Eagles Claim the Clark Thomson Cup and Bonus Point Despite Narrow Loss to Orcadians
Perthshire win the Cup on aggregate but rue poor start in a game that got away.
A victory against Caithness 3 weeks ago was the last outing for the 1XV and maybe that loss of momentum cost the team this week. It was an early morning trip to Edinburgh to catch the flight to Kirkwall where the team arrived to a mild December Orkney day.
The Pickaquoy pitch was ideal and both sides were targeting this game as a must win in the ever-tightening league. Orkney kicked off with a strong wind behind them. Perthshire built a few phases knowing they would have to run from their own half to overcome the wind. However, a double movement in the tackle after about 3 minutes allowed Linklater a first shot at goal which he duly slotted. Without having touched the ball Orkney were 3-0 up. Orkney returned the restart and Perthshire again started working upfield. Orkney were quicker and smarter at the ruck and turned Perthshire over who then prevented quick ball. Linklater was on target with this penalty, 6-0.
Multiple missed tackles and some soft hits gifted the islanders easy metres. One Orcadian breakout saw Linklater score the first try of the match, he made the conversion. Minutes later another ruck infringement from Perthshire allowed Linklater to line up a long-range penalty, he added the 3 points to make it 16-0 with about 20 minutes played.
In previous seasons Perthshire may have folded but this year there is a new-found resilience. Like a switch went on the Eagles remembered how to play rugby. Suddenly on the front foot, Perthshire were causing all sorts of problems. The scrums were firing and hard carries made inroads against the wind. When in space Pete Saunders and Scott Alcorn were able to take the ball on but the Orcadian scramble defence was resolute.
With 30 minutes gone Perthshire had a lineout in the opposition half. Kieran Ramsay found his man and a maul formed. To the delight of coach Mark Coupar, the pack picked up speed and started charging the maul towards the Orkney line. About 7m short it was illegally collapsed, however, the advantage wasn’t needed. Ryan Miller took the ball and passed to Dan Rae who cut a sweet line and powered over to score with 3 Orkney players hanging off him. Calum Bruce added the extras and Perthshire were back in it 16-7.
The remainder of the half saw further pressure on Orkney which began to tell. Hard lines and powerful running by Andy Jack, Kieran Ramsay and Ewen MacDonald put the islanders on the defensive and penalties started to come Perthshire’s way. Another lineout this time 5m out was gained and Perthshire looked to repeat the mauling effort from moments earlier. Alas Orkney played smart, did not engage the maul and the men in black & white were judged to have caused an accidental offside so conceded the scrum.
Against the wind 16-7 would have been an OK halftime score. Alas in the last play Orkney, from a scrum in their own half, coasted through some soft tackling and with a couple of offloads released hooker Rendall to run the final 30m to touch down; the conversion was missed.
The team talk from the coaches was simple. Now the squad had woken up, play hard, keep the ball and make the tackles to deny Orkney any momentum.
Ambition was displayed by Perthshire right from the off. Ryan Miller kept the Orkney defence guessing going himself or passing to a forward crashing through. When spun out wide Calum Bruce was making great use of Pete Saunders and Dan Rae to power into space in the midfield.
Discipline was still a problem for Orkney and Calum Bruce took advantage to claw back 3 points after about 8 minutes played. It could have been more but a long-range Jonny Armitt effort and another from Calum Bruce both drifted wide. It stayed at 21-10 for the majority of the second half.
Orkney sparked back into life and spent about 15 minutes hammering the Perthshire line. Strong tackles exemplified by James Mair and key turnovers by Ewan MacKessack-Leitch and Ali Nisbett temporarily halted the advances and allowed Perthshire to clear. As the boys tired, imprecision crept in and Orkney sniffed the chance to put the game out of reach.
Twice within 3 minutes Orkney crossed the whitewash but were held up. The Eagles held firm defending like their lives depended on it and eventually Callum Croughan broke the siege with a magnificent turnover.
The window to win the match was closing but Perthshire have grown this season and made every effort to turn it around. Callum Croughan was held up, a knock-on 5m out, crossing in the backline; all conspired to frustrate Perthshire. Eventually in the final play the ball was worked out to replacement wing Jay Pettie (on his 1XV debut) and he squeezed over in the corner. The conversion was missed.
Final score 21-15. Perthshire played well for 60 minutes of the match but couldn’t overcome the poor start and defensive lapses that cost them. Head Coach Alan Clark can be proud of the spirit shown but knows that this was a missed opportunity. The losing bonus point could prove useful at the end of the season.
Despite the loss, this result taken with the earlier 34-19 win for the Eagles on the Inch put Perthshire 49-40 up, so Captain Ryan Miller collected the annually contested Clark Thomson Cup.
Thanks to Orkney for the hospitality enjoyed at their Clubhouse. Also, a special thanks to the referee who took a break from his honeymoon to officiate the match.
All supporters are encouraged to come down to the North Inch next Saturday (8th December) when Murrayfield Wanderers journey up, it was a close game in Edinburgh that Perthshire narrowly won and the boys will be looking to do the double. The 2XV will also be at home to Glenrothes 2XV. Both matches kick-off at 2pm.