Grangemouth - Saturday 14th December 2019
Grangemouth Stags 0, Orkney RFC 31
On Friday 13th December 2019 Orkney set off on their travels for the final Caledonia regional league game before the festive break. This was a trip to face Grangemouth Stags, old friends of Orkney rugby and passionate supporters of the Orkney sevens tournament for over quarter of a century.
Club president Brian Lanni chose to make this fixture his official supporters trip and had rounded up a number of characters, club officials and ex-players to join the team on the journey south.
The travelling squad showed several changes from the previous two fixtures this was mainly due to work commitments, injury and unavailability. However due to squad depth this season a strong group still left Orkney on the Northlink ferry to Aberdeen.
This would be challenging conditions for both sides. More often than not such weather tends to limit the style of rugby to a more forward dominated game and not the free-flowing open rugby Orkney have been trying to develop.
The game Kicked off with no sign of the cold sleety rain stopping. Orkney from the kick off took the game by the scruff of the neck and were playing controlled territorial rugby utilising backs and forwards to gain good ground in the Grangemouth half. William Thomson playing at stand-off was pulling the strings nicely and Orkney were challenging the home team defence time after time.
About five minutes in to the game the ball was played along the back line, Captain Scott Rendall came in to the line and had Matt Jackson on his outside. Rendall then played a deft grubber through the defensive line for Jackson to run on to. He managed to get his toe on the ball first and kicked it on towards the home try line. As the ball went over the line it looked like a Grangemouth player managed to ground the ball, although it squirmed free. Jackson kept going and applied downward pressure. The referee who was a bit behind play then rather surprisingly raised his arm to award the try. The conversion from out wide just went wide.
From the restart Orkney gathered well and went straight back on the offensive and in to the Home half where they continued to dominate possession and test the home defence. Twice Orkney were over the whitewash, one appeared a clear try but the referee was unsighted and the second was knocked on over the line.
Once more Orkney drove over the home line but were held up. The referee though was playing advantage to Orkney for an earlier penalty so returned to the mark. Scott Rendall ever alert reacted quickly with a tap and drove hard towards the try line and managed to slither his way over under three would be defenders for the try. Connor Hancock stepped up to add the extra two points.
Orkney continued to dominate territory for the remainder of the half and even when Grangemouth did have possession the Orkney defence was up quickly, making their tackles and forcing mistakes.
Despite having so much possession and territory Orkney only had a 12-point lead to show for their efforts as the whistle for half time blew. Such was Orkney’s territorial dominance
their half of the pitch barely looked like it had been played on and the Home half was no longer bonny and green but brown and turning muddy. It was still very cold and both sides spent half time back in the changing rooms trying to warm up and dry off a bit.
The second half kicked off with the rain easing although still very cold. Orkney started as they had finished the first. On the front foot, controlling the game and playing in the home half. Even when Orkney made a mistake, they worked very hard to recover possession and invariably prevented the home side from getting over the advantage line. Good offensive tackling by Orkney forcing handling errors.
After a period of pressure on the home line it was that man Rendall who forced his way over the try line once again for an unconverted try.
Ten minutes later the Orkney Captain received a pass some thirty metres out from the Grangemouth line and he ran with purpose, power and with a final dummy outwitted the last would be tackler to score his hat-trick and the bonus point try under the posts. Hancock slotted the conversion.
For the next ten minutes of the game Grangemouth finally managed to get some field possession and keep the ball. Orkney however were still defending well and making it difficult for the home side to find any gaps to exploit.
The only downside for Orkney during this period of play was losing three players to injury. Philip Ross and Alan Brown to knee injuries, Connor Hancock with a pulled hamstring. David Bruce, Adam Watt and Derek Robb entering the field to replace the injured trio.
Grangemouth managed to work their way to five metres from the Orkney try line but one of their big forwards spilled the slippery ball when he was tackled hard. However, the referee was playing penalty advantage to Orkney from an earlier infringement by Grangemouth about six metres out from the try line. Willie Thomson then showed his sevens alertness and took a quick tap seeing the home side not reacting to the whistle. He then took off on the heavy pitch and ran the length evading would be defenders and scoring under the posts. Bain stepped up and slotted the conversion.
Coltherd then entered the fray for Craig Rendall at prop with about ten minutes left. Some “fresh” legs to see out the game.
This would prove to be the last score of the match and when the whistle blew for no side the scoreboard was 31-0 in Orkney’s favour.
Overall an excellent performance by Orkney in challenging conditions. Players man of the match was captain Scott Rendall after his hat-rick of tries, trademark hard running and intelligent play. Other notable performers were; Liam Moar and Danny Bain but if truth be told this was a day when everyone in the squad deserves recognition for the shift they put in to keep the teams one hundred per cent win record intact.
Thanks to Grangemouth for ensuring the game went ahead and for their excellent hospitality towards the Orkney players, officials and supporters on what proved to be a night of Christmas cheer in the clubhouse.
The next competitive game for Orkney is on Saturday 18th January 2020 when they travel to Blairgowrie in the league.
On behalf of Orkney rugby club, I would like to wish our sponsors, supporters and everyone else involved with the club a very merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.