18 October 08
Saturday 18th October saw unbeaten Aberdeenshire travel to Orkney fulfil their Caledonia regional League Division 1 fixture sponsored by R Clouston Builders. The away team desperate to maintain their magnificent start to the season and Orkney intent on keeping this seasons unbeaten home record intact. The sizeable crowd that gathered at the Pickaquoy Centre pitch on a cold windswept day knew that this was not a day for the faint of heart and so it would prove over the course of eighty tense, fascinating minutes. Ultimately the strong wind blowing straight down the pitch towards the peedie sea would prove a telling factor. The team that used the wind effectively would be the likely winner.
The majority of play took place in the middle third of the pitch with both sets of forwards launching in to each other like a pair of rutting stags trying to gain an advantage. The defence employed by both sides was strong and determined resulting in a number of unforced errors and the odd player needing treatment.
One such player being young Mally white an Orkney exile now playing for Aberdeenshire. It is safe to say he was welcomed home in typical Ed “Rambo” Russell fashion, being well and truly flattened by a trademark tackle.
Two early penalties were awarded to the visitors with their stand off Stefan Cole managing to convert one for a 3-0 lead.
This looked like all they would have to show for their efforts despite having the edge in territory. That is until just before half time when they were awarded another penalty by the referee on the 22 metre line in front of the Orkney posts. What it was awarded for is a mystery to this correspondent as Orkney were in possession at the time and Erlend Hutchison had kicked to touch (sideways!). Well awarded it was and Cole made no mistake half time 6-0 to Aberdeenshire.
Orkney kicked off the second half with wind advantage and were awarded with a penalty after a Shire player failed to release the ball on the ground inside their half. Jon Tait alas was unable to convert his kick drifting wide on the wind. From the 22metre restart Orkney were awarded another penalty after hands in the ruck by a shire player. Jon Tait stepped forward ,struck it well but once more the wind blew it wide of the upright. The game continued with the visitors now having to keep the ball in hand and punching hard around the ruck area. Orkney though were up to the task ,defending well and forcing mistakes. Ten minutes in another kickable penalty was awarded to Orkney this time Erik Laughton stepped forward but he too was defeated by the wind. From the resultant drop out Orkney secured good ball and Andrew Cuddihy carried strongly to set up quick ruck ball that was taken on again with good play between backs and forwards .The ball was then fed out to Al Watson playing at stand off . Al sold one of his trademark dummies to his opposite number and set off towards the try line from 22 metres out . He then stepped the full back and dived over for a very welcome try under the posts. Laughton converted . This meant Orkney led 7-6 and the home crowd were now in full voice urging their team on.
From the kick off by Shire Orkney fell foul of the new laws when Laughton from just outside his 22metre line kicked straight to touch. This meant a line out to the visitors from where the ball was kicked. At this line out Orkney strayed offside and Cole made no mistake with the resultant penalty to push his team ahead once more, 9-7 to Shire. There was no let up in application and endeavour shown by both sides with all to play for. Orkney enjoying more time in their opponents half due to the wind advantage, but the Aberdeen side absorbing the pressure although not always legally. This resulted in three more penalties to Orkney in difficult but kickable positions. However all three were missed to the despair of the crowd. Twenty seven minutes in to the half the referee lost patience with the visitors after they handled in the ruck once again. He then gave their big number four an enforced ten minutes rest. This should have given Orkney the advantage but as is often the case it galvanised Shire who took the ball to Orkney with renewed vigour winning a penalty. Cole found a good touch near the Home try line, the line out was well won by the visitors who repeatedly hammered against the Orkney rearguard. Orkney stood firm managing to hold the visitors up over the line although they appeared not to agree with the referees call. A scrum 5 metres out followed but Orkney took it against the head and cleared their lines. However Aberdeenshire were not finished and managed to win their line out. They then began driving hard around the ruck into the Orkney defence, recycling well and edging forward inch by inch until the defence finally could hold no more.
The ball forced over under a pile of bodies, Andrew Cook, the visitors open side flanker last to get up with ball in hand. Cole missed the conversion. Alas it was almost full time and Orkney tried in vain to get the equalising scores but it was not to be. Shire letting out a roar of triumph if not relief at the sound of the final whistle.
Ultimately either side could have won this encounter, but the visitors took their opportunities when they arose and Orkney will rue six missed penalties in the second half. Captain Drever now has to pick up his troops for next weeks home game against St Andrews University, but if they show the same desire, intensity and application they did against Aberdeenshire then there is every chance of a win.
Team: E Drever, I Houston, N McCartney, K Sinclair, B Linklater, S Paterson, C Rendall, E Russell, E Laughton, A Watson, E Hutchison, D Campbell, G Thomson, A Towrie, J Tait subs; A Cuddihy, T Croy, P Ross coach- G Burton