gareth Hill. The gusty conditions meant that Andrew Skeen missed the conversion but Berwick had the early lead at 5-0.
The strong running from the Duns pack was relentless and, with some clever running of their own, they were soon deservedly in front. It came after the Berwick defence was breached by Duns second row Josh Herbert, showing good positioning. The experienced Dale Robertson was able to add the conversion to give the visitors the lead after nine minutes at 5-7.
The Duns coaching team would be disappointed that they couldn’t keep the lead as, within a minute of the restart, they gave away a penalty which Skeen was able to get to reclaim the lead for the home side at 8-7.
Both sides were unable to get any further reward for their efforts until, eventually, Duns retook the lead through prop forward James Murphy after 16 minutes. The conversion was missed in the strong wind but Duns had edged in front again at 8-12.
Berwick started to find their form and Ali Grieve got rewarded for some rollicking runs when he was able to get over the line after several phases had drawn in the defence. Skeen added the conversion to make it 15-12.
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Berwick then started to take control, playing more of the game in the Duns half. Just after the mid-way point of the first half, Berwick extended their lead with Skeen getting the touchdown, but it was Stuart Gilchrist who took all the plaudits from his team-mates for doing the spade-work. Skeen added the conversion to make it 22-12.
The home side then took the game by the throat and upped the tempo with some great combinations of running rugby and forward power, creating space for Hill to score out wide. The conversion was excellent from Skeen to make it 29-12.
Berwick then rode their luck in the build-up to the next try as there was more than a hint of a forward pass but, with the referee unsighted, Skeen took full advantage, playing to the whistle by running a great angle crossfield to find the gap and running in from near the halfway line. Adding the conversion himself, made the half-time score 36-12 to Berwick.
Duns had the wind in the second half and they used it to great effect as they regularly were able to clear their lines. Duns’ attacking threat came from continuous thrusts around the fringes with the ball rarely moving further wide than centre.
Berwick’s defensive shapes were tested to the extreme, with the Berwick pack having to put in a huge shift to tackle the hard-running Duns attacks. However, the defence stayed solid and the second half provided no further scores as each side cancelled the other out.
The full-time whistle drew a less exciting second half to an end, with Berwick securing the bonus-point win.
Nearest rivals Royal High lost their fixture against Ross High, meaning that Berwick now only need to take a further three points from their remaining three games to secure the title.