Highland put Shire to the sword
Shire at the wrong end of 15 try tussle.
Highland 78 – Perthshire 22
A much changed Perthshire team travelled up the A9 to Inverness on Saturday and as the score line suggests were comprehensively defeated by a fitter, faster and stronger Highland team. With so many players unavailable it was left to some of the younger and semi-retired players to make up the numbers but fair play to them for making themselves available for selection.
The omens were not good when Highland scored virtually from the kick off due to some very poor tackling. However, Peter McDougall at centre brought Shire’s hopes alive as he scythed his way through the home defence to take play right up to the Highland 22. He was rewarded with a penalty which he duly converted to give the chilly Shire supporters something to cheer about. This was short lived though as Highland stepped up a gear and ran in another 4 tries without reply. The home forwards were in superb form especially at the breakdown which they dominated with their speed and physicality while Shire’s backs seemed to stand back from the tackle and allow Highland all the time and space they needed to run amok. Shire lost Zack Harris to a yellow card and his contribution was sorely missed but just as we thought matters couldn’t get any worse, No 8 Duncan Clow, who was one of the few players able to stand up to Highland’s forward power had to leave the field with a back injury. A glimmer of hope arose just before half time when Harris, back on the pitch, took a quick penalty, fed Ryan Miller and the stand-off weaved and squeezed his way over the line for Shire’s first try.
The Eagles started the 2nd half well and for the first time in the game Highland were rattled. They gave away numerous penalties before the referee started handing out yellow cards and another quick penalty saw Stevie Gray take the crash ball and he was over for try number 2. With Highland down to 13 men, Perthshire should have been able to turn the screw but it was Highland who scored next with a straight forward attack out wide. Shire’s man of the match, Peter McDougall once again lost his marker to set up a Shire attack but he was high tackled on his way to the line after gaining 40 metres. Zack Harris took a quick penalty and this time he dummied his own way over the line and Shire were unbelievably only one try away from a losing bonus point. However, this was not to be as they crumbled in the last 20 minutes conceding 5 tries without reply.
Several Shire players put their all into this game but the strength in depth is just not there to cope with a large number of players being unavailable for one reason or another. All credit to Dan Wilkie and Stevie Gray for coming out of exile and Adam Pattinson and Dan Bowater for playing through the pain barrier to complete the match. This now leaves Shire in a precarious position along with Dalziel, Haddington and Orkney and two of these four will be facing life in the Regional leagues next season. Bonus points in any shape or form are going to be crucial from now on and every single one will need to be fought for over the second half of the league fixtures.
Saturday sees another hazardous trip as the team travel to Aberdeen to play Gordonians but if Shire can recapture their recent form then a win is a distinct possibility.