Duns travelled up the East Lothian coast on Saturday to Recreation Park to take on North Berwick in the East 1 league following a fortnight’s inactivity. The tie looked in doubt earlier in the week due to the freezing weather but the thaw came in time for the game to go ahead with conditions underfoot very soft and wet. The traditional strong east wind was blowing from over North Berwick Law across the pitch.
The corresponding fixture in September was a convincing win for the home team at The Hardens, but previous season’s results have been close affairs. The Dinger’s, however, had some absentees due to injuries and other commitments and drafted in several second XV players to bolster the squad.
Duns looked lively early on and if a pass had gone to hand Hutchison looked to be in space, Baxter on the opposite flank had a good run into the North Berwick 22 but the ball was turned over and momentum was lost. Retaining the ball for any length of time became a problem for the visitors all game. They also lost some of their own ball at the set scrum and line-out giving advantage to their hosts.
After 8 minutes Liam West the home stand-off had a good kick to touch near to the Duns try line, The Dinger’s won the throw in but the attempted clearance kick was charged down then knocked on by a Duns defender giving the home side a good attacking platform which they duly accepted with one of their forwards barging over for the try. Not only did Duns lose 5 points but lost 2 players with cuts following a clash of heads. Cammy Hill required several minutes of repair while Andy Hamilton was not so fortunate and had to attend hospital for stitches. Daniel Wright, making his 1st XV debut, and Neil Graham replaced the bloodied duo while North Berwick added the extras. Two minutes later North Berwick added a further touchdown the conversion going wide.
Mid way through the half Cammy Hill returned to the field in place of Daniel Wright, but his rest was short lived, 5 minutes later he replaced Andrew Baxter who suffered from an asthma attack, Wright returning to the pack while flanker Bert Grigg was placed on the wing. The visitors seemed to find some form in attack and won a penalty within 10 metres of the try line, a tap was taken with defenders clearly within 5 metres, the attack was smothered and a turn over allowed the East Lothian side to send the ball back into the Duns half.
The home side them regained their superiority and added a 3rd try, a Duns defender slipped on the soft ground allowing the home centre space to stroll in unopposed, again the conversion was missed.
Duns again took the ball into the opposition 22 but could not find the spark to score their first points of the game. Their injury woes, however, continued with Duncan Budge having to leave the fray with an ankle injury, Scott Turnbull replacing his captain in the second row. Just before half time Dale Robertson had a penalty attempt at goal but his effort missed the sticks and the side turned round at North Berwick 17 – Duns 0.
Two minutes into the second period Duns’ injury jinx struck again with Johnnie Thorburn, who had been doing well in the scrum, had to leave the field with an injury to his knee, Stewart Calder coming on for his first appearance this season. Duns knew they had to score next to give them a chance of getting something from this game and there were promising signs in the first 20 minutes that points may come. This optimism, however, was snuffed out with North Berwick’s third touchdown just into the final quarter, the conversion again missed. Their bonus point was secured 5 minutes later when good following up allowed their hooker to score in the corner for another unconverted try.
With 10 minutes of the game left Duns finally managed to get points on the board with a try from Andrew Connor, the prop later deservedly awarded the Duns’ man of the match for his all round display, Dale Robertson failed with the conversion.
The final say was from North Berwick with a further unconverted try giving them a deserved win of 32 points to 5.
Injuries did not help the Duns cause but their downfall was not being able to retain the ball, North Berwick exploiting those numerous turnovers. Credit, however, goes to the second XV players who stepped up, Daniel Wright particularly showing some aggression and endeavour.
The Duns team was :- Dale Robertson, David Hutchison, Ross Turner, Andy Hamilton and Andrew Baxter, Keiran Wilkinson and Stuart Thomson, Andrew Connor, Cammy Hill, Johnnie Thorburn, Duncan Budge (captain), James Thorburn, Bert Grigg, Richard Burns and Chris Williamson, replacements were Stewart Calder, Daniel Wright, Scott Turnbull and Neil Graham.
There is no game for Duns 1st XV next week, but the 2nds take on Bo'ness at The Hardens and The Colts travel to Tynedale, both kick-offs at 2pm.