Hawick Linden 5, Berwick 57
A depleted Linden team missing 12 players fell to a heavy defeat against Berwick of East League 1 at the Volunteer 3G.
The scoreline doesn’t tell the full story of this BT Borders Shield fixture, though – the Royal Blues had long periods of possession but were up against an excellent defence and a slick back division which was ruthless in taking opportunities.
After a minute’s silence for Remembrance Day, the Linden missed touch with an early penalty and were made to pay as Berwick ran back from their own half and full-back Gareth Hill finished off, with Shane Armstrong converting.
It got worse for the home team as, straight from the kick-off, some excellent handling by Berwick saw Craig Rogerson touch down and Armstrong again converted.
The Linden got themselves into the game and some great play from their own half took them into the Berwick 22 but, when they worked the ball wide, it was intercepted. Kieran Murphy tracked back to make a great tackle but Duncan Hardie, who originally intercepted, was up in support to run in for a 19-0 lead after 13 minutes.
A further setback befell the Linden as winger Ryan Renwick was forced to leave the field but replacement Scott Grant quickly made his mark on the game as he went over in the corner, following good lead-up play and a fine break by Macaulay Parker.
Alas, a dropped pass from the Royal Blues at the kick-off saw the ball scooped up by Armstrong, who fed stand-off Jack Webster to run over at the posts, and Armstrong’s kick stretched the lead to 26-5.
The Linden then spent a long period in the visitors’ 22, running a number of penalties, but they gained no reward. The Scremerston side made another fine break from their own half but Matthew Mallin saved the day with a great tackle.
Rory Graham replaced Kris Rowley, requiring a reshuffle in the backs for the second period. After a few penalties against the Linden, Glen Welsh kicked the ball away and was yellow-carded. Berwick immediately capitalised by taking a tap penalty and Lee Douglas touched down.
Soon afterwards, the visitors broke again from their own half and a behind-the-back pass from Hill saw Jack Dalrymple go over for a great score, which Armstrong converted to put Berwick 38-5 ahead.
After Lewis Stormont came off the bench for his Linden debut, the home team lost a line-out in the Berwick 22 and, once more, the visitors were ruthless as they went the distance and Hill applied the finishing touch, with Armstrong putting over the two points.
After Berwick prop John Nixon was sent for a 10-minute break, Glen Welsh was held up as the Linden tried to put some points on the board, having held the territorial advantage for most of the second period.
However, with time almost up, the Scremerston side scored again from distance, with Hill securing his hat-trick and Jamie Pick converting. Then, deep in injury time, Dalrymple scored the final try of the day.
In some ways, this was a strange game, as the Linden had plenty of possession and territory, particularly in the second half. Against an in-your-face defence, though, they struggled to find a way through.
Berwick, on the other hand, were a threat whenever their backs had the ball. Seven of their nine tries started from well inside their own half as they clinically took their opportunities with some cracking scores.
It was good to see Glen Welsh and Conor Gracie back in a royal blue jersey and, pulling one on for the first time, young Lewis Stormont showed up well. Simon Spalding enjoyed himself at hooker, while ‘Mark’ Grant was safe under the high ball and Macauay Parker was voted Linden man of the match.
Hawick Linden: G. Welsh, K. Murphy, M. Mallin, C. Gracie, R. Renwick, K. Rowley, E. Wood; S. Donnelly, S. Spalding, J. White, S. Hair, K. Mabon, E. Hair, M. Parker, J. Rowley. Subs: L. Sharkey, R. Graham, S. Grant, L. Stormont.