This was to be the first game for Orkney since the thirteenth December and historically they have struggled to maintain momentum after the festive break in previous seasons. However, the squad had four excellent training sessions under their belts leading up to this game and a strong group of players left Orkney on the Northlink ferry for Aberdeen.
Orkney arrived at Blairgowrie in good time. The weather for the day was sunny with a light breeze, but fairly cool. Following overnight frost, the pitch had thawed sufficiently to allow the game to proceed.
Orkney started the game and immediately pressured the home side who had to clear their lines. Unfortunately, Orkney knocked on and handed possession back to Blairgowrie.
From the resultant scrum Blairgowrie tried to take the game to Orkney in the forwards. However, the defensive organisation, low tackling and line speed from Orkney caused a turnover and Orkney were now on the attack and playing with pace and desire. This led to a penalty being conceded by Blairgowire for offside.
Orkney standoff James Linklater kicked to touch on the home twenty-two metre line. Orkney then chose to catch and drive the lineout, making good ground and tying in defenders. The ball was then fed out to the Orkney backs who executed a move to put Philip Ross in to space, he then outpaced the covering defenders and scored the first try of the game with five minutes gone. Linklater’s conversion attempt just going wide of the upright.
From the restart Orkney gathered well and went straight back on the offensive pressurising the home side and causing them to concede penalties in the middle of the park. From one of these Linklater chose to kick for field position, but kicked the ball dead by mistake allowing the home side some respite. However, the Orkney defence soon pressured the home side in to a mistake and another penalty to Orkney on the home ten metre line. William Thomson, scrum half for Orkney was on the ball in a flash and took a quick tap and tried to run. The home hooker however tackled him after all of a metre and earned himself a yellow card and a rest for ten minutes.
Orkney were back on the offensive, from a good lineout take the ball was played out and carried up the centre. This thrust was stopped about five metres short but quick ball was passed back against the grain to a group of forwards and David Hamilton powered over the try line to score, Linklater this time making no mistake with the conversion.
Sixteen minutes in and Orkney were now twelve points ahead and showing no sign of a festive hangover. That’s not to say some errors were being made, but the team was working hard to limit any damage from these.
Soon Orkney were back attacking the home try line and from two metres out David Hamilton was in the right place to drive over for another try converted by Linklater.
Following the restart Orkney were soon back on the home five metre line after a dart up the blindside by Thomson and a grubber through for Matt Jackson to chase. This led to a knock on by the home fullback and a scrum five metres out for Orkney.
The Orkney pack was up to the task and drove the scrum forward leaving number eight Robbie Firth to touch down for the bonus point try with thirty-one minutes gone. Linklater stepped up to convert the score.
The final score for Orkney came just before half time and it was Robbie Firth once again with the unconverted score. After probing the blindside in the home twenty-two scrum half Thomson then switched play open and found Firth running hard at a gap in the defence. Firth then bolted through and carried over for the score.
Half time twenty-nine points to nil in favour of Orkney. This was a disciplined half of rugby by the islanders who were fleet of foot and quick of thought. Playing with a tempo the home side were struggling to match. Two Orkney players had to leave the field at half time through injury. Kyle Robb with an ankle injury he sustained in the warm up taking its toll and Graham Poke with a rather large bump above his left eye following a head knock. David Bruce and Duncan Gray entering the field of play as replacements.
The second half kicked off and Orkney started as they had finished the first. On the front foot, controlling the game and playing in the home half. Even when Orkney made a mistake, they continued to work very hard to recover possession and invariably prevent the home side from getting over the advantage line. Good offensive tackling by Orkney forcing handling errors.
Nine minutes in to the second half Orkney had a lineout on the home five metre line. This was caught and driven by the pack towards the try line where Erland Drever dropped down over the line for an unconverted try.
Following the restart Orkney were once more back in the home half probing and looking for further scores to add to their tally. Try as they did the home defence was managing to keep them out.
During this period Niall Campbell came on at prop as a replacement for Craig Rendall. His fresh legs providing some energy in the carry.
Fifteen minutes later Orkney attacked wide on the right through speedster Matt Jackson. He took off on one of his trademark runs, but was stopped by a high tackle causing the ball to spill. The referee played advantage and Scott Russell took the opportunity to get his toe to the ball and score a try just to the right of the posts. Jon Tait stepped up for the conversion but hit the upright and the ball bounced wide.
The final Orkney replacement Adam Watt then entered the field for William Thomson who had an ankle knock.
The next score arrived for Orkney courtesy of a nicely weighted pass from Linklater to Scott Russell running hard on a good line to open up the defence and score next to the posts. Tait stepped up once again for the extras but this time kicked more of the ground than the ball and once more struck the upright and missed!
The final score of the game came on the stroke of half time following a period of defending in their own half Orkney turned the ball over and broke out. The ball was kicked ahead for Matt Jackson to chase. He controlled the ball initially with his feet then caught it and ran over to score. Linklater resumed kicking duties and had success with the conversion.
Final score 53-0 in Orkneys favour. Overall an excellent performance by Orkney dominating territory and possession. It is testament to the work they put in that Blairgowrie had no concerted period of pressure in the Orkney half.
Players man of the match was David Hamilton after his brace of tries, work rate, aggression, lineout play and quality tackling. Other notable performers were, Liam Moar, Willie Thomson, Erland Drever, Robbie Firth and Scott Russell. The consistency of all the players in the squad though is sure to please the team coaches.
The only downside was the injuries to Robb and Poke. Hopefully these are both soft tissue injuries that will resolve fairly quickly.
Thanks to Northlink ferries for their continued support and travel sponsorship not only for Orkney Rugby but for many other Orkney organisations. It helps greatly to keep the costs of trips down and affordable.
Next up for Orkney is a home game on Saturday 25th January 2020 when they entertain Ellon rugby. Kick off is at noon. Ellon are playing well of late and it should be an entertaining fixture
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