Pressure Finally Pays Off for Duns
Linlithgow 3 – 12 Duns
Saturday 02 December 2017
An early morning pitch inspection cleared both Upper Mains Park and the grass pitch at Kettilstoun for rugby, while Lower Mains park was unplayable with rutted ice on the surface. Fortunately the Reds 3s match had already been moved to Queensferry, so all three senior teams were in action on Saturday.
The Reds were missing a few key players, who have picked up injuries over the last few weeks, including captain Craig Scott and backs Jack Frame and Mark Green. In addition, Michael Robertson has now moved south with work, so there were quite a few changes in the Reds line-up, with Steven Grant, Kieran Cochrane, Ross Tulloch and Cammy Murrie coming into the match day squad.
Linlithgow kicked off into the breeze and for the first few minutes the teams were evenly matched and play took place around the midfield. Reds then lost hooker Stuart Chunk Cunningham to what turned out to be a broken arm, with Euan Mochrie moving in to cover from back row and Kieran Cochrane coming off the bench to slot in as flanker.
For most of the rest of the half, Duns put the Reds under continuous pressure, with a brand of confident mobile rugby as befitted their position as third in the league. This was assisted by some poor clearance kicks from the Reds. Several times the visitors put huge pressure on the Reds’ line, but tremendous tackling and key turnovers from the Reds held them at bay. Time and time again Duns charged forward but the thin red line held and halftime came with the score still at 0-0. An entertaining half of rugby despite the lack of scores.
The Reds now had the breeze at their back and for the first 15 minutes played some excellent rugby, making good use of the wind to pin Duns back in their own half. The Reds pack had now assumed ascendancy in the scrum and the Reds were starting to look dangerous. Having driven up to the Duns 22 on the right hand side of the pitch, the Reds now spun the ball left and, with an overlap created looked likely to score. However, a late tackle from the big Duns centre drew a whistle and yellow card from the referee, when on his own admission he probably should have let the advantage run and then come back afterwards to penalise the late hit. It was unfortunate for the Reds, but there were no complaints as the referee had a very good match and the respect of the players.
Rab Cairns stepped up to slot the penalty giving the Reds a 3-0 lead. At this stage, the Reds were looking dangerous with stand-off Andrew Whitelaw pulling the strings with some excellent probing kicks. The Reds now had possession deep in the Duns half and, as the ball came right, Whitelaw spotted a gap at the back and chipped over the onrushing defence. As the ball landed behind the Duns line, Whitelaw looked certain to beat the defenders to the touchdown, but a cruel bounce saw the ball sail back over his head straight into a beaten defender’s welcoming grasp – denying the Reds an almost certain 7 points. You also got the feeling that if Duns had slipped 10 points behind, after all their pressure and territory in the first half, they wouldn’t have recovered against a Reds team gaining in confidence as the game wore on.
However, matches often turn on such fine margins and with the next attack, a Duns player sent an excellent bouncing kick towards the Reds’ corner flag, where an unfortunate slip by a Reds defender under pressure led to Duns scoring an unconverted try in the corner.
This gave Duns the lead at 5-3 but more importantly their confidence back and from then onwards they never looked like relinquishing their lead. Andrew Archer and Cammy Murrie both came off the bench, but it was Duns who scored the only other points of the match with a converted try to make the final score 12-3 to the visitors.
Duns deserved the victory with their overall play and pressure, but the Reds will be disappointed not to have taken more from the match after surviving all the pressure in the first half. Commitment and tackling were not in question, but it was often silly mistakes – drops balls, missed kicks – that let the Reds down. Duns are a competent and skilful side, as their league record shows, but are not unbeatable.
Young Kieran Cochrane was deservedly awarded the Linlithgow player-of-the-match by the match sponsors, Linlithgow Rugby Club Male Voice Choir. Last season’s u18 player put in a power of work around the pitch after coming on as a substitute very early in the game.
Rab Cairns; Peter Millar, Gregor Stewart, Chris Ronalson, Ross Tulloch; Andrew Whitelaw, Jamie March (captain); Chris Archer, Stuart Cunningham, Steven Grant; Neil Lockhart, Sean Hagerty; Euan Mochrie, Ross Martin and Mark Caddle.
Subs – Kieran Cochrane, Cammy Murrie, Andrew Archer.