Dalkeith v Earlston
Dalkeith welcomed Earlston RFC to Kings Park on league business, with the home side hopeful of maintaining their positive start to the season, which sees them still sit atop East League 2, with a game in hand.
The home side start well, forcing Earlston into an early penalty, so Clugston opts to make ground and sets up the line-out. Then a neat chip from Clugston soon has the visitors defence scrambling back and forced into the hurried clearance on their 22. Dalkeith again secure possession, before Smith has a mazy run through the defence and Earlston are then penalised for hands in the ruck. Clugston goes for goal, but the kick sails wide.
Earlston are caught offside at the restart and this helps Dalkeith put together a promising attacking spell from the resultant penalty line-out, only to be undone for holding on in the tackle and Earlston clear their lines. The home side are continuing to pressurise Earlston well though and a loose kick up field is taken back by Clark, who's mazy run is only halted by a high tackle, but Reid is on hand to rescue the loose ball and score in the corner. Clugston converts the tricky touch line conversion to make things 7-0.
Earlston pressure the next restart and a silly penalty from the home side in their 22 immediately gives Earlston a chance to put points on the board, which they are happy to convert for 7-3.
Dalkeith's scrum after a quiet early spell is now proving totally dominant and Earlston are simply unable to secure possession from this source as the half continues, giving the home side sustained spells of quality turnover ball. However, the back division are doing their level best to butcher every scoring chance that this decent possession delivers, with dropped passes, poor timing and knock-ons, allowing Earlston to stay well within touching distance.
After Earlston lose another scrum, Montgomery takes the ball blind and darts up the touch line, before chipping ahead and reaching the ball before the defence for the second try. Clugston misses the conversion from out wide, 12-3.
After some early success, Earlston's line out is also miss-firing and pilfered ball is taken forward by Reid, before the forwards maul to 10m from the Earlston posts and win the penalty. However, Clugston is again off target and Earlston clear again with half time approaching.
With the slope and a seemingly regular stream of possession coming in the second half the home side will have been hoping that they would add to the score and secure the league points fairly quickly. However, its Earlston who are quickest out of the blocks and Dalkeith are pinged for holding in the tackle again, allowing the visitors to make ground into the Dalkeith half from a penalty line out. However, two phases later Dalkeith steal the ball and Clark goes on a great 50m run, which ultimately secures Dalkeith a scrum in the Earlston 22. Yet again though the back division fail to click and knock ons and poor timing allow Earlston to clear he danger and to remain very much in the match, if only they can secure some possession.
But it's all Dalkeith at his point and rarely can a team be controlling so many facets of a game without getting more points on the board. A maul by the forwards then takes them well into the 22 and, if the back had just kept the ball in hand, it looked like a certain try, but the chip ahead is touched down over the line by the defender, Dalkeith have a 5m scrum. However, good defence by Earlston gains them turnover ball and the chance to clear the danger and Dalkeith must build again.
This time Reid and Ross combine to set up good field position, before Montgomery chips ahead and chases the ball to the visitors 5m line forcing a line out. The forwards maul well, but can't get over the line and Earlston again clear the immediate danger.
Dalkeith drive once more into the Earlston 22 and force the visitors into conceding four consecutive 5m scrums, but the forwards through bad luck and bad timing just can't get over the try line. Earlston then clear to their 22, but immediately give away a scrum penalty and Clugston goes for goal, this time successful, 15-3.
Earlston are pinned in their 22 for most of the half with Dalkeith stealing scrum and line out ball at will. However, more clear scoring opportunities are thrown away with poor passing and decision making in both forwards and backs, leaving Earlston still within striking distance of Dalkeith's points total.
Another Dalkeith scrum steal sets up further quality possession well within the visitors 22 and this time Clugston goes it alone. Scything through the defence and over near the posts for the third try. He then blots his copy book by missing the easy conversion, but Dalkeith now look more secure at 20-3.
Earlston are not out of it though and come back strongly at Dalkeith in the last 15 mins. The home side’s bad habit of chest high tackling is not helping their defensive efforts and Earlston are brushing off defenders on their drive to the line and before the Dalkeith defence can organise itself they are over for the try and back into the match again at 20-10.
Despite further forays into the Dalkeith half, Earlston don’t look like adding to their score and the home side are content to contain things in the final 5mins until the final whistle.
Another win which solidifies Dalkeiths’ position as East 2 league leaders, but with several testing away fixtures still on the cards, the team will have to sharpen up on the basics in order to retain their lofty position. Next week it’s a visit to Edinburgh Northern RFC, with a 3.00pm KO.