Hawick Linden 27
Just like buses that never seem to appear then two come along at once, the Linden won for the second week in succession after the worst losing sequence in their history.
Unlike the previous week though, it was a performance riddled with mistakes as they made endless handling errors, gave away too many penalties and, compounded by some bad option taking, it meant they stuttered rather than strolled to victory.
Given their winless barren spell, it is hard to be too critical when the Royal Blues came out on top when not at their best.
The opening score after five minutes in some ways set the tone for the Royal Blues as they knocked-on, could have then killed the ball but allowed a hack on by Scott Denholm who easily won the race to touch down. When Earlston came off their feet at a ruck, Kieran Murphy slotted the penalty goal with Craig Bruce responding in kind for the home team after a high tackle.
In perfect conditions the number of dropped balls by the Linden was inexplicable and had the coaching team tearing their hair out. After half an hour they eventually strung some passes together and Craig Smith give the final one to Glen Welsh who touched down for his first Linden try although he had to retire with a cut to the head.
The number of penalties being given away by both teams stretched the referee Andrew Edgar’s patience and firstly Linden’s Matthew Mallin was sent for a 10 minute break followed by an Earlston player a minute later. Murphy had a chance to put the Linden in the lead with the last kick of the half but his penalty slid wide and the half-time whistle blew with the score tied at 8-8.
Five minutes into the second period and the Royal Blues looked likely to score following a Sandy Walker kick through but Graeme Anderson knocked-on in the act of scoring. One area of the game the Linden dominated was the scrum and, when they had the squeeze on at a scrum five, Graham Colville picked to go over for a try converted by Murphy. It was a welcome return to a Royal Blue jersey for the No. 8 after over a year out with a knee injury. On the down side, he had replaced Craig Smith who was forced to retire with a shoulder injury.
Three minutes later the Linden looked certain to add to their tally. A run by John Frew, some good hands then a strong burst and well timed pass by Terry Skeet sent Keith Mabon romping over from 22 metres out but somehow he dropped the ball when flopping over the line. The Linden brought on the experienced Barry Sutherland for his first Linden game in three years and he immediately exerted some control as his piercing kicks started to play the game in the right areas for the visitors.
With Earlston down to 14 men, a solid Linden scrum and simple hands saw John Frew on the overlap to score wide out. Four minutes later they repeated the dose in almost identical fashion, Frew this time piercing a gap to score his second try of the day to secure the bonus point. Sutherland converted majestically from wide out to complete the scoring.
The Linden will take heart from winning for the second game in a row, something they haven’t done since December/January 2014/15
Linden: J Frew, M Bell, G Anderson, G Welsh, G Alexander, K Murphy, R Graham; J White, P Drysdale, C Tofts, S Spalding, K Mabon, M Mallin, J Hogg, C Smith; Subs: R Hartdegen, T Skeet, G Colville, K Walley, M Knight, S Walker, B Sutherland.