Pickaquoy infield – Saturday, November 16, 2013
Orkney 25, Strathmore 14
Orkney RFC finally overcame Strathmore by five tries to two in a tough battle on the Pickaquoy infield pitch early on Saturday.
In a match that kicked off at 11am to accommodate the flying visitors, the home side often had to dig deep in defence to make sure of the points, and even when they were 20-0 up early in the second half there were signs that the match was in no way a settled affair.
Indeed, when Orkney turned round two tries ahead after a first half played towards the Peedie Sea end and with a strong wind behind them, there were mutterings on the touchline that they could have done with a bigger cushion to take into the second 40 minutes.
However, in the end the five points were in the bag and Orkney remain third in the RBS Caledonia Division 1 table behind Perthshire and Dunfermline, and six points ahead of Caithness.
There was a brief respite for Orkney, but then Strathmore were probing the line again, the home side working hard to keep the scoreboard blank. Although they weathered the storm this time it was a warning sign that they could not give the ball away cheaply.
Orkney were soon up the field though, with a kick ahead into the Strathmore 22. From there they had a number of goes at the line, with Scott Rendall, Alan Brown and Erland Drever all seeking gaps but Strathmore holding out.
The visitors kicked clear but into the wind and the lineout was still inside their 22. When they knocked on Orkney snaffled the ball to kick ahead once again and then had another lineout. Al Watson was unlucky to knock on this time to ease the pressure on the visitors.
However, it was a Watson break that eventually helped break the deadlock in the 18th minute, as the scrum-half dashed up the right and into the Strathmore 22. There – and despite the visitors apparently straying offside and making a high tackle in the ensuing attack – the ball eventually came out to Chris Guthrie to go over in the left corner.
Another intensive Strathmore attack followed – including a penalty kicked to the corner for a lineout five metres out – giving Orkney the chance to show off their defensive qualities on their try line and across the 22.
The referee eventually saw a Strathmore obstruction and Orkney had a scrum put-in. A lineout was then won well by Orkney but tenacious work by Strathmore flanker Calum Nicol won the ball back for the visitors.
Back came Orkney through Al Watson though, leading the attack into the Strathmore 22. This was a tight battle and Orkney needed to take everything they could from it, so it was surprising that they opted for a scrum at a penalty. Strathmore won it against the head to kill the scoring chance.
Strathmore had the edge again, with Orkney stretched across the field to snuff out every attacking opportunity as the visitors moved the ball in hand from left to right and back again.
An Orkney penalty to kick for a lineout just beyond the Strathmore 10 metre line saw the forwards work things steadily up the right before getting ball out to the backs. They looked to have a breakthrough, but the referee saw a forward pass and Strathmore had scrum put-in. Orkney came at them again thought and were right on the line but judged to have been held up. Somehow the put-in went to Strathmore. The visitors seemed to win it but suddenly the ball was loose and Robbie Firth was first to react, crossing the line to make it 10-0 as half time approached.
Orkney had more defending to do before the turn around, but they held firm and Al Watson cleared with the final kick of the half.
The second half started where the first had left off in a way, with Orkney penalised for a fine tackle by Philip Ross as the referee judged that he’d been off his feet. Amends were slightly made when Orkney won the Strathmore lineout, which they did several times in the second half through Danny Bain.
They did so again five minutes later and this time Bruce Ruthven – on at scrum half for Al Watson, found Alan Brown, and the captain cut through the Strathmore lines to set up an Orkney attack.
Another Orkney penalty was taken in hand by Bruce Ruthven and he almost reached the line himself before getting the ball to Philip Ross to creep over for another five points to Orkney.
With Orkney tails up, the bonus-point try followed quickly from a break out of their own half, Chris Guthrie making a lung-bursting run to the Strathmore line, leaving the chasers in his wake to make it 20-0 after 50 minutes.
This might have signalled a rout in other matches, but Strathmore have always been doughty opponents, and they proved this by scored two converted tries to take the score back to 20-14. The first of these was a gift from Orkney at the posts and the conversion from hand for a quick restart showed the visitors’ intent.
A great break from Scott Rendall, onto Marcus Guthrie and then Denis Hayes had Orkney out of their half for a moment, but then they were back on their line for a couple of minutes before a tremendous Orkney scrum saw Alan Brown take the ball from No8 and charge from under the posts out of the 22. Strathmore again tested the Orkney defences though and a couple of penalties saw them just shy of the line, but – in the most controversial moment of the match – awarded a try with the ball apparently still inches short. It was a soft seven points to give away again by Orkney, bringing the score to 20-14.
Whether stung by the apparent injustice, Orkney replied with a determined break the length of the pitch that ended with Philip Ross getting his second try of the match, allowing them to celebrate a memorable win over their close rivals.
Captain Alan Brown, who put in another fine performance at No8, was voted Man of the Match, with Alex Kansour also mentioned in dispatches for playing well in his first cap for Orkney.