BT National League Division 3
Pickaquoy Infield - Saturday, 1 October 2016
ORKNEY RFC 23, LASSWADE RFC 20
Orkney RFC came through as tough a home match as they’ve won in a while with a 23-20 victory over first-time visitors Lasswade at Pickaquoy on Saturday afternoon.
Barring the injury toll – a dislocated shoulder for Aly Linklater, a knee injury that saw captain Alan Brown heading for the Balfour Hospital, and various other bumps and scrapes – this was a good win for the home side, considering they had been on the back foot for long spells.
Conditions were pretty much perfect for open, running rugby – dry, calm and bright overhead – and although Orkney seemed to have the weight in the scrum at the first test it was Lasswade who came away with the ball and looked keen to run at the home defence.
Orkney’s opening score stemmed from a Lasswade penalty that failed to find touch. It gave Orkney possession and they retained it even after a Lasswade lineout, and great running from Jon Tait and then Philip Ross up the left got deep into Lasswade territory. Ross found David Hamilton inside him and then Don Tualasea took it on before eventually captain Alan Brown took it on and burst through to the line. Jon Tait converted for a 7-0 lead in seven minutes.
Lasswade strung Orkney left and right as they sought a way back in, and they were up into the Orkney 22 before Chris Guthrie forced an error from the winger and Orkney had the lineout throw. The visitors kept the pressure on though, and Orkney had to touch down over their own line for a scrum five metres out. Lasswade attacked again but as they switched the ball from left to right Scott Rendall intercepted and was almost away – taking play away from the danger area.
The relief was short-lived though, and the visitors came again and it was a short ball at a lineout that saw Bernard Hennessy break through to the line for an unconverted try, making it 7-5 after 20 minutes.
Lasswade continued to have the upper hand after their score, and this period of the game saw Orkney having to dig deep to keep the visitors at bay, with every ball being battled for in what was a high-paced encounter.
Philip Ross recovered well to gather a loose ball and as Orkney fought to keep the ball Chris Guthrie’s kick to touch gave welcome respite to both sides, with one of the visitors receiving treatment.
When the lineout eventually came, Lasswade won the ball and then had a penalty just outside the Orkney 22. Matthew Smith slotted the kick to put the visitors 7-8 ahead with just over half an hour played.
With the game being played at a high pace and with total commitment from both sides, there was always the potential for a bit of niggle to creep in. When it did the referee, some of whose decisions were being contested vocally from the touchlines, managed to stop it bubbling over into anything more than a bit of handbagging.
And although Orkney had done the majority of the defending in the first half, the referee started to pick up a bit of indiscipline from the visitors as the half came to a close and two penalties from Jon Tait, the first an excellent kick from wide on the right, opened the gap to 13-8 before the turnaround.
The game was being played in bright sunshine now and it was in the eyes of the visitors in the second half as it started to dip towards the horizon.
It was an evenly balanced opening period and then Orkney had a chance to break from a lineout, stringing it across the field as they headed into the Lasswade half. The visitors almost intercepted though and Orkney had to build again.
Dean Campbell tidied up a scrappy bit of play and took Orkney into the Lasswade 22. The ball went quickly left and Marcus Guthrie took it on to go over for the opening try of the second half. It went unconverted for an 18-8 lead.
Orkney were away up the left very shortly after, and this time it was Darren McLean who powered to the line to touch down out wide. It went unconverted, and unfortunately a clash in midfield saw Orkney captain Alan Brown have to come off with a knee injury which required a visit to the Balfour Hospital.
Lasswade replied very quickly with a try under the posts for James Elliot that came much too easily. The straightforward conversion from Smith closed the gap to 23-15 after 50 minutes, setting up an interesting closing half hour.
Darren McLean was putting in a good shift, heading up the left again and Orkney were keeping good possession, despite some ragged passing. They came right and then switched left again before a chip towards the right corner almost saw Philip Ross in, but the bouncing ball was just ahead of him.
Orkney’s attacking spell continued though, and Mclean and Scott Russell were looking hungry up the left, but the ball was bundled out.
Dean Campbell was right up in the face of Lasswade kicker Smith, forcing a low clearing kick from under his own posts as the game continued at a high pace. There was a chance for a quick breather as a Lasswade player was carried from the pitch, and would take no futher part in the game, as it moved into the final quarter.
Orkney endured a period of pressure on their line before Chris Guthrie hoisted a huge kick upfield to take them out of the danger zone. A short break again as Jon Tait received attention to a shoulder knock. He recovered and was back in the scrum as Orkney defended just outside their 22.
Don Tualasea, voted Orkney’s Man of the Match, was working hard for the ball and set things up for William Thomson to kick up to the Orkney 10-metre line.
Then, with time running out for them, Lasswade had the break of the ball and the bulk of the decisions as they turned the screw inside the Orkney 22. Although the home side defended deep and put their bodies on the line, they were eventually broken down and the visitors went over through their captain Richard Borthwick. It went unconverted, but Lasswade were now in touching distance.
At 23-20 and into time added on, Orkney were quickly up into the Lasswade 22 and had scrum put-in. They lost the ball though and Lasswade started the long journey from in front of their line, knowing they had to keep the ball alive. This they did effectively for what seemed like an eternity. Surely they couldn’t steal it with this final push? It turned out they couldn’t, and Orkney came away with the ball and were almost in themselves again but for a knock-on. That was it though, and one of the hardest-fought victories Orkney have had in a while was secured.
The win leaves Orkney in fifth place, two points behind Lasswade. Orkney are due to head to Edinburgh this weekend to take on second-bottom side RHC RFC, who have a draw and three losses from their four opening fixtures.
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