Derby delight for Berwick with narrow victory over Duns

Duns RFC 26-27 Berwick RFC

Wednesday, 24th October 2018, 10:10 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th October 2018, 10:18 am

Duns locked horns with Berwick in their first local derby of the season, as the clubs faced each other in the latest round of matches in Tennent’s East League Division 1.

Berwick were looking to maintain their unbeaten start to the season, and their push for promotion to the National Leagues, while Duns sought to rebound from an agonising loss away to Hawick Harlequins by a solitary point in their previous match.

By full-time, it was Berwick who were celebrating, with a last-gasp try securing all five points, while Duns suffered yet another defeat by the narrowest of margins, losing by the odd point in 53.

The match kicked off on a lovely, sunny afternoon, in a strengthening breeze. A dry pitch meant that all was set for a game of running rugby, and so it turned out, with both teams scoring four tries in a hugely entertaining match.

Berwick enjoyed all of the early pressure, going through the phases and retaining the ball very well. They were rewarded with a penalty after only eight minutes, which was slotted by Andrew Skeen.

Duns then came more into proceedings and, after patiently working the ball up the park through the forwards, skipper Bert Grigg went over for the game’s opening try on 14 minutes. Dale Robertson converted.

Almost immediately, Duns increased their lead. Ryan Mania looked certain to score in the corner, but he seemed to stumble and at the same time was caught in a determined last-gasp tackle by the cover defence.

The ball was held up over the line with Duns being awarded a scrum 5, from which number 8 John Walker picked up and went over unopposed on the blind side, too far out for Dale Robertson’s conversion. Less than a quarter of the match had passed and Duns lead 12-3.

Undeterred by those early setbacks, Berwick came straight back at their hosts.

They were awarded a penalty, which was kicked to the corner, and safely secured their own line-out put-in. The maul was sacked by Duns, but the ball was zipped along the visitors’ three-quarter line to Gareth Hill on the right wing and he exploited the overlap to score an unconverted try in the corner.

Half-time arrived with both teams trying to move the ball wherever possible, and Duns held a slender advantage at 12-8.

Duns kicked off in the second half and were immediately on the offensive. A chip ahead by the home side was regathered close to the line and Duns were awarded a scrum only 5m out. Possession was secured and a couple of phases later, Danny Lamb darted round the side of the ruck to score his side’s third try. Again Dale Robertson converted.

The home side now had their tails up and were looking for the score which may have taken the game away from Berwick. However, the ball was spilled in midfield, and regathered by the visitors, who, almost in an instant, took the play 50m up the park.

The pack then took the ball through the phases, before hooker Ryan Wilson dived over from close range to score. Andrew Skeen kicked the goal to narrow the deficit to 19-15.

The topsy-tuvy nature of the game continued when Duns were next to score. Keiran Wilkinson chipped ahead inside the 22 and regathered the ball fortuitously when it rebounded off a defender.

Duns set up a ruck, from which a popped pass to Nathan Melrose took the hooker over by the posts for his side’s bonus point try. Dale Robertson again converted and Duns lead by 26-15.

Straight from the re-start kick, Berwick narrowed the gap again. Great interplay between backs and forwards took them deep into the home 22 and, when the ball was spun to the right, it was second row Euan Thompson who found himself on the wing. He still had a lot to do, but he crashed through the first tackle, then protected the ball in both hands as he dived over by the corner flag. Andrew Skeen kicked a beauty of a conversion from the touchline into the wind.

With the clock running down, Berwick had complete control of the game, with only stout defence by Duns keeping them out. The chinks in the defensive line were beginning to show, however, and as time wore on it seemed inevitable that the visitors would score. They were tackled just short of the line wide out on the right, and should surely have been penalised for a double – or even treble – movement, but the referee waved play on. The ball came back across the park and, with a yawning overlap against him, Duns fly-half Keiran Wilkinson went for an interception.

He got one hand to the ball but couldn’t quite gather it and he was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on.

A man down, the Duns defensive line was even more stretched. Berwick tapped the penalty and, after patiently going through several phases, while working their way closer to the line, their burly tight-head Tom Jackson ploughed his way over from close range.

The conversion was missed, but Berwick had the lead and they safely negotiated the remaining minute.

A great game of rugby, played by two fully committed sides full of local talent.

Berwick’s win keeps them hot on the heels of leaders Royal High, while the two bonus points earned by Duns keeps them in fourth.