LINDEN stretched their lead at the top of RBS East League Division 2 with a straightforward victory over Edinburgh Northern.
The win was tainted somewhat, though, as home captain Barry Sutherland, making his comeback after a neck injury, was forced off with ankle ligament damage that will prevent him featuring for Linden until late-February at the earliest.
Despite having to walk on crutches this week following a tackle that forced his standing leg – planted in a boggy Wilton Lodge Park surface – to bend unnaturally, Sutherland was heartened by the Quins result on the neighbouring pitch as much as his own team’s ability to retain top spot.
“It was probably the best pair of results we could have hoped for,” said Sutherland. “Two teams go up, so it’s better if the two Hawick teams are both at the top.
“We’re on a good run, so it will be disappointing not to be involved in the next few weeks. But, we have boys coming in who are more than capable.”
With victory, Linden opened up a gap of seven points over Dalkeith, to whom they lost 18-3 in Midlothian on the first day of the season. Linden have neighbours Quins to thank for their advantage at the summit of East League 2, as the Baker Street men, who lie five points from their fellow Teries in second place, recorded a 21-12 win over Dalkeith.
Sutherland said of his side’s win over Northern: “In the second half, we were a bit more clinical in our handling, using the ball rather than running over the top of folk. We defended well, they were in our half for about 25 minutes in the first half and we only conceded three points in that period.
“That was the first game we’d played when we were at the top of the league at kick-off,” continued the skipper. “Everybody is trying to shoot us down now, and it’s a new position for our younger players. Everybody we play against will try to raise their performance.”
In spite of a strong local presence in the Northern squad – second-row Greg Cranston and wingers Michael and Chris Palmer all “came home” for the match – the visitors could not settle in their snowy surroundings. By full-time, they perhaps wished the game had not gone ahead at all. Indeed, the fixture had been under threat until Linden’s match sponsor Forrest Irving supplied both a quad bike and driver, home prop Jamie Gilchrist, to help complete the effort to clear snow from the park.
Linden missed with an early long-range penalty before the visitors opened the scoring with a similar award when the home team was caught offside. But, after 20 minutes, Nathan Murray raced over to give Stuart Renwick an easy conversion. Steven Bouglas then had the pace to round a prop and the full-back to touch down, before Renwick converted once more.
Murray rounded off a flowing team move five minutes into the second period, then Craig Mitchell twisted out of a tackle to plunge over at the posts and Renwick kicked the conversion.
Greg Bouglas capped another impressive surge forward by diving over, and Sutherland landed the conversion just before being forced off.
Graham Colville scored the Linden’s final try – Renwick converting – before the visitors notched a deserved consolation try at the death.