Following a smooth crossing the team travelled from Aberdeen to Cupar by bus supplied by regular travel partner Mayne’s coaches.
The weather in Cupar was more akin to a spring day sunny, bright, no wind and very warm.
The squad not unusually for Orkney rugby was showing five changes from the previous week. This was through injury and unavailability. It did however open opportunities for some of the younger members and over half of the nineteen-man squad were twenty years old or younger.
The game commenced with Orkney kicking off to Howe and looking directly into the low winter sun. Orkney managed to win the aerial contest and started probing the home defence. The home defence looked well up for the task and thus it would prove to be the case for the duration of the game.
Sound defence led to a turnover for the home side and their ten punted a kick deep into Orkney territory. The ball was fielded by Young James Donohoe who ran directly back at the approaching Howe players. He was hit hard in the tackle and brought to ground. His support penalised for going off their feet at the ensuing ruck. Unfortunately, that would be the last involvement for James suffering a dead leg in the collision. Jacob Heal coming on to replace him.
Howe with possession and territory were looking for some reward. Initially from a lineout they drove towards the Orkney try line and looked to have driven over but Scott Russell managed to prevent the ball being grounded. Orkney then took a goal line drop out that was fielded by Howe and worked towards the centre of the field before being spun left to a pod of forwards out wide. They carried hard and brushed aside poor tackling for an easy try. The conversion going wide.
For the next ten minutes or so Orkney had some good possession but were struggling to break a very well organised and strong defence. Accuracy was the key to build pressure and gain field position, but all too often errors were forced by the home defence.
While Orkney were struggling to break the gain line Howe conversely were carrying hard and breaking the gain line, allowing their backline space to operate in. This led to their second try. Quick ruck ball out left being fed right to the backline who ran in unopposed for an unconverted try.
The third Howe try arrived shortly after. From a lineout the ball was played wide right. Then switched back along the line left where big runners were lurking. One of these powering over for a score. Once again, the conversion was missed.
Orkney then worked hard to get up into the home twenty-two metre area and apply pressure looking for a score before half time. Awarded a penalty in front of the posts Orkney opted for a scrum one area where they were performing well. After good play, the ball was turned over at a ruck and Howe were able to clear the danger with a long kick up field.
The Orkney fullback fielded the ball, but he was hit hard in the tackle and knocked the ball on outside the twenty-two-metre line. From the resulting scrum Howe went on the attack and scored a converted try right on half time again bossing the gain line forcing the Orkney defence on its heels.
Half time Howe 22 – Orkney 0. Howe playing very well and missing nothing in defence. Orkney looking to find their rhythm, improve accuracy and create more questions for the home defence.
The second half started with Orkney in determined mood attacking hard and forcing Howe in to conceding penalties. From one of these Orkney kicked to the corner for the lineout. It was taken well but Howe took the maul down illegally and advantage was played. Niall Campbell almost getting over but lost the ball. With no advantage the ball was still with Orkney who took a tap penalty and the forwards drove hard for the try line. Pressure paid and Robbie Firth was driven over for the try. Connor Hancock stepping up to slot the conversion.
From the re start Howe were awarded a penalty and their livewire scrum half took a quick tap against a sleeping Orkney defence. Two of his teammates reacted quickly and were on his shoulder to take the scoring pass for a converted try.
Shortly after Owen Griffiths replacing Craig Rendall at Loose Head prop for Orkney.
Orkney were back under pressure for the restart but managed to break out to the halfway through Craig Slater. However, his pass to Ewan Stevenson being deemed forward and a scrum was awarded to Howe allowing them to attack once more and apply pressure.
Orkney withstood this pressure and defended a scrum on their five-metre line. While trying to exit the Howe replacement prop hit Jon Tait in the head as he was falling in the tackle. This earned him a yellow card and ten minutes on the side line. During this period Orkney forced a couple of penalties and Scott Rendall found good distance when he kicked to touch. However, Orkney were unable to secure their lineout and all momentum was lost.
Howe were back on the attack and looking for more points. Some good running by their backs released their winger who was running hard for the try line. Craig Slater was running hard to make the tackle and just as he was about to make the tackle the winger slipped, and Slater struck him on the head. This led to a yellow card for Slater. From the penalty the home pack drove for the line and scored a converted try.
Orkney from the kick off managed to gain possession and territory in the Howe half. Working hard to engineer an opportunity. However, their accuracy let them down at a key moment and the home side transitioned well into attack. Hitting the blind side to get in behind the Orkney defence. They supported the break well and managed to run from their own twenty-two to score under the Orkney posts. This was easily converted.
Orkney still showing the resilience they have so far this season went back on the attack from the kick off and now were starting to get gain line success and drawing penalties. Good carries and quick recycling led to the ball being played to Hancock who dummied to Russell and popped the ball to Slater fresh from his spell on the touch line. Slater dived over for the score under the posts. Hancock converted this.
The whistle then blew to end the game. Final score 41-14 in favour of Howe of Fife and over the game deserved winners. Their defence in particular exceptional on the day. Orkney’s young squad ever willing to the end certainly gaining much needed experience against a very well drilled team.
Player of the match for Orkney was awarded jointly to Robbie Firth and Scott Rendall. Scott Russell was also prominent in defence and came more into the game in an attacking sense the longer it went on.
Orkney team; Niall Campbell, Scott Rendall, Craig Rendall, Adam Watt, Ronan Gray, Jon Tait, Craig Brough, Robbie Firth, Ali Morgan, Connor Hancock, Ewan Stevenson, Scott Russell, Craig Slater, James Donohoe, Jamie Hutchison, subs; Owen Griffiths, Connor Macleod, Justine Pizon, Jacob Heal
This forthcoming Saturday sees Greenock Wanderers RFC travel to Picky with Kick Off at 1230hrs on the centre pitch.
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