BTNational League Division 3
Neilson Park, Haddington Saturday 31 March 2018
Described in the Haddington match programme as part of the “the dogfight to avoid relegation” from National Division 3 which includes 4 teams, Perthshire, Dalziel, Haddington and Orkney this match lived up to it’s billing, but it was also a performance laced with class, huge effort and total commitment from our squad last Saturday.
The team that started the game James Linklater, Kyle Robb, Jon Tait, Dean Campbell, Scott Russell, Taylor Pilkington-Tait, David Bruce, Craig Rendall, Scott Rendall, Ally Linklater, Darren McLean, Danny Bain, Don Tualasea, Kenny Roger and Robbie Firth with all of the replacements – Steven Groat, Andrew Linklater, Cameron Gray and Graham Poke – all playing their part in securing a hard fought and well earned victory.
However, even before the match started drama was unfolding – Jon Tait pulled up in the warm-up and it looked as if he may have pulled a hamstring - but help was at hand in the form of our past Orkney player and coach, George Rendall, who had come along to watch two of the sides he had previously coached. George strapped up Jon who went on to have a great game, initially at centre and then later in the second row amongst our heroic 19 players.
The opening encounters were tough and Haddington took a first half penalty lead to make it 3-0. Orkney then camped on the Haddington line and were awarded three consecutive penalties on the line but no penalty try was awarded to the bemusement of the travelling, and some of the home, support.
However Orkney did eventually get something out of their fight-back when James Linklater scored with a good penalty kick to make the score 3-3.
Scott Rendall, considered to be the best player on the park by our Haddington opponents when they spoke to us in the clubrooms after the match, went on to finish a wonderful try to make the half-time score 3-8 after great work by the team in the lead up to the score.
The second half was almost a repeat of the first half with Haddington pressing early on and Orkney defending like demons, and it was in the second half Daz (Darren McLean) left the field following a collision and the support worried about what might happen next.
Nothing daunted Daz put a coat on to run around the pitch to ask George Rendall if he could put his “nose back in position?” Daz later reappeared strapped up all across his face and looking like a cartoon super hero to take a place in our three-quarters line of what was turning out to be a squad performance of super hero quality.
The earlier recipient of George’s good clinical work, Jon Tait, took Daz’s place in the second row and the pack held firm.
However, there were 3 sin bins in the second half, two for Orkney and 1 for Haddington and in this unsettled period Haddington scored a well earned try and increased the tension all round.
As the clock ticked down Orkney held firm with occasional flashing breaks that worried the home side but with the score still at 8-11 as we entered the last 9 minutes Haddington started to pile on even more pressure and they came close to scoring but resolute defending by our super heroes kept them out – just! In the last minute a Haddington player looked as though he had won through the pack and was headed for Orkney’s line but as he dived for the line he was tackled and the ball spilled into the Orkney in-goal area where an alert defence booted the ball into touch and the final whistle was sounded to thunderous cheers from the healthy travelling support.
No amount of praise is too much for what our squad, led by coach Cary Coltherd, and with thanks to our touchline assistants Andrew Linklater and Brian Lanni, achieved last Saturday. In the clubhouse Haddington officials shooked our hands and said “the best team won” and so they did!
There are still 3 games to go this season and just 4 points separating the bottom 4 teams, so there is still a lot of hard work to be done but this result puts Orkney above three other teams in National 3 with 2 teams destined for the drop. Orkney still need more points to secure their National League status and it is to be hoped that big crowds will come out to support the squad in the remaining three fixtures – Murrayfield at home this coming Saturday 7 April, Perthshire at home on 21 April and St Boswell’s away on 12 May
Be proud! Be there!