Gordonians 2XV 44-13 Shetland

Due to last weeks postponed fixture with Garioch, Shetland were not able to build up momentum going into a match that was narrowly lost last season to Gordonians.  With a number of absentees, the Blues always knew they were going to up against it but they did manage to get a squad of fifteen despite a number of call-offs.  RJ Anderson, Kristian Fraser and Ronny McLennan made up the front row.  Jeff Shaw and Robbie Skinley were in the engine room with a back row of Danny Farnworth, Stewart Mouat and Matthew Nicolson.  Jon Pulley and Callum Williamson remained the half-back pairing, Maurice Williamson and William Coghill continued their partnership in the centres with Daniel Gray and Peter Sidgwick keeping their places on the wing.  The only change in the backs was Ben Cranie making his debut at full back for the injured Paul Grant.
Without any replacements available Shetland knew they would always be up against it from the start.  With Farnworth and McLennan also carrying injuries it was vital the away side got off to a positive start. From the kick off, Shetland immediately won a penalty just outside Gordonian’s twenty-two.  Fly-half Williamson’s lovely high kick was well chased and Mouat would have forced a turnover if it was not for the home player holding on to the ball.  Knowing every point would be essential, Shetland elected to go for the points.  Kicker of the day in Grant’s absence was Callum Williamson and the number ten slotted the ball over the posts to give Shetland an early three point lead.
This lifted Shetland further and Gordonians were camped in their own half for the first fifteen minutes.  Maurice Williamson put a little chip in behind the defence and re-gathered it before shipping it wide to Sidgwick.  The pacey winger was unfortunately tackled into touch just five metres out.  Shortly after, the ball was bobbling loose and scrum half Pulley opted to go for a drop goal but his attempt was wide giving the home side a twenty-two drop out.
Shetland did manage to win another penalty just outside the twenty-two but this one was elected to be run.  Mouat was tackled just short of the try line before carries from Fraser and Shaw inched ever closer.  Unfortunately the ball was knocked on and this allowed the home side to clear their lines.
Not long after, Gordonians went close to scoring.  They spun the ball wide and created an overlap to allow their winger to gain a lot of yardage.  A great covering tackle by Pulley forced a knock on from the winger and gave Shetland a scrum inside their own twenty-two.  The ball was duly clear downfield and the pressure momentarily eased.
Shetland’s defence held out well with big hits being put in from Maurice Williamson, Sidgwick and Mouat but the sustained pressure was taking its toll and it was not long before the home side scored their first try.  Again they created an overlap and despite Gray Daniel’s best efforts, they managed to score in the corner.  The conversion was missed putting Gordonians two points ahead.
Shetland seemed to lose concentration and a further two tries were scored in quick succession.  A dogleg defence were the cause of these two tries. Again, the conversions were missed but Gordonians were 15-3 ahead.
Shetland slowly worked their way back into the game and Shaw, rolling back the years, went on a number of runs, dragging Shetland up the field.  Silly mistakes and wrong decisions were causing the Blues to lose possession.   For the second game in a row, Shetland managed to hold the ball up over the line.  This time it was Mouat who foiled the home hooker following a maul.
Just before half time, Shetland conceded another two tries.  This time with men growing tired, tackles were missed allowing the home side to score.  The kickers were having a nightmare and missed these two conversions as well.  This gave Gordonians a healthy 25-3 lead at half time.
With a few stern words at half time from captain Fraser and vice Williamson got Shetland going for the second half.  Four times last season Gordonians cancelled coming to Shetland so that was an incentive to bring to the second half.
A good take from McLennan from the restart allowed the Shetland forwards to rumble a few phases and expose Gordonians’ pack.  Nicolson and Anderson punched holes in the defence allowing a good platform for the backs to play with.  A move from the training ground set Coghill on his way up field.  The outside centre passed the ball wide to Gray who was forced into touch inside Gordonians’ twenty-two.  The home fly half cleared the ball downfield to relieve some pressure for the time being.  The kick was unfortunately knocked forward and Gordonians were awarded the scrum inside Shetland’s half.  A great scrum from Shetland turned it ninety degrees giving them the put in.  Another solid scrum allowed the backs to play.  A scissors between the Williamsons confused the defensive line and Maurice Williamson ran from his own twenty-two, shrugging of at least five tackle attempts on his way to scoring close to the corner.  Callum Williamson was unlucky as his conversion attempt hit the post and bounced out.
Shetland then had a lapse in concentration as almost straight away, Gordonians scored their first try in the second half.  Again, the conversion was missed.  Shetland then scored again themselves.  Another, great mazy run from centre Williamson ended in him being tackled just short of the line, Fraser picked and drove and with support from Nicolson, managed to dive and touch the ball down on the line.  Williamson again narrowly missed the conversion, skimming the upright.
With less than ten minutes to go, McLennan dislocated his knee but, due to the lack of substitutes, decided to pop it back in and keep playing.  Shaw moved to prop in the scrum and Anderson into the lock position.  This now made the front row have a combined age of 113, not something the Shetland team have been used to over recent seasons.  However, the lack of replacements and the home sides use of rolling substitutes mean they were able to score two converted tries bringing the score to 44-13.
Under the circumstances, this was a terrific effort and performance from the fifteen players on the park that played the whole eighty minutes and not once gave up.  The scrums were awesome despite a somewhat make-shift pack.  The line-out could do with a bit of work along with watching the numbers in rucks.  The backs were solid with the moves working well when done, the tackling was superb but a bit more communication in defence may have cut some tries out.  But all in all, Shetland left the field completely spent and their heads held high with a superb effort from all.
Best for the forwards were the veteran Shaw, Mouat and Nicolson with Maurice Williamson, Gray and Sidgwick standing out for the backs.
The Northwards man of the match was awarded to Maurice Williamson for his brilliant try and big tackling throughout the match.
Shetland’s next match is their first home game of the season against Kinloss Eagles with kick off commencing at 12 noon on the rugby pitch at Clickimin. All support would be greatly appreciated.
Training continues on Tuesdays and Thursday from 6.30pm at Clickimin.  All players, new or old, are very welcome to attend.