National Youth Bowl Under 18 Final
Murrayfield, Sunday 29 November 2015
Dundee Eagles U18s 12, Orkney/Caithness U18s 21
Last Saturday saw fifteen U18 Orkney players meet at the Northlink Terminal in Stromness at 8am to commence their epic journey to play Dundee Eagles at Murrayfield.
They survived the choppy crossing down the west side of Hoy and made it in one piece to Scrabster. They were met in Thurso by Tracey Kay and five of the Caithness players.
As is the nature of playing rugby in the expanse of the North of Scotland, the player numbers were topped up to the full compliment of 22 by picking up the last two Caithness players in Latheron.
The Caithness Development Officer was collected in Inverness for the onward journey to Edinburgh.
After a restful evening in Ratho on the outskirts of Edinburgh, the combined Orkney & Caithness side made their way to Murrayfield for 12:30. Edinburgh had experienced a lot of overnight rain and the 4G pitch at Murrayfield was needing all of its time to dry before the 2pm kick off. There was a threat of rain/sleet and with the low temperatures, the SRU officials made the teams aware that the game could be stopped at anytime after 55 minutes if the weather had deteriorated and the score at this time would stand. This was purely precautionary as the SRU did not want any players to experience the ill effects of the cold. Thankfully the poor weather stayed away and 2 x 35 minute halves were played in full.
Excitement was rising and the full squad was up for the challenge ahead with the previous two back to back wins to raise their confidence.
The combined side received the kick off and from the outset, they set out their camp, making some very strong runs and showing good hands to bring a lot of the team into the game in the first minutes of play. This pressure in the Dundee Eagles 22yd area forced a penalty against them and Sam Croy was able to step up to the mark and slot the first points of the game. Five minutes in, Orkney/Caithness 3 – Dundee Eagles 0.
This early score fired up the Dundee Eagles and Orkney/Caithness sustained a lot of pressure in their 22 yd area but some good tactical kicking and strong runs took the combined side back up into the Dundee Eagles half. Another penalty was awarded against the Eagles and once again, Sam Croy stepped up and slotted the kick. Orkney/Caithness 6 – Dundee Eagles 0.
Dundee Eagles took the match to the combined side and dominated the next period of play. Orkney/Caithness had to put in an inordinate amount of defence as the Dundee Eagles camped on their 5yd line. Twice the Dundee Eagles crossed the line, once the ball was knocked on and then it was held up. From the next scrum, the Dundee Eagles took the ball to the right hand side and finally crossed the whitewash resulting in an unconverted try. Orkney/Caithness 6 – Dundee Eagles 5.
From the reset, both sides knew that the game was there for the taking. There was a period of loose play which saw both teams making handling errors. After a series of interactions between six of the Orkney/Caithness, the ball was released to Archie MacPhail who made a jinky run, breaking four of the Dundee Eagles tackles. Dundee Eagles were able to turn over the ball but knocked it on. The Orkney/Caithness scrum was won with good ball and the scrum half was able to pass the ball to Sam Croy who ran diagonally to the corner post scoring a text book try straight from the training pitch. The conversion was missed due to the strengthening wind. Orkney/Caithness 11 – Dundee Eagles 5.
Will Steven was substituted with Lewis Kay as a recurring knee injury was hampering his game. Lewis made an immediate impact to the game and was quickly into the thick of it. Clearly, the Dundee Eagles did not want to have their opposition gaining too big a points difference so once again, they piled on the pressure. By this time, the tempo and physicality of the game was showing on the players from both sides. With only two minutes to go in the first half, Dundee Eagles once again applied a lot of pressure and Orkney/Caithness were made to defend solidly on their try line. Dundee Eagles were able to cross the line and convert the points so they went into the break one point up – Orkney/Caithness 11 – Dundee Eagles 12.
As a result of the impending sleet and rain showers, both management teams and the match officials agreed that it would be a short, 5 minute half-time. With the team talks over, Orkney/Caithness took the ball and kicked off to start the second half.
Orkney/Caithness clearly annoyed that they were one point behind at the start of the second half were fired up and wanted to increase the intensity of their game. Sam Croy break saw him tear up the pitch when he was able to pass to Craig Chambers who was able to make more yards. The Orkney/Caithness side had the try line in their sights and the forwards continued to batter into the tiring Dundee Eagles side. Robbie Hay was able to power over the line and the kick was converted by Sam Croy. Orkney/Caithness 18 – Dundee Eagles 12.
Just as in the first half, the gap in the score made Dundee Eagles even hungrier for points. Orkney/Caithness were in their own half with possession and Dundee Eagles continually drove them back. A strong tackle from one of their players was made on Archie MacPhail but this proved too much for the bigger Dundee Eagles player who, after receiving medical attention was able to leave the pitch with some assistance. Due to a technical infringement at a ruck, the referee deemed James Nicolson to have committed a foul and sent him to the bin for 10 minutes resulting in Orkney/Caithness being down to 14 players. For a short period after this, once play had resumed, both sides focus was lost and heated discussions were popping up on the pitch. The referee soon put the lid on this and play was resumed to the high level that had existed to this point. Orkney/Caithness were only playing 7 players in the scrums but were able to hold their own against the now heavier Dundee Eagles pack.
With only one quarter of the match left, this was a good time to make some tactical substitutions. During this period, Charlie Quinn came on for Tom Gordon, Arjun Pankhania came on for Aaron McNicol, Douglas Murray came on for Jack Scott, Connor Crawford came on for Leigh Ryder and Euan Humphreys came on for Scott Smith.
Orkney/Caithness fought hard to get back into the oppositions half and from there were able keep on the pressure and were granted a kickable penalty. Sam Croy stepped up once more and converted the penalty. Orkney/Caithness 21 – Dundee Eagles 12.
The score wasn’t to alter from this point but both teams were keen to fight this out in the dying 5 minutes. Dundee Eagles made a final attack into the Orkney/Caithness half but a terrific steal by Shaun Gunn and clearance from Sam Croy fought the Dundee Eagles back to the half way line. From here a scrum was set but unfortunately, it collapsed and two of the Dundee Eagles were forced to be substituted with shoulder injuries. This was to be the final act of the game as the referee blew the whistle with the final score Orkney/Caithness 21 – Dundee Eagles 12.
An elated Orkney and Caithness side were clearly delighted with the result. It had been a long weekend but their professionalism and attitude had paid off. The SRU representatives, including some of the Edinburgh Pro rugby squad, congratulated both sides in their performances and duly awarded Sam Croy as player of the match. The combined side all received their medals and the captain was able to hold the u18 National Youth League Bowl aloft to the cheer of the supporters and players alike. The squad and travelling support were then allowed to walk down the team tunnel to get more photographs on the actual Murrayfield pitch making for a dream end to a perfect afternoon of rugby.
After the meal, the return leg of the journey commenced. There was snow on the edge of the road from Kinross right up to Thurso. Blizzard and white-out conditions occurred around Dalwhinnie when the 2 mile long convoy of traffic snaked its way north at around 20mph.
The tired team touched down in Thurso at 1am, exhausted but still high with the day’s achievement. With the tidal conditions and a return trip through Scapa Flow on Monday the squad finally returned to Kirkwall for 2pm.
This had been a 54 hour round trip for a group of dedicated players and coaches/managers. This achievement should not go unnoticed from some of our southern counterparts who, at times, appear to find it easier to try not to travel to the far North to play rugby.
Orkney RFC wish to take this opportunity to thank Northlink for their continued support with travel and Gordon the Maynes Buses driver who navigated us safely back to Thurso in some horrendous weather conditions.
Orkney & Caithness Combined Team
Team List: Shaun Gunn, Robbie Hay, Leigh Ryder, Dylan Evans, Jack Scott, William Steven, Euan Humphreys, James Nicolson, Alistair Morgan, Sam Croy, Tom Gordon, Fergus McIvor, Craig Chambers, Aaron McNicol, Archie MacPhail, Charlie Quinn, Lewis Kay, Connor Crawford, Douglas Murray, Arjun Pankhania, Scott Smith and Ciaran Drever.
Finals Day Management Team: Neil McCartney, Tracey Kay, Colin Gemmill, Bruce Ruthven
The u18 squad have no rest as this weekend see’s them back in league action against Deeside at Millbank, Thurso. Please check the What's On for details.
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