sTRATHSPEY 0 STORNOWAY 24
Stornoway coach, Angus “Bubble” Mackay, praised his side for their most recent victory in the Caledonia Leagues: “It’s our first win in Kingussie for six or seven years, the guys really deserved their win.”
He added: “To have 22 players travel for this fixture is a clear view to how the lads are feeling at the moment, there is a real buzz around the club.”
As said, this was Stornoway’s first victory against Strathspey, in Kingussie, in six seasons. Adding the fact that numbers are on the increase and things could hardly be better in the Stornoway camp? Indeed the 22 that travelled last week were still a number of first team players shy, clearly a good “problem” for the coach!
Although the pitch was soft in places, conditions could hardly have been better for rugby. But Stornoway were slow out of the blocks and found themselves on the back foot from the off.
In fact it looked as though the long journey had seen the Islanders leave their legs on the ferry for the opening 10 mins. The Kingussie side threatened on three occasions in this opening spell and only solid Stornoway defence held them out.
Stornoway eventually began to get in to the game and managed to string several phases together and were at last able to play rugby in the home sides half.
From a scrum on the Strathspey 22m line Angus “Og” MacArthur broke down the right, only to be tackled short of the line.
Davy Graham was in close support but he too was held up short of the line but with the pack close at hand they were able to recycle quickly, where CT Moody benefited and crossed wide in the right hand corner.
There was little to choose between the two side as they battled things out in the middle of the park, neither able to break down the opposing defence.
Strathspey again found themselves under pressure, this time from their own mistake. Knocking the ball on in the tackle saw the Stornoway pack pounce.
After two phases the ball was fed to the backs and Peter Hobson crossed the line, putting the visitors 10 points in front shortly before the half time whistle.
After the break Strathspey restarted having made a couple of changes. This saw the home side try to attack in a more direct nature, rather than using the width of the pitch.
This proved a good move as they managed to put the Stornoway defence under increasing pressure. But again the Islanders defence proved more than a match.
After surviving the Kingussie side’s threats, Stornoway themselves managed to drive at the heart of the Strathspey defence.
The forwards were able to recycle and James Kearns dived over underneath the posts, with Euan Macleod slotting the extra points for a 17-0 lead, and surely securing the victory.
But the home side rallied and again put the visitors under pressure with some strong and direct running.
With the game perhaps gone they were keen to get the consolation try but this was to escape them on the day.
Instead Stornoway strived to secure a fourth try and the bonus point.
This came round with the try of the match. After great lineout ball from the forwards, young David Mackay spun the ball to Hobson at stand off and through the entire back line, for Euan Macleod to cross, untouched between the posts. He converted his own try for the 24-0 win, shortly before the final whistle.
The key to the victory was clearly the numbers available for the travelling side and they used them well from the bench.
But it was the defence that was the most pleasing aspect for the coach, who said: “It’s great to see the hard work we have been doing at training, pay off on game day”.
It might be slightly unfair to single out any players but young CJ Macdonald, the return of Willem Scheppers and the Man of the Match performance from Roddy Graham must get a mention.
The contrast from this fixture compared to last year’s, where 12 players travelled and the score was 52-18 to Strathspey is huge.
It details the attitude and commitment of the players this season and the way things are been done behind the scenes.
Stornoway are on the road again this weekend, as they travel to Inverness to take in Craig Dunain.
With the Islanders in buoyant mood and with so many players still to return to the squad, they will be confident of securing another away win.
Finally, all at SYRFC would like to take this opportunity to say goodbye to Matt Hunter and his wife Kara.
They head back to Australia very soon and they will be sorely missed. Matt has been a great servant to the club in his eight years here, both as a player and coach.
We all wish you both the very best for your future back home.