TYNEDALE COLTS 12 points, DUNS COLTS 26 points.
Duns Colts made their longest trip of the season on saturday to play Tynedale Colts in the Scottish Borders Semi Junior League, and recorded an historic first-ever away win over their hosts by 26 points to 12.
The number of matches to be played in the Colts' league is such that there are no free saturdays over the holiday period, and so whilst the players from the Firsts and Seconds were busy trying to work out how long their turkeys should be in the oven, or prepping their parsnips and Brussels sprouts, the Colts were boarding the coach for the near 100 mile journey to Corbridge.
The rain was falling in torrents when the party left Duns, and it continued unabated throughout the trip down the A1 and then up the Tyne valley. Many of the fields on the roadside were underwater, and so those on the coach doubted whether the match could possibly go ahead. The official word from Tynedale was that the pitch would be 'squelchy' but in actual fact the ground was in perfect condition for the game, the drainage system on the six pitches at Tynedale Park being second to none.
Duns travelled with a squad of 18, and were without a number of regulars for the match. Some of the playing squad had attended Christmas parties the night before, and were perhaps not in tip-top condition for the game - one in particular had to take a break from the warm up and was spotted bent over beside a large oak tree with his hands on his knees - but as soon as the match started the entire side played with an intensity rarely seen so far this season.
The visitors came out of the blocks at full tilt, and were in Tynedale's faces from the first whistle. Man for man, as is always the case against Tynedale, the Duns players were smaller than their opposite numbers, but what they lacked in bulk the Duns players more than made up for in tenacity and fighting spirit. When Duns were in possession their support play was superb, and when their opponents had the ball their tackling was ferocious. Tynedale had no answer to this onslaught, and after 25 minutes of the game Duns had scored 4 tries to lead by 26 - nil.
The home side's full back was clearly not the most fleet-footed of individuals, which was noted and duly exploited by the Duns stand off Dom Ginn who kicked into space frequently to exploit this lack of pace. From one such kick, the home number 15 was caught in possession 10 metres from his own line, and with his pack slow to get back to help him out he lost possession - Duns quickly moved the ball along the line and Jack Clayworth was on hand to score close to the posts. Dom Ginn converted.
Five minutes later Duns scored their second try. The visitors had a scrum just inside the Tynedale half and lined their backs up to the left, leaving a big blind side. The scrum wheeled slightly to the right, and Charlie Marshall at number 8 picked up and set off toward the line. The Tynedale back row were out of position due to the wheeled scrum, and Marshall just had the pace to reach the line before the cover defence got to him, taking the home left wing with him as he dived over for a fine individual score. Dom Ginn's conversion from the touchline was a beauty.
With 20 minutes on the clock Duns scored again. Lewis Craik beat one, then another, then a third opponent in an aggressive, direct run up the centre of the park, and as he was finally hauled down he offloaded to Rob White on the right wing. With open prairie ahead of him he sprinted clear of the Tynedale defence to score in the corner.
Straight from the re-start Duns gathered the ball and after a couple of forward drives a quick passing movement to the left saw Iain Sim sprint clear. His pace took him round the outside of the last defender and he came in as close to the posts as possible to make the conversion a formality. Almost unbelievably, with less than 25 minutes gone in the match Duns lead by 26 - nil.
There was no further scoring before half time. Tynedale, stung by the Duns onslaught, came much more into the match but were unable to break down the visitors' defence.
The second half was more evenly contested, with Tynedale enjoying considerably more possession. They often threatened to score, but only managed to do so twice thanks to robust tackling throughout the Duns team. Their first try was scored after 15 minutes of the half, with the simple conversion attempt from in front of the posts being fluffed. Midway through the half Iain Sim was rather harshly yellow carded and during their 10 minutes of numerical superiority Tynedale added a further try when a Duns clearance kick was charged down. This time the conversion was successful, narrowing the gap to 26 - 12.
There was no further scoring, and the referee's full-time whistle was met with a cheer by the entire Duns team who realised to a man that they had put in undoubtedly their best shift of the season so far.
An hour or so was then spent in 'the hut' - the Tynedale Colts wooden clubrooms some 50 or so metres from the main club building - enjoying what is always excellent hospitality from the home side. An idiosyncrasy of a trip to Tynedale is that a cake is always on hand, and the Duns captain Patrick Watson was invited to cut the cake to celebrate his side's first ever win in Corbridge. The 100 mile journey home somehow didn't seem so long as the trip down.
This saturday the Colts face what will probably be their stiffest test of the season, with an away match at undefeated league leaders Hawick Wanderers. After the performance at Tynedale who knows what the outcome might be.
The Duns team was :- Callum Redden; Rob White, Iain Sim, Steven Patterson and Jack Clayworth; Dom Ginn and Andrew Sanderson; Dylan Renton, Patrick Watson ( captain ), Ben Gray, Chris Browne, Angus Webster, Lewis Craik, Charlie Marshall and Scott McEachen. The replacements were Steven Markby, Rafa Goncalves and Ryan Glennie. A mention, too, for the coaches Alan Bogle, Gordon Sim and Rob Williamson, and also Stephen Clark who was unable to travel.