Pickaquoy Playing Fields, Sat 4th May
The 31-0 win – five tries and three conversions - came at the end of a day that had started wet and got wetter, only for the skies to clear in the hours after the action had moved from the pitches to the clubhouse. It had thankfully dried up in time for the latter stages of the tournament and sizeable crowd had drifted away from the beer and burger stands at the head of the pitches as the quarter finals and semi-finals were played out.
By the time Orkney and Caithness took to the pitch for the final it was dry and breezy, if not quite bright. For Orkney this was a chance to retain the trophy; for Caithness the opportunity to beat their rivals and take the silverware across the Pentland Firth for the first time.
With Orkney kicking off, they were up the field and in for the first try almost immediately. James Linklater broke upfield and then William Thomson and Philip Ross had a good piece of interplay with Thomson breaking first and passing to Ross and then the winger sending Thomson clear up the left to the line.
Orkney looked to have the measure of Caithness in the battle between old foes, and although conditions were not ideal there was neat play again between Philip Ross, William Thomson and Bruce Ruthven and the ball was shifting down the right where Scott Rendall sent Marcus Guthrie clear with a fine offload to allow him to run round behind the posts for a converted try and a 12-0 lead.
It stayed that way until half time, despite a spell of Caithness possession that saw them threaten the Orkney line just before the turnaround.
With Orkney starting the second half every bit as brightly as they had the first, it was the other Guthrie twin – Chris – who was on the scoreboard next. James Linklater’s restart was picked up by Bruce Ruthven and he set Guthrie off to outrun the Caithness defence and score in the left corner. The unconverted try gave Orkney a 17-0 advantage.
The home side were brought back from a possible breakaway for a knock-on, but a scrum won by Orkney saw William Thomson spot a gap and go for it, with none of the opposition able to catch him as he ran the length of the Caithness half to score. The conversion this time made it 24-0.
Chris Guthrie had been seeking to be substituted late in the half – saying he was ‘very tired’ (or words to that effect). However, he showed no signs of fatigue as he ran the long way round the Caithness defence and up the right wing to score behind the posts and convert the try himself with the final kick of the match to make it 31-0.
Just ahead of the tournament final, two local sides faced each other in the Plate Final. The Auld Bulls had lifted this title for the past three years, but Kirkwall’s determined start made for an even opening spell.
Al Watson soon showed a touch of class and experience though to go over on the right to put the Auld Bulls in the driving seat as they played with the wind on their backs in the first half. Next to cross the line for the holders was Davie McFarlane, making it 10-0, which was still the score when the sides turned around.
First blood in the second half also went the way of the Auld Bulls and it was Andrew Cuddihy (how auld a bull was he?) who scored this time.
It was not all Bull though, and Kirkwall were putting in some hard tackles. Ally Amer took down Al Watson with a tackle that his dad – taking photos on the touchline - could only ever dream about. A minute later Kirkwall were back in it with a try and the Auld Bulls were looking slightly in danger of an early trip to the abattoir as Kirkwall continued to press them.
However, it was Al Watson who killed off the Kirkwall challenge by stampeding to the try line for a final flourish from the Auld Bulls and a 20-5 win.
After Orkney RFC president Rodney Spence had welcomed everyone to the presentation ceremony and thanked everyone involved for making the tournament a success despite the weather, the first presentation to be made was the Keith Hutchison Memorial Trophy, which goes to the best Orkney player. This accolade this year went to Philip Ross, with Keith's widow Barbara again attending for the presentation. With representatives of sponsors Orkney Aggregates making the presentations of the tournament trophies, the Plate was collected by Auld Bulls captain Glen McLellan, and the Sevens trophy was presented to Orkney’s Marcus Guthrie.