Dalkeith v Hawick Quins
Dalkeith welcomed league leaders Hawick Harlequins to Kings Park, hoping that last week’s cancelled fixture had not left the home side short of match practise. Montgomery was still unavailable, but Hamilton returned to the back row and Graham was back in the boiler room.
The home side began brightly, winning Quins scrum ball against the head and immediately getting the backs running at the visitors defence, Reid initially looked to have been stopped in midfield, but then powered on and over for an early try, Clugston converted for a handy 7-0 lead.
Dalkeith’s much bigger pack is controlling scrum possession and good home ball, means that Quins are struggling to defend their line, ultimately being caught off-side on their 22. Dalkeith kick to touch and a text book drive to the line takes Halliday over for the second try, which with Clugtston’s conversion, brings up a 14-0 lead after barely 15 mins.
Quins burst into life though and their young pack and back division do a good job of switching the play to keep Dalkeith on the back foot as they move into the home half of the field and this time Dalkeith are caught off-side in their own 22. Quins decide to go for the posts and the successful kick brings things to 14-3.
Dalkeith immediately challenge the restart and after securing possession, the forwards drive towards the Quins line, the visitors are caught off-side and the quick tap by Ramsay is spun wide to Hamilton who dives into the corner for try number three. Clugston misses the conversion from wide out, but Dalkeith have a healthy early lead at 19-3.
The home side are well in control at this point and everything is being played out in the Quins half of the field, especially as the strong wind is making any meaningful clearance kicks a lottery. Dalkeith are piling on the pressure, with Davidson prominent in scrapping for loose ball and also in taking the ball back into contact, but Quins are defending well and the tackle area is keenly contested. A home score still looks on the cards though as Cassidy gets the offload in midfield, but the centre knocks-on and Quins clear their lines.
Despite lots of possession, Dalkeith are looking harum-scarum in their approach and indecision with the ball in hand is halting many forays into the Quins 22. Another promising attack then looks like delivering a further score just before half time, only for Hay to be penalised for holding on in the tackle in front of the posts and Quins reach half time without conceding further.
With the advantage of the wind and slope, Quins would be hoping that their fortunes might change in the second half, but although still not firing on all cylinders, the home side look to be containing anything that Quins can throw at them and on securing possession Dalkeith are happy to take the game back to the visitors. However, too often the ball is being kicked away, when a couple of further phases may have opened up the visitors defence.
Dalkeith are now pushing hard for the important fourth, bonus point, try and Cassidy is again unlucky not to score, when he is held up inches from the Quins line and Dalkeith are then penalised at the tackle, allowing Quins to clear. Given the plethora of possession from their dominant scrum and line-out, the home side do seem destined to add to their score, but poor decision making and undisciplined attacking moves allow Quins to clear time and again, when a score looked certain.
Dalkeith keep at them though and Hamilton is unlucky to be forced into touch out wide as the backs make good use of a poorly cleared ball. Then after winning back possession from the line out, Clugston really should have released his inside backs instead of going it alone the ball is then held up, gifting the visitors a scrum. Dalkeith pile on the pressure though and take another against the head and three phases of forward drives then release Allan, who powers over from close range. The conversion is unsuccessful, but the home team have their bonus point try and a comfortable 24-3 lead heading into the final quarter.
Each time Quins clear the pressure downfield, the Dalkeith back three bring the ball back at them and constant Dalkeith pressure means that the game is taking place almost exclusively in the Quins 22. One such attempted clearance is brought back by Reid and then Hamilton, who is only halted by a high tackle, allowing Clugston to make ground from the penalty to touch. Dalkeith win the ball and spin it quickly wide, where the recently introduced Ross shows pace and guile to force his way over for the fifth try, this time the conversion is good and Dalkeith look more than secure at 31-3.
Dalkeith continue to dominate in the last 10 mins, but stout Quins defence and further howlers from the players when scoring looks easier than not, halt further additions to the scoreboard. A last minute penalty does give the home side another workable situation, but the referee indicates that there is no time for the kick to touch and Clugston goes for goal, but misses, leaving the final score at 31-3 for Dalkeith.
This was a good win against one of their closest competitors, but how many chances were butchered by the home team, that they might yet come to regret if the league goes to the wire? Next week it’s an away fixture at Forrester RFC, 3.00pm KO.