Going up - red letter day as Blacks win East League 1 title
Berwick RFC 56-17 Broughton
Berwick clinched the Scottish East League 1 title when they beat Broughton 56-17 at Scremerston.
The Northumbrians, who are unbeaten in the league this season, ran in nine tries, including a hat-trick for Andrew Skeen.
The Blacks, who needed only three points to be crowned champions, got off to a nervous start, but they managed to open the scoring after 16 minutes through Jack Dalrymple. The conversion was missed but they had their noses in front at 5-0.
However, Broughton hit straight back and a converted try under the posts put the Edinburgh side 5-7 in front.
Gareth Hill then went over for Berwick after 24 minutes as Berwick re-took the lead at 10-7, but back came the visitors with another score to lead 10-12.
A classic line-out catch and drive saw Ryan Wilson touch down as Berwick went 15-12 in front, but again Broughton retaliated and another try saw them lead 15-17 at half-time.
In the second half Scott Owens charged over for a try, converted by Skeen, and when Skeen went over himself, again converted, Berwick were 29-17 ahead and seemingly on their way to victory.
Another try for Skeen and one for Rosie put Berwick further ahead at 46-17 and in a grand-stand finale, with the championship in the bag, Berwick put the icing on the cake with two tries in the last two minutes, scored by Adam Hardie and Skeen, which secured his treble.
Afterwards, team manager Owen Weatherhead confirmed that Berwick will be competing in the National 3 next season.
Promotion to the unregionalised National League 3 can either be accepted or rejected - with the club giving that decision to the players.
The players, according to Weatherhead, were unanimous in their desire to play at the higher level.
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“We are going to take promotion,” he confirmed. “We have already looked at the teams in the league above and what we are going to have to do. The recruitment drive has started and we are hopeful of getting a few boys in to bolster the squad. “Although the squad is good enough as it is, it probably just needs three or four just to add to the numbers because it is tough going into the national leagues. But we are very much looking forward to the challenge.”
Promotion comes without a defeat, so far, for Berwick. However, they were behind at half-time against Broughton on Saturday, with the manager putting that down to a few factors. “There were nerves and silly mistakes led to their tries. We were missing one-on-one tackles which we haven’t missed all season - we can put that down to nerves.
“But we had only had the ball half a dozen times and had scored three times, so we knew if we got control of the ball in the second half then we knew we would be OK. “The talk at half time was don’t panic, keep doing what we are doing and it will all work out in the end and thankfully it did.”
Berwick now have just two games left to play, against Forrester on April 20 and Portobello on April 27. Weatherhead admitted that he will not be 100% satisfied unless defeat is avoided in those two matches.
“I know it’s going to be tough because we are committed to the Border Sevens circuit as well, but I think we will commit fully to those two games and go the whole league campaign unbeaten.
“It will be tricky. There are now four teams getting relegated out of the East 1, and Portobello and Forrester are right in the mix, so they are going to be fighting for their lives.
“We will take the professional attitude we have had all season and go and try to win both those games.”
In terms of next season’s division, there were a few long trips on the cards - but some of those now look unlikely with Orkney sitting in the relegation zone and Gordonians (Aberdeen) topping the table and gaining promotion. Caithness will provide the longest trip for Berwick. Those trips, or a lack of, were not a deciding factor in the decision to go up.
“It wouldn’t have made a difference at all, we said we wanted to go back to National League no matter who was there. If Orkney do stay up and we have to go there then we will embrace it like we did the last time - when we set off at seven on the Saturday morning and didn’t get back until six on the Sunday night!
“We have used in the region of 30-35 players to win the league and every single one of them has been outstanding.”