Stornoway earned what could be a vital bonus point as they went down 23-17 to Invergordon side Ross Sutherland.
Things are tight at the tail end of the league, with four teams fighting for survival after the withdrawal of Kinloss Eagles.
In a much improved performance, the home side matched the visitors on the try count, but two vital penalties in the opening minutes were to be the difference.
“We gave away too many penalties and allowed them an easy way out when they were under pressure,” said coach Angus Mackay. That early ill discipline looked never left the home side as they struggled to understand the referee at the breakdown. As Mackay has already mentioned, the penalty count was to be undoing of a spirited performance.
Stornoway found themselves 6 points down very quickly, after two Ross penalties. This was added to shortly after with two tries from the visitors with Stornoway looking shell shocked after yet another slow start. They did rally and gained some composure as the half went on, without putting any real pressure on the visitors line. Shortly before the half time whistle, the home side enjoyed their best spell. Angus Macarthur was held up over the line but from the resulting play, veteran Angus Mackay was on hand to cross the line after good support play from Darren Beattie. This 7 pointer, just on the whistle, was the catalyst for a far better second half.
Stornoway were enjoying the set piece, having parity at line out and scrum but still they were ill disciplined at the breakdown. It was an even game in this period, with both sides enjoying possession but it was Stornoway hit first with Angus Macarthur crossing for the try out wide. Ross however, countered with a try of their own and stretched their lead. In fairness the home side could have let their heads drop from this but instead they dominated the remaining minutes and were rewarded with the bonus point after Paul Afrin crossed from a push over try.
“It was far better than last week as far as performance goes and it’s just little things that are costing us,” said Mackay.
Stornoway now welcome high flying Aberdeen Wanderers this Saturday in what will be the islanders final home of the season at 3pm.
Captain David Mackay expressed his hopes the crowd that turn out in numbers.
“The support has been incredible and it helps the guys so much, I hope they turn out one last time for us this week.”