Impressive performance despite rugby team’s inexperience

Bursting through the defence for Stornoway.
Bursting through the defence for Stornoway.

Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Cup

Nicolson Institute U16’s 21 v 57 Kirkwall Academy U16’s

Stornoway player on the charge.

Stornoway player on the charge.

The Nicolson U16 rugby team recently produced an excellent performance against a strong, and far more experienced, Kirkwall side.

This was their first match of the season following a series of frustrating cancellations in the Caledonian West League, in which they play as Stornoway RFC.

Although this was a home fixture for the Orkney side they kindly agreed to play the game at Ross Sutherland’s ground in Invergordon.

The Nicolson side were well led by two of their more experienced players.

Alick Graham, playing at hooker, captained the side, supported by vice captain Calum Mackinnon who led the backs.

They also had, Joe O’Hagan, Ross Morrison, Andrew Hay, Jason Guilmartin, Colin Wood, Jack Dunlop and Alan Farrell returning from last year’s team.

However, the remaining members of the squad were starting their first competitive game.

Conditions were perfect for running rugby and the match started at a hectic pace with both sides testing each other out.

Kirkwall had the bulk of the ball but were perhaps surprised by a Nicolson side that tackled anything that moved and forced them into a number of errors.

After 10 minutes Kirkwall managed to put together a number of phases, sucking in defenders, eventually leaving them with a 3 to 1 overlap and a try in the corner for their outside centre. The conversion went wide.

The Nicolson struck back immediately through an opportunist try from Calum Mackinnon.

Tenacious tackling in midfield led to a dropped pass, Calum pounced to kick the ball through then continued to use his footballing skills to dribble the ball over the line before dotting down for the try. Calum’s successful conversion took the Nicolson into the lead.

They were not to be in front for long though as Kirkwall’s slippery scrum half broke through a couple of tackles to sneak over in the corner for an unconverted try.

Kirkwall continued to dominate possession as the Nicolson struggled to retain ball in contact but when they did get the ball out to their backs they looked dangerous.

Calum, Jason and Colin all had storming runs that had the Kirkwall defence panicking. In defence the tackle count steadily rose with the back row of Ross Morrison and youngsters David Campbell and Iain Murdo Macleod working their socks off.

The midfield tackling was aggressive and pretty secure, and when there was a Kirkwall breakthrough Jason was there to cut them down.

All the hard work paid off when after 25 minutes the Nicolson side again took the lead in spectacular fashion.

They lost a scrum against the head on half way and the Kirkwall stand-off kicked in to space behind the advancing defence.

Jason collected the bouncing ball on his own 10-metre line and after rounding the kick chasers out-sprinted the remaining cover to score under the posts for a fine individual try. Calum’s conversion put the Nicolson 14 –10 ahead.

Unfortunately the effort required to live with a bigger team with far more match fitness and experience started to take it’s toll, and Kirkwall used this experience to tighten up the game and allow their forwards to control the game.

Six tries without reply in the following 20 minutes put them out of sight, tiredness causing missed tackles, which allowed Kirkwall to get behind the Nicolson defence to get on the front foot.

The Nicolson side never gave up and came back into the game for the last quarter of the match.

Kirkwall managed one more score with 10 minutes to go when their tall, rangy No. 8 picked and drove over from a scrum 5 metres from the Nicolson line.

But it was the Nicolson side who appeared to finish the stronger team and capped this effort with the final try of the match. Alick drove strongly into the Kirkwall 22 supported by the rest of the pack.

The ball broke loose and was gathered by the Kirkwall scrum-half only for Calum Mackinnon to strip him of the ball and dance his way down the touchline to score.

His successful conversion from wide out proved to be the final score of the match.

This was an impressive effort from such an inexperienced team and many of them will now have a much better understanding of the game.

Some excellent performances throughout the team but the man of the match was one of the newcomers, second row forward Coinneach Smith.

After a week off, training will resume on Saturday 22nd October, 11.30am at Bayhead to prepare for the first league match the following week.