Battling Dunbar are beaten not bowed
Published 26 Apr 2012 09:28 0 Comments
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Dunbar's Andrew Wightman scraps with the Helensburgh pack for the ball.
Dunbar 7 v 13 Helensburgh
A heroic fightback from Dunbar proved to be not quite enough to wrest the bowl from Helensburgh.
The West Coast outfit had conceded an average of six points a game in taking the West 2 title this season and Dunbar found it required something special to breach the Grizzlies' rearguard.
While Dunbar proved rather frantic at times when on the front foot, too often trying the solo option when a pass or two down the line could perhaps have broken the Greens' defence, Helensburgh's ability on the day to go through the phases and gradually wear the East Lothian side down in the set-piece proved crucial.
There had looked like being no such worries for the Seasiders early on as straight from the off they took the game to their opponents.
Just seconds in outside centre Gary Peebles hacked the ball forward past the scrambling defence. His early audacity was close to paying off but the ball was to beat him into touch.
Dunbar winger James Kelly was particularly prominent in the opening stages. He beat the first man on more than one occasion but the well-organised Greens always had another defender waiting to cut off the angle and force him into touch.
Twice in the opening five minutes Dunbar forced Burgh into conceding penalties which were kicked to touch. However, the wall of green was able to repel the Dunbar maul as it headed for the line.
It wasn't until 10 minutes in that Helensburgh first showed as an attacking force, a knock-on in contact seeing the ball spilled to Grizzlies' scrum-half Oliver Curtis, whose clever kick into the corner almost put his winger over the line, but Gary Peters just beat him to the ball to desperately put it out of play.
The reprieve proved only temporary, as the Argyll side were awarded a penalty.
Full-back David Sterry had a pop at the posts but his effort flew wide right.
Already Dunbar were having trouble building any platform, as the Greens were dominating the line-out, stealing their fair share of throws to keep themselves entrenched in the East Lothian men's territory.
The line-out and scrum were particularly intriguing battles as both side's hookers, Chris Greco and Sean McNee, were flatmates when both were sports science students at Napier.
Helensburgh were also starting to threaten with ball in hand, the likes of Sterry, winger Johnny Drake and centre David Riding making dangerous runs.
From one of their drives, Helensburgh won a penalty inside the 22, giving Sterry the chance to put the first points on the board. He obliged to put Burgh up 0-3.
Dunbar threatened straight from the kick-off but Helensburgh were strong in defence and quick to counterattack, only frantic defence in the corner preventing a try. Seconds later Helensburgh looked certain to score again, only for Riding to knock on millimetres from the line.
Helensburgh then suffered a blow as captain and stand-off Chris Black was forced off with injury but Riding stepped into the first receiver role and prompted a series of attacks from the Greens.
Still Helensburgh pressed, Kieran Donnellan desperately kicking to touch from behind his own try line and Riding missing with a drop goal attempt.
Dunbar resorted to the aerial route in a bid to clear their lines but they found that Drake was very assured under the high ball and able to sizzle touch-finders back deep into the Dunbar 22.
It was not until the final moments of the half that Dunbar mounted sustained attacks. Captain and stand-off Jamie Peters produced some ghosting runs while his younger brother Gary almost scored with a chip ahead into the corner, only for Sterry to beat him to the ball.
The reward for Dunbar was a penalty on the stroke of half-time, which gave the captain the chance to tie the scores. His kick came back off the woodwork.
The Grizzlies were the quicker out of the blocks in the second period too, Sterry putting in a dangerous cross-field kick which Kelly did well to deal with, before the Helensburgh man lined up another penalty but pulled his effort wide.
Sterry missed another kick minutes later, but when Burgh won a penalty in front of the posts he booted it for 0-6.
With 64 minutes gone Helensburgh took firm control with the opening try. It was a moment of magic from man-of-the-match Drake that was the key. The winger shot through a gap, kicked ahead and then beat the defence to touch down and send the large Helensburgh contingent bonkers. Sterry's conversion meant Dunbar were 0-13 down.
To their great credit, Dunbar refused to give up and relentlessy attacked the Helensburgh line, prop Andrew Wightman prominent in his drives to within inches. Finally the ball was spread wide and at last a gap appeared that was wide enough for sub Sandy Thomson to scoot through and touch down. Peters converted and with nine minutes to go the game was back in the balance.
But there was to be no grandstand finish as Helensburgh closed the game out, keeping the ball in Dunbar's half and going through the phases, eventually resulting in a yellow card at the death for Dunbar's Andrew Lunam.
There was little doubt that Helensburgh were deserving winners but had Dunbar taken their early chances it could have been very different.
Dunbar: Kieran Donnellan (S Bisset 48), G Peters, G Peebles, R Courtney (S Thomson 51), J Kelly (J Peebles 76); J Peters, L Clutton; A Wightman, C Greco (B Armatage 66), R Gallacher (A Lunam 51), S Crichton (Kyle Donnellan 61), G Fletcher (I Wightman 76), T Thornton-Smith, C Champion, K Courtney.