26/10/19 – CANAL PARK, INVERNESS
HIGHLAND RAPTORS 22, ORKNEY RFC 39
On Saturday 26th October Orkney travelled to Inverness to play Highland Raptors; the second team of Highland rugby club in a friendly fixture.
Orkney were after some much-needed match practice due to a lull in league and Caledonia shield fixtures of some four weeks.
Highland seconds play regular rugby in division 2 of the Caledonia leagues and had won this league the previous three seasons although they are unable to progress to Caledonia 1 due to league rules prohibiting promotion of reserve sides. So, this tie had the potential to be fairly competitive.
Orkney arrived at the venue in good time. Highland now have one of the best rugby facilities in Scotland following a re development. The clubhouse overlooks the main 4G floodlit pitch and incorporates a balcony for spectators that surrounds the bar area on the second floor. The weather was bright and sunny with a strong breeze blowing the length of the field.
The game kicked off with Orkney playing in to the wind and receiving the kick off. Out of the blocks it is accurate to say Orkney were fairly subdued and not up to their usual tempo.
Five minutes in Highland had a scrum fifteen metres out from the Orkney line. Their number eight then picked up at the base and broke right, he then pretty much ran untouched to the Orkney line and scored an unconverted try.
This early try still didn’t seem to stir Orkney from their lethargy and they were struggling to get in to a rhythm. They did make some sorties in to the opposition half, but unforced errors at crucial times ended with Orkney being kicked back in to their own half.
About halfway through the first half the first ray of light for Orkney appeared. From turnover ball in their own twenty-two metre area the ball was passed to Willie Thomson. He then set off on an outside arc and went up the left wing. Steven Mcphail followed the run and when Thomson was eventually stopped on the opposition 22m line Steven was on hand to take the scoring pass and score an unconverted try for Orkney.
The remainder of the half was fairly uneventful with Orkney still not firing on all cylinders and Highland defending well. However just on the stroke of half time Highland were attacking deep in the Orkney half. From the back of a ruck the referee indicated with his arm what looked like a penalty for Orkney. Orkney captain Scott Rendall then grabbed the ball and tried to go quickly. The referee blew for him to come back and told him it was Highland’s penalty. Rendall uncharacteristically argued the point with the referee and was shown a yellow card for his trouble. From the penalty Highland kept battering the Orkney line and were rewarded for their efforts with and unconverted try.
At halftime Orkney were behind on the scoreboard something they had not experienced so far this season. After some strong words from Captain Rendall at half time Orkney commenced the second half kicking to the opposition.
The half time team talk seemed to have the desired effect and Orkney were showing more energy and purpose in the early exchanges.
Good ball was starting to get out to the Orkney backline with the increased space and time allowing them to create scoring opportunities. Three times Matt Jackson was put in to space and he used his pace and elusive running style to score tries.
Willie Thomson was also proving to be a handful for the home defence and he too managed to break through and score.
The other Orkney try came from flanker Cammy Gray to cap a fine individual performance as he powered over after some sustained pressure from the Orkney pack.
James Linklater managed to convert three of the Orkney tries and Willie Thomson also helped himself to a drop goal from the home ten metre line to a loud cheer from the crowd.
Although Orkney had the majority of the play in the second half Highland kept fighting hard and were able to score two more tries. One of these was converted on the stroke of full time.
The final score was 39-22 for Orkney. This was a useful hit out for Orkney and arguably more competitive than some of the games they have played so far this season.
Orkney players man of the match was Matt Jackson for his fast-elusive running and Hat-trick of tries.
Thanks to Highland rugby for accommodating the game and to the Orkney players who played for their continued commitment to representing their county.
The next game for Orkney is a home tie against Alloa on 9th November 2019. This fixture will count for both the league and the winner will progress to the final of the Caledonia shield.