Berwick take the points in a close encounter at Livingston
Livingston 24-26 Berwick RFC
Previous games against Livingston have been tough games and Berwick haven’t come out on top very often.
However, this hard-working performance deservedly saw them claim all the points on offer. A late flurry of cards brought more colour to the game than was needed but it all added to the excitement for the spectators.
The ground was bathed in warm autumn sunshine as the game kicked off but the two teams didn’t start as brightly. The first five minutes saw both teams taking no chances and was played largely in the middle of the pitch. The home side eventually opened the scoring and it came from a well worked set play. A lineout on the 22 was gathered and moved forward by the larger Livingston pack.
Eventually the Livingston second row managed to loop round the maul and using his bulk he forced his way through the Berwick defence to score. The conversion was well kicked and the home side were 7-0 up. Berwick started to gain some possession with the backline being able to offer some threat for the first time. But just as Berwick seemed to be gaining some momentum the ball wouldn’t fall kindly and the chances were lost. The scrum count started to rack up and Livingston being much larger made the Berwick front row of Darren Goodfellow, Ryan Wilson and Tom Jackson work very hard to keep on level terms.
The stop start nature of the game meant Berwick couldn’t get their running game into play and then the home side extended their lead. The score came after a five-minute period of sustained pressure on the Berwick line. The defence held out the attacks well with good tackling and fast line speed. With Livingston having no success with the rucks they decided to kick cross field and with the ball breaking loose as the defender tried to gather it Livingston were able to gather the ball to score out wide. The conversion was missed but the home side were sitting comfortably at 12-0 up.
Berwick fought back within a few minutes and it came as a result of being able to put some phases together. A series of forward drives created enough space for Gareth Hill to sprint in and with Andrew Skeen adding the conversion Berwick had closed the gap to one try at 12-7. Shortly afterwards Berwick were in front and it came from a misfired throw in from Livingston. The ball was thrown too long and was gathered by Berwick before being quickly fed along the backline where Berwick full back Rory Hindhaugh finished off the sweeping move. Skeen added a difficult conversion to give Berwick the lead at 12-14 despite having little of the possession. Half time came with Berwick still in front.
Livingston came out for the second half fired up and full of forward pressure. From a lineout they were able to maul the ball over the Berwick line to take back the lead at 17-14. Livingston started to gain the upper hand in the scrum putting the Blacks under a lot of pressure and denying them a stable platform from which to mount effective attacks.
Eventually though Berwick managed to scrum well and Berwick number eight Tommy McColl picked up before powering over the gain line. Good support play then allowed the ball to be moved swiftly forward with Hindhaugh drawing the last man to release Hill into space. A swift race through the gears saw Hill home to score his second try of the game. Skeen missed the conversion but Berwick were back in front 17-19.
The game was then held up for a knee injury to Berwick substitute Tom Riddell which saw him carried off after only 10 minutes into a comeback from a previous injury.
After the match restarted Berwick ruthlessly scored again. A wonderful cross field kick from Skeen saw Jamie Pick gather the ball and with only one man to beat Pick sped home for the score. Skeen added the extras to make it 17-26.
The game seemed to be maundering to full time but the last five minutes saw some late drama. First Livingston had a player yellow carded for a high tackle before they then made a dramatic break upfield. Jack Dalrymple came across from his wing to make a tackle on the Livingston player in front of the posts to deny the try.
Unfortunately, both players slipped as they came together with Dalrymple falling into the tackle out of position catching the Livingston player in the head.
The referee felt he had no choice but to apply the ultimate sanction of a red card. Dalrymple was obviously upset having never before received any card in all his time as a youth and senior player. A handful of the home support had been baying for a red card which left a bad taste in the mouth over the incident.
With the tackle deemed illegal and preventing a certain try scoring opportunity the referee also awarded a penalty try to make it 24-26 to Berwick. Thankfully for Berwick the final whistle blew a minute after the restart to give them the bonus point victory.
This was a great learning experience for the Berwick side. Livingston have a formidable pack which gave them lots of ball but Berwick were more clinical in their finishing and attack play with the reduced amount of ball they had. Victories like this can be defining moments in a league campaign that has barely begun but the spirit, calmness and self-belief shown by the Blacks is something to build on for the rest of the season. Berwick’s next home game is against Linlithgow at Scremerston. Kick off is 3pm with a pre-match lunch beforehand at 12:30. The match is sponsored by Pam and Elliott Hill with the Match Ball being sponsored by Scott Owens Joinery and Carpentry.