With injured players from every area of the team on the touchline and unavailability through work and holiday commitments it was largely a youthful side that took the field against opponents who had won ten out of fifteen to North Berwick’s six and in particular the reverse fixture in October.
Garret Hughes was drafted into the front row and Gregor Anderson and Nick Andrews started at 8 and 9 respectively with the boiler house in the 2nd row being Jake Boswell and Craig Gilroy with Iain Dove at 6 as his brother Jamie was in Dubai. Grant Craig returned at stand off and captained the side.
It was all Portobello for the first quarter and their backs were moving the ball well as their forwards dominated all phases. It seemed that before North Berwick had seen the ball they had lost three tries, one scored by Robert Ritchie who has of course represented North Berwick with distinction. On the rare occasions when North Berwick had possession, it was easily turned over as players became isolated.
After twenty minutes, there was a concerted attack in the Porty 22 and the home side gave away a couple of penalties. Craig opted to run them both and from the second, Cameron Warnock beat the defence to score at the posts for an easy conversion for Craig.
The game evened out a little as the North Berwick forwards began to win and recycle the ball. Towards the end of the half there were two more tries, one for each side. The Porty try came first and it was an excellent backs move which Ritchie finished in the left corner. Back went North Berwick and from another quickly taken penalty Craig slipped through the defence for a try which he converted. The whistle blew for half time and at 24 – 14 there was still hope for the visitors.
The second half saw Matt Dudgeon replacing Kyle Hamilton at inside centre and Danny Thorburn replacing Garret Hughes in the front row. Both in defensive and attack the side looked more balanced and Thorburn’s presence caused an immediate impact in the set piece. Bhrian Buchanan, Craig Gilroy, Anderson and Warnock all started to take some control and for long periods they attacked the Portobello line. Unfortunately they were not to score but had they done so the result might have been different.
Warnock picked up an injury and Jamie Armstrong moved to the back row to allow High School Captain Gus Elder to come on to the left wing. He performed admirable and a superb take from a high ball was one of the highlights.
From a rare attack, Porty scored a ‘forwards try’ close to the posts and converted to put the match out of reach for North Berwick.
Clearly the first twenty minutes of this match decided the final score but the young North Berwick players should take credit for keeping their heads up and making a game of the last sixty minutes and had they scored early in the second half it might have been different.
It was good to see Thorburn back in the red and black, his influence has been missed.