Unbeaten Berwick maintain their good start to the season
Portobello 22-47 Berwick RFC
This was a game of two halves. In the first, unbeaten Berwick were slow to start and as a result it required a much improved second half to earn the bonus point win.
Portobello are a team who like to run the ball and with some decent backs you can understand why. However, the game plan caused them to shoot themselves in the foot within the first few minutes.
They tried to run the ball back from their own 22 straight from the kick off but instead a floating pass was plucked out of the air by Berwick winger Gareth Hill who then neatly side stepped a player before touching down for the opening score. The conversion was missed by Andrew Skeen but Berwick had the lead at 5-0.
The lead was extended shortly thereafter as Portobello strayed offside to give Skeen a penalty kick which he duly converted to make it 8-0.
Both teams wanted to run the ball and this led to an entertaining game with some good skills on show. A good interplay between Skeen, Hill and Jamie Pick nearly came up trumps but they couldn’t finish off the good build up play with the try. Instead it was left to the boot of Skeen to kick another penalty chance to give Berwick an early 11-0 lead.
Portobello closed the gap within a few minutes as it was Berwick’s turn to stray offside giving Portobello the chance from the kick. This converted penalty from Portobello fly half Christopher Britee-Steer closed the gap to 11-3 with less than 20 minutes played.
Both sides continued their game plan of running rugby but in the set piece Berwick had the edge in the scrum with Portobello dominating the line out. Ironically the next try came from a lineout after Berwick Captain Tom Jackson elected to put a penalty chance down the touchline rather than go for the posts. Unlike Robshaw in the last World Cup this captain’s gamble paid off as the ball was gathered and driven by the pack over the line with number 8 Tommy McColl bottom of the pile for the score. The conversion was missed but Berwick looked comfortable at 16-3 with only 25 minutes played.
Portobello continued to stick to their game plan of running the ball through the backs as often as they could but for all their clever and attractive play they couldn’t convert the possession into scores. Eventually though they deservedly got a try from second row Roe who was able to breach the Berwick defence after a sustained period of Portobello attacks. The conversion was good to make it 16-10.
As half time approached Berwick started to look tired and a bit ragged with some missed tackles allowing their wing to score a decent try from near the stand side touchline. The conversion was missed and the half time whistle closed an entertaining first half with the score at 16-15 to Berwick.
Berwick started the brighter of the two teams in the second half and their work rate increased noticeably leading to a rare try for second row Euan Thompson. The conversion kick was made to look easy from a difficult position by Skeen and Berwick led 23-15.
Berwick continued to keep the pressure on and from a dominant scrum Berwick’s pack earned a well-deserved pushover try for number 8 McColl. The conversion was missed but Berwick led 28-15.
Portobello fought straight back as the game opened up a bit and it was the second row Roe who scored next with another well taken try to make it 28-22.
Hill then got his second try with some good finishing after some quick ball along the backline gave him some space to work with. The bonus point was secured and Berwick were leading 33-22.
Portobello’s cause wasn’t helped when their flanker was yellow carded for a couple of tackles which strayed to the head which under the new law interpretation means some time in the sin bin. Berwick were quick to take advantage of the extra man as replacement Jack Dalrymple showed good composure and a strong desire to score by going past the defence with a strong run and finish. Skeen added the conversion and Berwick lead 40-22 with 16 minutes to go.
However, Ryan Wilson from Berwick was sent to the sin bin as the Berwick side had accumulated too many penalties and Wilson was next to infringe. Being a man down didn’t turn the game though and instead another replacement, Aidan Rosie, finished off another strong run from full back Rory Hindhaugh. The full back took the ball in his own half and burst clear to the half way point before Rosie was on hand to take the ball to touch down, with Skeen adding the conversion kick to make it 47-22.