Linlithgow Rugby Club earned a fine 31-17 home success over bottom club Dunbar last Saturday in an exciting BT East 1 League confrontation, writes Ken Richardson.
Linlithgow moved up to seventh place after recording their third league win of this campaign by seeing off the struggling visitors.
The Reds were without captain Craig Scott, forwards Sean Hagerty, Mark Caddle, Michael Robertson and Andrew Archer, with Mark Green absent from the backs.
The Reds started the match on the front foot and for the first 25 minutes Dunbar were pinned inside their own half as wave after wave of Reds attacks crashed down on them.
It says much for their tackling and defensive abilities that Dunbar only conceded two tries and a penalty during this period, while the Reds will have been disappointed not to have
put the game out of sight during this period.
The first score came from the boot of Jack Frame as he stroked over a penalty and then young Gregor Stewart claimed his third try in two matches as he squeezed in at the corner after sustained Linlithgow pressure.
Dunbar, in a rare foray into the Reds half, then came away with a penalty to make the score 8-3, before the Reds got back on the attack again.
Two Reds’ players who stood out throughout the match, Stuart Cunningham and Neil Lockhart, then featured significantly in Linlithgow’s second try.
A clearance kick out of defence was fielded by the Reds near the half way and after a long pass to midfield, hooker Stuart Cunningham made a powerful break running 30 metres through the middle of the Dunbar defence before offloading to second row Neil Lockhart, whose pace and swerve took him past the remaining defenders and under the posts for a try converted by Jack Frame.
Whether it was the Reds relaxing and taking the foot off the gas or Dunbar stepping up or even a mixture of both, but now play swung completely to Dunbar and they finished the first half in the Reds 22 having clawed back another 7 points, through a converted try, to make the half time score 15-10 in the Reds' favour.
A change at half-time saw Andrew Whitelaw make his season’s debut for the Reds, after injury lay-off, coming on for wing Peter Millar, with Gregor Stewart moving out from centre
The game was in a critical phase and Dunbar, sensing their opportunity sought to capitalise, however the Reds defence remained resolute, with a couple of outstanding tackles from Stuart Cunningham to the fore, and the home team began to get back into the game.
The Reds were awarded a penalty about 30 metres out, following a period of sustained pressure, which featured strong runs from Stuart Cunningham and Neil Lockhart amongst others and Jack Frame stepped up to coolly slot the kick and claim a huge cheer from the crowd as his successful kick struck Graham Murray’s pint sending it flying to the great amusement of all but Graham!
After a further period of pressure from the Reds they were awarded another penalty and once again Jack Frame stepped up to slot the ball between the posts.
This took the Linlithgow lead out to 21-10 and seemed to settle the home team.
The Reds were soon back in the Dunbar half and had the visitors under the cosh, however a wayward pass was spilt and Dunbar reacted to set up a counter-attack which took play from their own 22 to the Reds’ 22 and a few plays later they claimed another try, which was converted to pull the Linlithgow lead back to 21-17.
By now the game was into the final quarter and, in a near carbon copy of their last two league matches, the Reds seemed to have saved their best for last.
In a blistering 10 minutes they scored two excellent tries and were held up on or near the line on a further two occasions.
The first try came from Rab Cairns who collected an exquisitely weighted chip from John Chapman after a series of attacks by the Reds in the Dunbar 22.
The second was scored by sub Cammy Murrie who rounded the cover defence near the corner after a flowing move from the Reds.
In between, a lovely move left saw backs and forwards interchange passes before Rab Cairns was stopped on the line by a superb double cover tackle.
Considering the number of changes in personnel, the Reds will ultimately be pleased with their performance, although disappointed that they couldn’t make their early dominance count more tellingly.
In a show of club spirit, the Reds were joined on the field at the game end by a number of players from the victorious 2s team to celebrate another try bonus win double for the club.
The Linlithgow Rose Walking Football group, who sponsored Saturday’s match, jointly awarded the man-of- the-match award to Stuart Cunningham and Neil Lockhart for their outstanding performances.
Next week the Reds are away at Forrester, while the 2s visit Inverleith. Both matches kick off at 3pm.
Linlithgow: Rab Cairns; Peter Millar, Gregor Stewart, Chris Ronalson, Jack Frame; John Chapman, Jamie March (capt); Ally McLean, Stuart Cunningham, Chris Archer; Neil Lockhart, Euan Mochrie; Kieran Cochrane, Cal Thomson and Ross Martin. Subs: Calum McKeown, Lauchlan McCall, Cammy Murrie, Andrew Whitelaw.