On Sunday 16th December, Caithness RFC travelled to Orkney with a squad of Under 14 and Under 16 players to compete in friendly matches with Orkney RFC. The Under 14s turned up in force with a squad of 22 players with all the boys being keen for a game.
The match kicked off just after 12pm on a bright but cold day, Caithness, having won the kick off, kicked the ball to Orkney who received it well, Orkney ran the ball back into the Caithness half but some good tackles stopped the attack, It was obvious at first that this would be a tough game with Caithness rucking Orkney off the ball and turning it over, they shipped the ball out but a strong centre combination of Archie MacPhail and Archie Porteous stopped the Caithness players before they became any real threat.
The ball was well presented and it allowed Caithness to get the ball out to their winger who made a break down the wing, a good diving tackle from Adam Fallows brought the winger to a halt after making 20 meters. The ball was knocked forwards giving Orkney the advantage,
Douglas Murray picked up the ball and charged through defence and using a good leg drive broke the first tackles before he was eventually stopped, The Orkney forwards showed off their good rucking technique and prevented Caithness from turning the ball over. Alistair Morgan, playing at scrum half, was doing a good job at getting the ball out to the centres that were making good ground into the Caithness half. The ball reached Archie Porteous who sprinted past his opposite number to score in the corner (5-0). This gave Orkney a big confidence boost and they were prepared to get stuck in after the restart.
Caithness restarted the game and gave it to their Number 12 who made a good run into the Orkney half with relative ease, it was only when Liam Thomson blocked his path that he was stopped, again Caithness were committing to rucks and pushed Orkney off the ball, there scrum half picked the ball up and attempted to run himself but found he was surrounded and a duo of Henry Gordon and Tyler Mackenzie quickly tackled him to the ground.
The counter ruck proved unsuccessful and Caithness kept possession of the ball, again it was given to the number 12, this time he found a gap down the wing and squeezed through to score a try (5-5) a quick team talk while Caithness took their conversion kick gave the coaches time to explain to the squad a few things that could be worked on and it was clear that they took it all in after the restart as there was a big improvement in the rucking with Orkney turning over a lot of the Caithness balls and the tackling with all player showing a lot of effort to make tackles.
Orkney restarted the game but the ball was ripped from them by one of the Caithness players who then knocked the ball on, giving Orkney the scrum which was easily won, the ball was passed to Harry Siderfin who stepped passed the Caithness number 10 and made a few meters before a good tackle stopped him, Caithness were trying desperately to turn the ball over but the Orkney forwards got in a good position to keep them off the ball, Adam fallows picked up the ball and broke the defensive line, he was well supported by Liam Thomson and Douglas Murray who offloaded the ball to each other as they made their way up the pitch. Douglas was brought down but Bruce Ritch was there to receive the offload and kept the attack rolling, he charged through 2 defenders before passing again to Douglas who finished off with a try. The conversion was successful (12-5).
Caithness immediately responded with good attacking runs putting Orkney under a lot of pressure, great tackling came from Archie MacPhail and Arron Gibson but it was not enough to stop Caithness making a break down the wing, Archie Porteous stopped the attack with a good diving tackle bringing the player into touch.
Orkney won the lineout and managed to get the ball away but good tackling forced a knock on giving Caithness the advantage which they used well and managed to score again, this time with the conversion added (12-12). Orkney were keen to finish the first half in the lead so a big push was made by everybody to get one final score, Douglas again charged through the defence brushing off the tackles. Alistair and Harry both used the ball well to move it into space where it was taken forwards and dived over the line. The conversion drifted wide (17-12).
As Half time came the Orkney boys got a quick rest allowing for another team talk. The boys were pleased with their performance so far and knew where there could be improvements made. A few changes in the squad saw Mathew Rendall go in at scrumhalf and Arjun Pankhania come on at the wing.
Orkney started the second half positively with Ryan Arcus and John Esslemont making good runs with the ball. Orkney received a penalty for Caithness being offside; it was taken quickly but unfortunately knocked on giving Caithness the ball. The scrum went Caithness’s way and their scrum half kicked the ball, John covered it well with support from Elliot Brookfield and began to run it back before being tackled near the touch line, Orkneys commitment to the Rucks prevented any more turn overs happening and meant that the ball was always secured. Adam picked at the back off the ruck and went down the wing, dropping his shoulder and charging into a defender knocking the defender over but a foot on the touch line gave Caithness the line out. The lineout went Caithness’s way and again the ball was kicked. A good chase by the Caithness centres saw the ball back in their hands and a clear run to the try line, Robbie Scott made a good covering tackle knocking the attacker over. The ball went loose but was touched down over the line by Caithness hands. The conversion hit off the post (17-17).
Orkney restarted the game attacking down the right wing with Bruce Ritch making good ground being supported by Craig Drever. Caithness seemed to have no answer to the attack as it moved closer to the try line, the ball was passed and then offloaded to Magnus Merriman who broke a tackle and dived over the line with players hanging off of him (22-17).
Caithness restarted again with some good running in the forwards pushing Orkney back to their own line, play continued in Orkneys half for another 5 minutes with the Orkney defence withstanding numerous attacks, as the boys became tired gaps started to appear and Caithness took advantage of this and scored in the corner (22-22).
In the last 10 minutes of the game both teams were pushing hard and it was Orkney who struck first with good running from Archie Porteous creating some space, Cameron Fraser was getting really stuck in providing support but it was Arjun Pankhania who came off his wing to receive the ball, a few good sidesteps and he was upon the line with the last push coming from the forwards who drove him over for the try (27-22). The final blow came from Caithness though as they took the restart and managed to catch the whole Orkney squad sleeping to run in an easy try. This equalled the score at 27 all, and with the last conversion of the game Caithness managed to steal the victory and win 27-29.
Coach Liam Sharpe added;
“The boys have played really well today, I am very impressed with the turnout for the match and I’m glad that they put in so much effort. The boys took on board what was told to them at half time and really improved over the second half, we look forward to the start of the new year when there will be a return fixture In Caithness and the start of the Pentland Firth cup, as well as fixtures against Shetland”.
Squad: Magnus Merriman, Bruce Ritch, Craig Drever, Liam Thomson, Douglas Murray, Arron Gibson, Ryan Arcus, Adam Fallows, Alistair Morgan, Harry Siderfin, Arjun Pankhania, Archie MacPhail, Archie Porteous, Henry Gordon, John Esslemont, Aidan Mitchell, Keirin Wilson, Mathew Rendall, Elliot Brookfield, Cameron Fraser, Robbie Scott, Tyler Mackenzie
Match Report By Liam Sharpe
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