BERWICK 29 points, DUNS 15 points.
Duns travelled to Scremerston for the second time this season last saturday to play Berwick in the RBS Border Shield competition. Following their narrow loss by 17 - 10 in the league in September, hopes were high that a better Duns performance would lead to a different result this time round, but it was Berwick who deservedly won by 5 tries to 2 after a woeful performance in the opening quarter of the match by the visitors.
Considering that it was the last saturday in November, the conditions for the match were remarkably good. There was no rain and no wind - both unusual at Scremerston - and although it was perishingly cold for the spectators this did not affect the players.
Berwick kicked off and immediately had Duns on the back foot. A kick to the corner gave Duns a lineout less than 10 metres from their line, but the visitors conceded a free kick which was quickly taken and Alex Frost took advantage of a lack of organisation in the Duns defensive line to crash over for the game's opening score.
After 10 minutes Berwick again exploited Duns' defensive frailties. From a scrum to the home side just outside the Duns 22 the ball was shipped along the Berwick back line. They had a three on two overlap, but threw a miss pass which took away the overlap, although Gareth Hill on the left wing was able to hand off his opposite number and go over in the corner.
Keiran Wilkinson brought some brief respite with a penalty for Duns after 11 minutes, which narrowed the gap to 10 - 3.
Almost immediately from the restart a diagonal chip ahead from the Berwick stand off invited Hill to chase up the touchline. He had been given the freedom of Scremerston by the Duns threequarter line, and Dale Robertson was just unable to get across from full back to cover. 13 minutes gone and Duns trailed by 15 - 3.
Berwick continued to press and it was all hands to the pump from Duns with some last ditch tackling - one in particular by Andy Hamilton being a try-saver - and the odd misplaced pass by the visitors, which prevented any further addition to the scoring. At this stage Duns were all at sea and a real hiding was on the cards.
Just when half time was approaching, bringing with it some respite and a much-needed chance to regroup, Berwick scored their fourth try. Dan Law touched down, and a conversion by Hill made it 22 - 3 at the break.
Duns, to their great credit, emerged after half time looking like a different team. However, by this stage they were chasing the game and had on occasion to throw caution to the wind. They were by far the better side in the second half, during which Berwick were only rarely in their visitors' half. The first Duns try came after only 5 minutes, when Berwick had a scrum on their own 5 metre line - the scrum wheeled and at the same time the ball popped out at the flanker's feet and scrum half Stuart Thompson was quickest to react. He picked up and dived over from a couple of metres out to narrow the gap to 22 - 8.
Duns then huffed and puffed for 20 minutes or so, but were unable to break down the Berwick defence. Eventually, however, their pressure told and try number two was scored in the corner. After the ball had been taken through several phases of play by the forwards, it was sent along the back line and David Hutchison on the left wing dived over in the corner for his 98th First XV score. A great conversion by Dale Robertson narrowed the gap to 7 points and almost unbelievably, given the battering they had taken in the first half, Duns were within one score of tying the match.
Berwick were to hit Duns with a sucker punch with only 5 minutes remaining. A speculative up and under from the home side was set to land near half way and only a few metres in from touch. Two Duns players went for the same ball - the advancing winger and a retreating forward - and as if in slow motion they collided, the ball bounced, and the first player on hand was the Berwick flanker Alex Frost who galloped over from half way. Gareth Hill converted to stretch the lead to 29 - 15 and there was no way back for Duns.
Duns have now lost both matches to date in the RBS Border Shield, which is being played as a mini league amongst the seven clubs from the Borders who are involved in the competition. There are further matches to come in the New Year against Earlston, Langholm, Hawick Harlequins and Hawick Linden.
The Duns team was :- Dale Robertson ( captain ); Ross Turner, Andy Hamilton, Neil Graham and David Hutchison; Keiran Wilkinson and Stuart Thompson; Scott McCraw, Cammy Hill, Andrew Connor, James Thorburn, Stewart Cockburn, Chris Blaikie, Scott Lindsay and Richard Burns. The replacements were Allen Whellans, Chris Williamson, Duncan Budge and Andrew Baxter.
Berwick :- Dan Law; Gareth Hill, Roy McFarlane, Tommy McColl and Michael Brennan; Jack Webster and James Patterson; Richard Ayre, Gareth Black, Gareth Clark, Geoff Logan, Jamie Young ( captain ), Aaron Hall, David Gilchrist and Alex Frost. The replacements were Richard Hume, Tony McDougall and Alistair Grieve.