Dalkeith welcomed Hawick Harlequins to Kings Park for the first home East Region Divisin One game of the 2015-16 season on Saturday.
The home side had struggled to get two teams on the park this week with around 20 players unavailable or injured, Cornwall coming into the 1st XV front row after good performances in the 2nd XV and veteran Smith called into the stand-off berth.
After a fluffed kick-off, Dalkeith were quickly under early pressure with several Quins attacks forcing play into the home 22, but the defence held firm, with lots of good pressure from Dalkeith at the breakdown, stopping any concerted momentum from the visitors.
After clearing their lines and pinching a Quins line out, Dalkeith were then on the attack and a couple of phases had them pressuring in the Quins 22, with Reid taking the ball at pace and bulldozing through a couple of defenders only to knock on over the line. Quins cleared, but were then penalised just outside their 22, only for Dalkeith to scorn the chance for more pressure by kicking the ball dead rather than into touch.
Dalkeith seemed to be taking some control on the match at this point with the bigger home pack causing all sorts of bother, but silly mistakes were halting meaningful pressure on the Quins line. The visitors survived this concerted spell of pressure through good, well organised defence, helped by a plethora of Dalkeith handling errors.
After Quins cleared their lines, they had their first meaningful attack into the Dalkeith half for 20 minutes and on securing a penalty on the touchline, opened the scoring with a beautifully struck penalty, 0-3.
Dalkeith to this point had not been making the best use of their forward dominance, but two mauls from the touchline then had Quins struggling to defend their 22, forcing them into a couple of penalties. After another collapsed maul from the visitors, Dalkeith spun the ball wide and Naylor did great work in beating the last two defenders for score, 5-3. The score probably saved Quins from a yellow card after multiple penalties from the visitors had been testing the referees patience.
From the restart Dalkeith hoofed a huge clearance down the park, with the chasers then forcing Quins into a forward pass as they attempted to clear the danger. Clean scrum ball allowed Walker to take the ball at pace and he was unlucky to be stopped by the scrambling defence five metres out and Quins then managed to again clear from a line out.
Soon after this the referee had obviously seen enough mid-field penalties from Quins and a yellow card was shown to their loose-head prop.
With the visitors down to 14 Dalkeith were clearly attempting to make their advantage tell with sustained attacks into the Quins half with Dhalstrom, Davidson and Hosey to the fore, but Quins defence in this spell was impressive as their scrambling but well organised cover repelled several Dalkeith attacks through the backs and forwards.
Dalkeith were still not sparking as the second half got underway, with the team looking disjointed in what is was trying to do through backs and forwards, partially down to stuff Quins defence, but also through a lack of accuracy leading to silly mistakes. Quins made the most of the home sides inaccuracy and were first on the scoreboard in the half, after drive into home 22 garnered a penalty, 5-6.
Things then got worse for Dalkeith after some really silly behaviour from scrum half Ramsay led to a yellow card and ten minutes with 14 men. At this point Clugston had taken over the stand-off position and immediately made a difference with a couple of good breaks pushing the Quins defence onto the back foot, the then took over and mauled the ball through the 22 allowing Nethery to crash over for score, 10-6.
Dalkeith were still trying hard to get their game moving, but poor discipline and handling errors were regularly halting progress. Quins then threw a couple of phases together and forced their way into the home 22, only for a knock-on to also halt their progress.
Clugston was again the architect of some positive play as he collected his own deft chip ahead forcing the Quins defence to concede a midfield penalty. Clugston kicked this to touch and the forwars then took over, driving the visitors pack backwards and over for Dhalstrom to score, 15-6.
Just as the home side were perhaps thinking that their pressure was finally beginning to tell, Quins came powering into the home 22 and almost from nothing created an opening out wide and helped by some loose tackling from the home back line their full-back was into the corner for the score, before rounding the posts for a simple conversion, 15-13.
The last 10 mins were a scrappy, bad tempered affair, with too much sniping from both teams causing them to lose focus, when concentrating on their own game rather than moaning might have brought better results! Quins then lost another man to the bin, which allowed Dalkeith to exert further control in the last five minutes, ultimately allowing them to run in their fourth, bonus point try through captain Dhalstrom and to seal the victory, 20-13.
Lots of work for the coaches this week, but Dalkeith will be content with a bonus -point home victory, albeit by the skin of their teeth.