Pickaquoy, Saturday, April 13, 2013
Orkney RFC 55, Hillfoots 24
Orkney rounded off their league campaign with a convincing win over Hillfoots, after the Tillicoutry-based side eventually made it north – third time lucky - to fulfil a fixture originally scheduled for January 19.
It was a bright and breezy Saturday afternoon at Pickaquoy as a good crowd gathered for the league finale. However, it was by no means one-way traffic in a sometimes hotly contested match, which saw three Orkney players spend 10 minutes on the sidelines after yellow cards, along with one Hillfoots player.
The breakthrough wasn’t long in coming though, and it was Scott Rendall, running on to a well-timed Willie Thomson pass, who went over in the left corner.
This was the boost that Orkney had needed, and a few minutes later great running from the backs saw Philip Ross go in under the posts. Willie Thomson stuck the conversion over for a 12-0 lead.
With Orkney’s tails now up another running break up the left saw Graham Poke, Philip Ross and Adam Hill combine well, with Hill going over for his first try for the First XV. A fine kick from the touchline from Chris Guthrie gave the two extra points so Orkney led 19-0 coming up to the half hour.
Having been under the cosh for ten minutes, Hillfoots broke up the field and scored an unconverted try to remind Orkney they couldn’t switch off as the home side needed a bonus point win to secure fifth place in the league.
Orkney responded immediately in the shape of a powerful run up the left from Scott Rendall, making progress into the Hillfoots 22 despite seeming to have at least three opponents hanging off him. This set up another series of probes at the Hillfoots line. Al Watson thought he was in but it was judged a knock-on, but after a couple of scrums, which Orkney dominated, the ball went out right to Denis Hayes, who went over in the far corner.
Chris Guthrie was unlucky to see the conversion attempt come back off the upright, but he more than made up for it by bursting through a few minutes later to score under the posts, so that it was 29-5, with the bonus point secured for Orkney, by the time the sides turned round at half time.
To say that the second half started eventfully would be a slight understatement. Five minutes into the half what should have been a simple lineout turned into a bit of handbagging that threatened to spill into the crowd at one stage. Referee Ian Rushbrook made full use of his whistle to try to instill order and in the end Scott Rendall, who had ‘uppercut’ the ball out of an opponent’s grasp while still in touch, and Philip Ross both saw yellow, along with an opponent who had become needlessly involved. Several others were fortunate not to join them, or we might have had a Sevens match for a few minutes.
In the ten minutes that followed, Orkney’s 13 men only lost an unconverted try to the Hillfoots 14, and shortly after this the home side extended their lead to 36-10 with a try at the posts from Al Watson.
Hillfoots were not to be outdone though, and after scoring another try, this time converted, the visitors were talking about securing their own bonus point.
However, before this became a reality, Philip Ross was once again through for a try to make it 41-17 to Orkney.
A combination of good handling and missed tackles – along with a high tackle that saw Chris Guthrie sin-binned – allowed Hillfoots to score their fourth try, with the conversion taking their tally to 24 points.
The final spell of the match belonged to Orkney though, and more specifically to man of the match Philip Ross. First of all he ran onto a loose ball just inside the Hillfoots half and kicked ahead, only to see the ball bounce back off an opponent and into his arms to allow him to run in under the posts, to great cheers from the home crowd.
And just to round things off, in the dying minutes Ross ran in to score behind the posts before performing a celebratory handstand to mark his fourth try of the match. The conversion kick made the final score 55-24 to Orkney.
Man of the match Philip Ross was also named by captain Alan Brown as Most Valuable Player of the Season, after all the voting points were tallied. This was a close-run contest with Scott Rendall, with Danny Bain in third place.
The Orkney captain said that for Orkney to finish fifth in the league, having at one stage been ‘rock bottom’ was a ‘real testament to our boys’, and he praised the commitment of players, especially at the stage of the season when they had to make five away trips in a row.
Alan also explained that this match should have been a retirement match for veteran player Garry Coltherd. However, fog had delayed his flight home from holiday and meant a last-minute re-jigging of the team. It remains to be seen if Garry will make an appearance next season to round off his playing career.