Pickaquoy infield – Saturday, 5 October 2013
Orkney 31, Morgan 18
Conditions were again near perfect for rugby, dry overhead with hardly a breeze and the pitch again in great shape as Orkney began attacking the Peedie Sea end.
Orkney had a few changes to deal with, Denis Hayes having been unlikely due to a hamstring injury after Thursday night’s training session, and then James Linklater ruled himself out on Saturday with a similar complaint. This meant that Kyle Robb was elevated from the bench to start at full back and Graham Poke also started, having not originally been in the squad. Edgar Thomson, who had played in the earlier internal match, was pulled into the squad and impressed as a second half substitute.
Orkney were not behind for long though. Scott Rendall went himself as Orkney were awarded a penalty inside the Morgan 22, and from there Orkney piled on the pressure with captain Alan Brown and then Ali Linklater both making for the line before Scott Rendall took it on again and went over for the first Orkney try. Graham Poke slotted the first of his conversions for a 7-3 lead.
However, Orkney were caught out at the back almost right away, with No8 Jon Hicks crossing the line for the visitors for an unconverted try that edged them a point ahead.
Just after the quarter hour and Bruce Ruthven, playing scrum half for Orkney, hoisted a penalty deep into the Morgan half and the resultant lineout saw Orkney’s forwards battling for the ball in the ruck that followed. Unfortunately the referee judged that Derek Robb had been guilty of some unnecessary boot work and yellow-carded him.
This was a blow for Orkney, but they fared well in the ten minutes that they were down a man. Scott Rendall gained huge ground as a free kick move saw him break through several attempted tackles to get Orkney back into the Morgan 22. The ball went left and Orkney probed towards the line but Morgan held tight and had another penalty to kick to the edge of their 22. Alan Brown won this lineout though, getting up well to knock the ball down to his side and Orkney were straight back at Morgan, with Sean Cursiter making headway before Robbie Firth broke through to make the line. Graham Poke added the conversion to put Orkney 14-8 ahead after 22 minutes.
Orkney’s next try came from an inspired flick up off the ground from Bruce Ruthven to find Philip Ross. He caught the Morgan defence static and went through them like a warm knife through butter on his way to the line. Graham Poke had his kicking boots on for sure and it was 21-8 to Orkney after 25 minutes and still a man down.
The home side had their tales up now and a finely-judged kick into the Morgan 22 from Bruce Ruthven set up another onslaught on the line. What looked like a try was judged to have been held up but the scrum five metres out saw Orkney remain on the attack.
Back up to 15 men, and with less than ten minutes of the first half to go, Orkney continued to have the bulk of possession and territory.
Morgan still posed a threat though, and were back into the Orkney half with a penalty kicked to touch just outside the 22. They couldn’t capitalise on this though, and another hoisted kick from Ruthven had play back deep inside the Morgan half. A lineout well inside the 22 saw the Orkney forwards rumble towards the Morgan line before the ball came to the backs. Another try beckoned but bad handling let Morgan off the hook this time and they were able to break away and threaten once more, the home side scrambling back to defend their own line.
Orkney were back on the attack as the half came to a close, and Orkney could be satisfied to be 21-8 up as they turned around.
The bulk of the first ten minutes after the restart were played in Orkney’s half as Morgan battled for a way back into the match. However, as Orkney began to get back onto the front foot the call from Adam Baird on the touchline was to “start playing our game now”.
They started to make some headway was back on the Morgan line with a scrum and then a free kick. As Orkney continued to build their attack, an offside infringement by Morgan went unchecked, and then another, but unheeded Orkney pressed on and it was eventually Scott Rendall that went over to extend his side’s lead to 26-8 with just over quarter of the match left.
Graham Poke and Liam Sharpe, on in the second half, looked to have combined well on the break to produce another Orkney try, but the referee saw a knock-on and pulled them back for a scrum.
Orkney were not put out by decision-making though and continued to push up, Scott Rendall just missing Edgar Thomson with his pass as the substitute broke up the left wing.
With 70 minutes gone Morgan got another try back, with Jon Hicks again the scorer from a penalty move on the right of Orkney’s 22. This went unconverted, but the 26-13 scoreline had given Morgan some belief going into the final ten minutes.
Any hopes of a late comeback were dashed very soon after though, as fine interplay between Liam Sharpe, Steven Groat, Alan Brown, Bruce Ruthven and then substitute Sharpe again saw him cross the line for Orkney’s final try of the match.
Morgan did score again as the clock ticked down, going over despite the best efforts of Liam Sharpe, back defending after his try-scoring exploits. Another solid tackle in midfield, when Morgan could have broken away, showed Sharpe was every bit as valuable in defence as attack.
Orkney ended the match in their own 22, but having secured five points from what was at times a scrappy affair they could be reasonably happy with their lot on the day.
Liam Sharpe and Robbie Firth were mentioned in dispatches as the man of the match awards were made, but the award on the day went to Scott Rendall.
Thanks to E R & T Craigie, Butchers and The Orcadian for their sponsorship on the day.