A late consolation try by the courageous Kevin O’Hara restored a fairer measure of the play to the final score at Bayhead on Saturday.
On a soaked turf which cut up as badly as an episode of CSI, Stornoway RFC stood up defiantly and valiantly against the might of a Garioch side sitting pretty in second spot in the table.
On paper at least, this was a match in which Stornoway were expected to be up against it but on the pitch the hosts dug deep and roared into a battling display.
With little or no concern for their personal safety, they threw themselves into every contact, standing toe to toe, they refused to take a backwards step.
Unfortunately in the end, it proved not enough as the gallant islanders were defeated 26 – 10.
In an extremely tight first half, Stornoway could be very pleased with how their team was functioning. In the pack there were standout performances too numerous to mention.
Innes McCuish, possibly inspired by being the senior member of a very young front row, had his best game in a Stornoway shirt this season. In the second row, Roddy Graham soared in the line out and carried ferociously in the loose. One rampaging run saw him burst through the Garioch defensive line, twisting and turning he handed off two would be tacklers before eventually being dragged to the ground. Were Graham was so notable in attack, his second row partner was notable everywhere else. “Big Rick Macleod” covered every blade of mud on the pitch, making countless tackles, cleaning out rucks and was always the first man supporting his team mates.
In the back row, there was the perfect balance of bravery and cunning, pace and power. At flanker Stornoway welcomed back the talismanic David Graham.
Often described as the number 10 of the forward pack, Graham produced a real leader’s performance, combining bravery with real rugby intelligence. Making up the forward pack at number 8 was the awesome Angus ‘Og’ Macarthur. The all-action Macarthur carried, tackled and continuously disrupted the opposition ball. He produced such a performance that the Garioch coach made a point of crossing the length of the pitch at full time to personally congratulate him.
Indeed, as the first half drew to a close, this game could be described as a tale of the two number 8’s, as unfortunately for Stornoway, Garioch’s big ball carrier finally threw off the shackles of Stornoway’s defence and scored two tries either side of half time.
The timing of the two tries were as bad as Stornoway’s response was good. With the sun at their backs and playing down the hill it was time for the Stornoway back line to shine.
Expertly controlled by Darren Beattie and backed up ably by the tough tackling Angus Williams, time and time again the Stornoway outside backs were put into open space. Following one of these many breaks a ruck was formed just short of the Garioch try line. Stout defending seemed to be keeping the Stornoway runners at bay – however, as throughout the whole game, MacArthur would not be denied. He powered himself over the Garioch whitewash sending the capacity crowd into raptures.
Stornoway could now smell blood and the resulting pressure proved too much for Garioch’s centre who lashed out following powerful work from Jeff MacDonald. MacDonald just smiled as his opposite number was sent to the sidelines for 10 minutes to reflect on his actions. A series of attacking scrums and lineouts followed with the islanders throwing everything at the Garioch defence.
Where Stornoway’s heart could never be in doubt, a lack of composure and accuracy in execution ultimately let them down. Indeed in trying to push for victory Stornoway left themselves open to the ultimate sucker punch as Garioch scored two break away tries to put the game out of reach.
O’Hara’s late surge over the line for a try was the least Stornoway deserved – however, the disappointment etched on the faces of the Stornoway players told the real story as they felt this was a game they could have won.
Division Two North