Home hurt for Stornoway Rugby Club

Stornoway Rugby Club came agonisingly close to mining three precious league points and landing a home win in last Saturday.

But in the end they were left empty-handed and on the wrong end of an 8-12 reverse scoreline to Moray RFC in what was a thrilling contest and as close as the scoreline suggests in Caledonia Division Two North.

The clash between Stornoway and Moray was fiercely contested.

The clash between Stornoway and Moray was fiercely contested.

In fact, the islanders could easily - and probably should have - registered a victory after edging the possession in the second half but just couldn’t find the killer edge to get them over the try line.

On a perfect winter’s day the two teams battled away with an intensity that gripped the watching crowd.

Stornoway did struggle badly at the scrum, but could call on a resolute defence with Calum Tom Moody at inside centre putting in some tremendous hits alongside the young powerhouse Jeff MacDonald.

Too many times, however, the home side tried to force a pass rather than recycle possession but the Moray backs were themselves guilty of over-elaboration and basic handling errors.

The nip and tuck affair was perfectly illustrated in the fact that the two teams looked to be heading into half-time on 0-0, but Stornoway were awarded a penalty right on the 40-minute mark and Peter Hobson stepped to convert the three points.

In the second half, the home side looked to up their performance, but it was Moray who struck first through a perfect counter-punch.

As Stornoway attacked Moray stole possession and broke down the blind side. A kick through saw home full-back David Crozier having to scramble back in cover defence, but it was Moray who reached the ball first and kicked through again to touch down behind the line. The try went unconverted, but it was now 5-3 to the mainland side.

It was clear, however, that this was not to be the end of the game and Stornoway battled away to set up camp in the visiting 22.

Angus ‘Og’ MacArthur, who had a fine game throughout, drove into the heart of the Moray defence but was held up. The rest of the pack came charging in and drove him over the line, but when the pile of bodies went to the ground the referee adjudged the ball to have been held up and did not award the try.

Then Moray added to their advantage. It looked to all the world that the visitors were going to score after a long period of pressure on the opposition line. They had two-man overlap out wide and the ball was shipped out for what should have been a routine score. However, MacArthur read the play superbly and sprinted out of the line to get man and ball for a tremendous try-saving tackle.

But the inevitable was only delayed and Moray scored close to the posts shortly after for a seven-pointer to give them a wee bit of breathing space at 12-3.

There was still plenty of time for Stornoway to salvage the game and they threw everything at the visitors.

Jeff MacDonald broke through a couple of tackles and sprinted clear. He only had the full-back to beat but he chose to hug the touchline and the defender pulled off a tremendous tackle to force him out of the field of play. Angus Williams also went close but he, too, was bundled out of play with the line at his mercy.

It was now a case of would Stornoway get a try with enough time left to play.

And with 13 minutes to go they duly scored. The forwards got within inches of the line and player-coach Angus ‘Bubble’ MacKay picked up and was held up short. Then MacArthur had a go, but he too was repelled. However, Williams had the presence of mind to strip him of the ball and twist over himself for a well-deserved score.

It was a tricky angle for the conversion and Hobson just narrowly missed to leave his side four points in arrears, but with the bit now between their teeth.

The game was then held up for around 15 minutes when young Paul Afrin suffered a bad head knock and was taken to hospital with concussion.

When the game resumed, it looked as if it was Moray who had benefited from the break in play as they dominated possession for then on and did not allow Stornoway another chance to get back in the match.

With the referee about to blow for full-time Stornoway needed to run the ball from deep, but it was not to be.

Jeff MacDonald found himself in space with the ball in his hands, but was faced with a line of Moray defenders and decided to kick. The ball went straight out and that allowed the referee to blow for full time and end a close and gripping contest.

This weekend, Stornoway are due to travel away to face Banff RFC who are bottom of the league, one place below the islanders.