The Linden stormed to the RBS East League Division 2 championship with a breathtaking display of running rugby at Volunteer Park.
The title had actually been sealed the day before when news filtered through of Gala YM being disqualified from the league for non-fulfilment of fixtures, relegated to Division 3 and their results for the season removed, meaning that, prior to kick-off, the Linden could not be caught at the top of the table.
However, the Linden took the approach they were going to go out in style and they played some champagne rugby before the champagne corks were popped at full time.
Earlston started well and after a series of penalties in the home 22, a quick tap resulted in a converted try. This shook the Linden into action and an immediate response. From a ruck on halfway, Shaun Fairbairn and Keith Mabon linked before Fairbairn made a great break and found Steven Bouglas on his shoulder who raced over.
From a lineout steal, a Gary Wardle break and Stuart Williams run put Sean Goodfellow in under the posts. Some lovely play up the stand-side involving Greg Bouglas, Nathan Murray and Steven Bouglas saw the latter draw the full-back and give Wardle an easy run in to the posts. Greg Bouglas then fielded a clearing kick just inside his own half and fed brother Steven who cut inside to storm over.
Williams burst from halfway before rounding the full-back for a great individual score. A sixth try followed as a penalty was kicked to touch, the forwards hit up and, from a maul at the posts, Goodfellow spun off the edge to touch down. Renwick’s fourth conversion put his side 38-7 ahead at
Ryan Hamilton, Greg Cunningham, Conor Gracie and Wattie Davies came off the bench for the second half and there was no let-up from the Royal Blues. Earlston tried to play from their 22 but Fairbairn intercepted to stroll over, with Renwick converting. A turnover at a scrum in the Linden 22 was quickly moved to Murray and the full-back went the distance to bring up the half-century.
Steven Harkness and Bradley Mercer came on in the front row and, soon after, Graham Colville put Steven Bouglas over for another try, converted by Renwick. The visitors hit back following a lineout when their No8 took a short ball and strolled over for a touchdown which was converted. Another great Linden try came from a quick tap penalty by Renwick to Steven Bouglas to Murray who once again had the pace to outstrip the defence. Renwick converted.
A charged-down kick then fell to the elder Bouglas who crossed for his fourth try of the game, which was converted by skipper Barry Sutherland who was the last replacement to come off the bench. A chip kick from Sutherland led to involvement from Harkness and Davies which ended with Wardle crossing the try line. Harkness, in his last appearance for the Linden, slotted the conversion.
There was no stopping Murray who sped from his own 22 to complete his hat-trick, after which Chris Turnbull’s great catch from the kick-off saw Murray break once more to speed over for his fourth of the day and 23rd of the season, a new club record. Earlston showed their never-say-die spirit, charging down a conversion from in front of the posts and then scoring the final try of the day with the conversion bringing the final score to 88-21 to the new East League Division 2 champions.
During the game, three Linden players followed Sutherland in reaching the 100-point mark for the season. Sutherland ended on 164, Murray 115, Renwick 105 and Steven Bouglas 100.
Coach Lee Stewart commented in last week’s Hawick News how the Linden had only played at their peak in 10-minute spells during the season but this was a far more complete performance, of which he could be justly proud. Every player from 1 to 22 was in top form as backs and forwards combined and played the game at a pace that was simply too much for a very game Earlston side.
The already joyous scenes after the final whistle went up a level as news of Hawick’s win at Meggetland filtered through. The league trophy was presented to captain Barry Sutherland by the SRU’s Graham Brown and the celebrations continued in the clubrooms, with Earlston entering into the great spirit of events, as a great sing-song was enjoyed by all.
The Linden therefore made sure they would head off on a high to Ireland this morning for the Carrickfergus Sevens.
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