Stornoway rugby club created their own little piece of history last weekend, as they made the arduous journey up to Shetland for the very first time to take on the North Islanders, in Caledonia North Two.
To make the epic trek the team endured five airports, numerous bus journeys and finished the travelling off with the ferry home on Sunday evening.
Stornoway made the journey with a decent side and were more than able to cope with the home sides attack. Their line speed and organisation in defence was too good for the Shetland outfit who struggled to turn any meaningful possession into scoring opportunities.
Stornoway were quickly out of the blocks with an early Peter Hobson penalty and were good for their early. They soon found themselves falling behind however, as Shetland capitalised on a Stornoway mistake and were able to cross for the first try of the match. This went unconverted but gave the home side a 5-3 after 20 minutes. The Stornoway outfit were still coping well defensively and drew two further penalties from Shetland to change at half time with a 9-5 lead.
After the restart Stornoway were quickly under pressure after the home side made several changes. They crossed for their second try on the 45 minute mark to take a 10-5 lead without really having to work for it, after the earlier dominant Stornoway defence just switched off.
The visitors enjoyed decent spells of possession but struggled with the final pass out wide. Perhaps chasing the game saw them become lax in their defensive duties, as their slower line speed and poor tackling was allowing Shetland to enjoy more of the ball. Shetland added to their lead when the referee awarded a penalty try, stretching to a 17-9 lead.
Stornoway were still threatening and were dominating the line out, which proved to be a great source of quality possession. But with the home side willing to give away penalties at any opportunity, the visitors were becoming frustrated. The referee agreed and yellow carded the home teams number 7 for repeated infringement.
With the man advantage up front Stornoway used their line out to great effect, setting up a number of driving mauls, to which Shetland had no answer, but it still proved fruitless for the visitors.
After losing ball deep inside the Shetland half, the home side put together the try of the game. Great counter attack play and superb support saw them cross wide out on the left to stretch the lead to 24-9 with the conversion.
The visitors turned quickly and again enjoyed good territory and possession. They were awarded their own penalty try after the home side again pulled down a driving maul and at 24-16 were confident of getting back into the game, with ten minutes still on the clock.
A series of penalties and line outs deep in the Shetland 22 proved fruitless yet again and Stornoway found themselves defending as the final whistle loomed. And it was the home side who had the final say when they crossed for the bonus try right at the death. As the conversion went over the final whistle sounded and despite a spirited performance the visitors ended up on the wrong side of a 31-16 score line.
Stornoway can certainly take more from their performance than from recent matches and coach Angus Mackay was quick to praise his side saying: “I thought the over all performance was decent and we did a lot of the basics very well.
“We really need to be more ruthless when we are creating scoring opportunities, stupid mistakes by ourselves cost us in that department and at the same time gifted Shetland chances, which they didn’t waste.”
Stornoway now must regather and ready themselves for the visit of Ross Sutherland to Bayhead this Saturday.