Huntly/ Moray Ross Sutherland U18 V Stirling County 2nds
First outing for U18s
The amalgamation of three North clubs to compete in this season’s T4 under 18’s conference is quite an undertaking, particularly when the three clubs involved stretch from Invegordon in the Cromarty firth to Huntly in North Aberdeenshire. The squad of 18 players (including a player from Banff who rose at 5.30 to catch the bus to Elgin!), met for the first time on Saturday at the bus rendezvous in Aviemore.
Following a short warm up the match against Stirling County two’s kicked off at 1.30. County; a well drilled side with a bucket load of pre season training, were forced to work hard for the first twenty minutes by a very competitive visitors team playing in Ross Sutherland colours. Both teams traded early punches with short driving runs, keeping the ball in tight and testing each others defensive organization. It was hugely disappointing when County crossed the line for a well worked try against an increasingly disorganized defensive effort from the visitors, not least because both sides were pretty evenly matched to that point. The lack of cohesion in defense and attack continued to show as the half wore on, with County running in a succession of trys that threatened to force the visitors heads down. That these trys were all scored through the middle was indicative of the visitors difficulty in gelling as a team and their lack of experience together.
A few words under the posts and a tightening of the defense however, changed the tide in our favour and the last score of the half was a very good try scored out wide by the fullback, as the visitors finally put the ball through the hands. Boyed up by the score, Ross came out fighting in the second half and continued to build their performance and improve their team cohesion. Good communication and a positive approach began to pay off with the opening try of the half coming swiftly to the visitors. Despite an early reply Ross continued to dominate territory throughout the half and applied pressure to force errors from County. Some half time changes and pragmatic positional shifts and the team really began playing for each other and shifting the ball wide. The forwards carried hard and sucked in the County defenders off the crash ball leaving plenty of space outside that had County scrambling back. An Interception try by one of the Ross Scotland internationals at eight came easily from all the pressure and Huntly’s Sean McGrath scored a scorching try through the County centre with a powerfull jinking run that left the entire defense flat footed. At the final whistle the Ross/ Huntly/ Moray alliance had won the second half despite losing overall 41 – 19.
This was a promising start for a bunch of lads who had never trained together as a squad let alone played together in a match, and the signs are very positive for the weeks ahead. A few missed tackles and organizational frailties in the first half might have cost Ross the match, but there were huge positives to take away. Many teams 30 odd points down in the first half might have crumbled and started to grumble at each other, but the players deserve full credit for sticking in, staying positive and turning it round to dominate an entertaining second half full of offloading flair and hard running.