Pickaquoy Infield - Saturday, October 3
Orkney RFC 34, West of Scotland RFC 24
This wasn’t one for the faint-hearted. Orkney had to battle all the way against a fast and feisty West of Scotland side that made them work for every point they scored on the way to a 34-24 win at Pickaquoy on Saturday afternoon.
The referee was also made to work for his money in this National League Division 3 clash, pulling in the captains and various players during the match to keep a lid on things. Discipline was ragged at times and one off-the-ball incident mid way through the second half saw Orkney’s William Thomson and West of Scotland's coach/sub sidelined for 10 minutes in a double yellow-carding.
The visitors were clearly rattled by this double blow and the first of the referee’s pep talks to the captains came here as he appealed for calm. The effect was questionable as shortly after a late tackle on Philip Ross went unnoticed by the referee. Clearly West of Scotland were keen to make their presence felt.
West of Scotland had a bit more of the ball now and play was fairly fluid and end-to-end for a spell, but without testing either line.
Then, midway through the half and the visitors had a penalty just outside the Orkney 22 and from there built an attack on the Orkney line and went over for an unconverted try to close the gap to 12-5.
This spurred West of Scotland on and their backs were running at Orkney with some confidence now. An Orkney penalty from their 22 went into no man’s land and the pressure continued from the visitors. Orkney turned over though and then had a penalty and an extra 10 metres for a bit of West of Scotland back chat. It resulted in a lineout on half way but an exchange of kicks saw little ground gained.
Orkney had to put up a strong defence for a spell as they held up West of Scotland rolling mauls twice over the line for scrum fives. The second of these saw Orkney win the ball brilliantly and the backs were soon flying upfield, Philip Ross haring up the left. Play switched infield and after a brief injury stop Orkney were straight back on the attack and William Thomson scythed through the West of Scotland defence to send Craig Slater in for his second try. Linklater converted from wide on the right to make it 19-5 after 35 minutes.
That might have been it for the first half, but West of Scotland had one more chance and executed it beautifully. A fine lineout saw them win the ball cleanly and drive to the line, making no mistake this time as open side flanker Mark Zoma rolled off the side of the maul and touched down. The conversion was slotted – despite the best efforts of Philip Ross to bear down on the kicker – to make it 19-12 at half time.
Things remained very tight in the second half and Craig Slater and James Linklater and William Thomson all found that they were quickly closed down as they tried to find a chink in the West of Scotland defence.
Indeed, it was an hour into the match before we saw more points on the board, as James Linklater slotted a fine penalty to make it 22-12.
Both sides were down to ten men soon after, as William Thomson and Andrew Douglas exchanged pleasantries off the ball. West of Scotland were on the front foot after the game restarted and they were over the Orkney line once more, the conversion creeping over to make it 22-19.
Orkney got themselves into an attacking position right on the back of this with a great kick up the right touchline that saw the visiting defender put the ball out, giving Orkney a lineout eight metres from the West of Scotland line. As the forwards probed and battered away Gary Nicolson was almost through before the ball came out to Scott Rendall, who burst over in the right corner to great celebrations from the home support. The conversion drifted wide, but Orkney were 27-19 up with little over 10 minutes remaining.
West of Scotland weren’t done though, and when they went over for an unconverted try to close the gap to three points thoughts started to turn to a win on the road for them.
However, it appeared to be the spur for Orkney and after a break from Don Tualasea and then Graham Slater, it was Scott Rendall again who burrowed over at the posts to great cheers. The conversion from James Linklater made it 34-24 and surely now a win in the bag.
The visitors had nothing left in the tank now and it was Orkney who were back on the West of Scotland line but spilled forward as the ref sounded the final whistle, bringing to an end a hard and keenly-fought contest that every player will know they were in.