Hawick Harlequins 24, Duns 23
Hawick Harlequins welcomed Duns in Tennent’s East League Division 1 and, despite being dominated by their guests for long spells, won a hugely entertaining match to a converted Rory Smith try in the last minute.
Incessant rain in the 24 hours prior to the match had led the ‘Quins to book Hawick’s 3G pitch as a precaution, in the event that their Wilton Lodge Park pitch was unplayable.
However, at 3pm, ground conditions were almost perfect and the pitch held up very well indeed, while the waters of the River Teviot flowed brown and angrily only metres away.
‘Quins opened the scoring after eight minutes. A Duns player voiced his disagreement over a refereeing decision and the home side were awarded a penalty, which they kicked easily.
Dale Robertson replied with a penalty for Duns before the visitors took the lead. A long clearance kick by the ‘Quins failed to reach touch and it was collected by Michael Thomson wide out on the left, on the Duns 10 metre line.
He beat the one opponent who had followed up the kick, then set off on a run up the touchline. The covering full back caught him just inside the 22 but he had David Hutchison in support to receive the scoring pass.
With 25 minutes gone, Dale Robertson extended the lead when he kicked a penalty from just inside the ‘Quins half and Duns held an 11-3 lead.
‘Quins came straight back at Duns and scored a good try with 10 minutes of the half remaining. A penalty was kicked into the corner and from the lineout catch and drive, their scrum half had a snipe at the Duns line.
He popped a no-look pass inside to the supporting number 8, who powered over from close range for a converted score.
With half time approaching, ‘Quins were on the attack again. They moved the ball to the blind side from a ruck, where a pass to the wing was intercepted by Nathan Melrose.
He was more than 40 metres out but showed a clean pair of heels to the defence with a very deceptive turn of pace to score by the posts. Dale Robertson kicked the conversion to give Duns the lead by 18-10 at half time.
Duns had the strengthening wind at their backs in the second half and, with only five minutes gone Keiran Wilkinson sent a long, probing kick deep into the 22 for a lineout to the ‘Quins.
They lost the ball at the throw-in and, from the maul, Duns popped a pass to Nathan Melrose wide on the right. The hooker scored in the corner, although there was more than a hint that the scoring pass had gone forward.
At 23-10 ahead, Duns were bossing the game. They had terrific opportunities to extend their lead when first Mark Alexander, and then Danny Lamb, were tackled agonisingly short of the line and, on each occasion, the home side cleared the danger.
‘Quins were the better side in the closing quarter of the match and played some lovely rugby, despite the tricky conditions.
They scored a converted try to narrow the gap to 23-17 and, as the match wore on, Duns were defending deeper and deeper into their half and tackling as if their lives depended on it.
Eventually, the ‘Quins pressure told and they went over the line for what looked to be the match-winning score.
However, the ball carrier indulged in a little too much showboating and lost possession of the ball midway through his swallow dive. Duns were awarded a scrum five and their lead was retained.
With the clock running down, ‘Quins mounted one final assault on the visitors’ line. Agonisingly for Duns, they found a gap in the defensive wall and crossed for a try by Smith, which narrowed the gap to one solitary point.
A steady nerve was needed for the conversion but the kick, from Dean Gillan, was straight and true, and the home side took the lead.
At the re-start, the referee indicated 45 seconds left to play, which the Quins negotiated safely.
It was a great game of rugby, played by two very committed sides, and Duns were very unlucky to leave with only a losing bonus point to show for their hard work.