REDS BLOWN AWAY IN LAST TEN MINUTES
Dunbar 14 (0) – 3 (3) Linlithgow
Saturday 28 March 2015
Linlithgow RFC travelled to Dunbar for the last game of the season in the BT East League One. The Reds were tied in fourth place with the East Lothian side on points and this game was to decide which of the two sides finished above the other.
Although the sun was shining, the ferocious wind that was blowing not quite directly across the pitch meant there was little opportunity for either side to play any kind of flowing rugby. The throw-ins at the line-outs for both sides were a lottery and any kicking was not much better. The crowd had to make do with scraps of play.
The home side’s left winger posed an early threat with a couple of runs up field which required good tackling to prevent a breakthrough. The Reds fought back and captain, Stuart Cunningham, now settling into a regular slot at centte, had a good break forward that took the Reds into the home 22. Dunbar hit back and exerted some pressure playing into the wind. Linlithgow defended well but were grateful when Dunbar transgressed, allowing John Strachan to relieve the pressure with a kick downfield.
Flanker, Euan Richardson, who throughout the game always looked Linlithgow’s biggest threat belying the fact he had just spent twenty-nine hours travelling back from Australia, managed to break forward and took the Reds back up into Dunbar’s 22. The home side were penalised for killing the ball in a maul in front of the posts. John Strachan stroked the ball home to give the visitors a narrow lead.
Although Dunbar hit back, Billy Edment intercepted a pass but realised he could not run three-quarters of the length of the park and kicked ahead, with the ball unluckily going straight into touch. In the run-up to the interval, the Reds were more prominent but, despite another good break led by Euan Richardson, they could not convert their pressure into points and this was to tell in the end. The sides turned round with Linlithgow still only narrowly ahead by 3-0.
From the restart Dunbar used the wind to slightly greater advantage than Linlithgow had managed and from their first kick up field, they won good position for an attacking line-out. Although the Reds held this attack out, the pattern for the second half was largely set. Dunbar maintained pressure and the Reds had to defend stoutly. Alistair Wood did some outstanding defensive work at the lineouts and to a man Linlithgow tackled with commitment. Andrew Wood was called upon to deliver a good clearance kick from behind the try-line.
Stuart Bell, broke the pattern when he had a surging run that took the Reds on to the attack but nothing came of the move and the home team were able to use the wind and clear their lines. Play moved inexorably back towards the Reds’ try line, however, and, as the game approached the half-hour mark, the visitors could not escape from their 22.
The Dunbar forwards were keeping the ball in hand and rolling forward, in short bursts, calling upon the Reds to keep their tackling going. In the 30th minute, almost inevitably, however, the defence cracked and the forwards created a gap through which Dunbar ran to score. The kick was well-struck to add the two points.
There was time for Steven Grant to come on to the field to become the latest young player to make his Reds’ debut this season, but he had not an opportunity to touch the ball when, with three minutes to go, in the best-worked move of the game, quick passing from a Dunbar scrum allowed their backs to create a hole for their centre to run through unopposed. Another successful kick added the points.
The game ended with a Dunbar victory by 14-3. It might have been a tall order for Linlithgow to hold out for another ten minutes and come away with a narrow 3-0 victory but the final result rather flatters the home side and does not reflect on the effort Linlithgow put in to protecting their lead. However the experience of the Dunbar team in how to use the conditions is a final lesson the young Reds will hopefully take on board for next season.
The focus of the season now moves on to Sevens, with Linlithgow taking part in four tournaments, including a defence of the Leith Sevens title they won in 2014.
Fraser Rankine; Ben Milne, Stuart Cunningham, Andrew Wood and Keiron Faulds; John Strachan and Russell Murdoch; Calum Mckeown, Billy Edment and Chris Archer; Pat Bennie and Garry Anderson; Stuart Bell, Euan Richardson and Alistair Wood. Replacements: Scott Herdman, David Syme, Chris Ronalson and Steven Grant