After 33 years on the frontline of Stornoway Rugby Club both as a kid prospect, first team star and player coach, the curtain came down on Angus ‘Bubble’ Mackay’s club playing career on Saturday.
And fittingly for a player who devoted a lifetime to his beloved club he finished on a high – with an emphatic home victory over a fellow island side and on home soil – Bayhead – the home for so long of Stornoway Rugby Club.
It hasn’t been an easy campaign for Stornoway in Caledonia Division Two North but they ended on a hugely positive note with a performance of confidence, energy and pride to slay Shetland 62-3.
The result makes little difference to the overall league standing with both teams anchored in the bottom half and safe from relegation, but it nevertheless a noteworthy contest for a number of reasons.
It was the first ever time a rugby team from Shetland made the journey to Lewis, involving two overnight stays via Aberdeen; and it was also of course the very last game of a long and decorated playing career for MacKay, a Stornoway stalwart who has been playing senior rugby for an incredible 33 years.
The 45-year-old has amassed 248 games and as the club’s undisputed tighthead prop has been the cornerstone of the pack and forward leader.
He is not the force he once was and a career in one of the most physically demanding positions in rugby has played havoc with his body, the result being that has finally hung up his boots, though the club sincerely hopes he will continue in a coaching capacity.
The game itself saw Stornoway maintain a high tempo from the outset and ran in 10 tries to Shetland’s none, with the sole reply from the northern islanders being a penalty kick in the first half.
It was the Stornoway backs that did the damage and once again young Calum MacKinnon stood out, showing strength and commitment way beyond his tender years.
This game very much signalled the changing of the guard for Stornoway, with several youngsters having an important part to play, demonstrating that at least the potential is there for a bright future.
Front row Murdo Sam MacLeod, who has been a fringe player for much of the season, also put in a decent shift and if he can learn to impose his size on the play is set to feature much more prominently next year.
This was also the last appearance for veteran back-row Davy Graham, a contemporary of coach MacKay’s, who has also given tremendous service to the club over the years.
When the last try was scored young David MacKay handed him the ball to take the last conversion of the season from wide out on the touch line. Graham, who has proved his versatility over the years, lined up the kick and it sailed straight and true between the uprights for a final act to remember.
At times, it’s been a difficult campaign in a tough league, but Stornoway have shown enough to demonstrate that they have the playing talent to compete at this level, particularly at home where they are a match for most. As usual the real test has been to get enough of a playing squad to travel on a regular basis to maintain competitiveness.