Stornoway RFC 28
Huntly RFC 24
On a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon on Bayhead, Stornoway’s match against Huntly eventually got underway after delays with the ladies match due to an injury.
Stornoway lined up with a similar team to the side that took on Banff a couple of weeks before with the exception of the introduction of a couple, looked to make it two wins on the bounce at home this season, and a win on the opening day of the league.
Stornoway have made a habit of only really getting started in a game when the scoreboard is rolling in favour of the away side, and unfortunately this was no different. Huntly came flying out of the blocks, capitalising on mistakes and a sloppy defence to quickly build an ominous looking 17-0 lead.
At which time, Stornoway had decided change was needed and finally got going in the game.
There was no accepting defeat or chucking in the towel from Stornoway who grew into the game.
It was clear there was still a lot to work on but the home side dug in and managed to get off the mark with a try from Aiden Millar, who moved out one position to winger for the game, used his elusive quick feet to dance his way over the try line and give Stornoway some momentum. Iain MacKinnon converted and a comeback started to seem inevitable.
Stornoway were then under pressure, more so from themselves and their mistakes, and struggled for continuity.
Just before half time whilst just outside the Huntly 22, Iain MacKinnon rectified a kicking error he made to intercept a Huntly pass and run in a score on his return to the side, which he converted, to bring the half time score 17-14 in favour of Huntly.
Half time was a tense place to be and the stern messages from the side-line demanding a further response and to ensure nothing less than a win was taken from the match.
Stornoway started the second half much better than the first and with continued pressure in Huntly’s 22, it didn’t take long before Shaun Smith scored one of his trademark tries, bundling over the whitewash using his nimble feet and strength to finally give Stornoway the lead in the game. Iain MacKinnon converted and we now saw Stornoway looking a lot livelier and more controlled in the match.
MacKinnon was then held up over the Huntly line shortly after, before a missed overlap opportunity from the Stornoway backline saw golden chances to take the game away from Huntly missed.
And then almost unbelievably, further errors and miss kicks from hand saw Huntly gifted an opportunity in the game to take the lead once again that they gracefully took and converted to now lead the match 24-21.
Moans, groans and frustration were evident and voiced from the home supporters as they looked to influence a flattened Stornoway.
Allan Farrell took to the park with a reshuffle which saw Jeff MacDonald going to the back row for the remainder of the match.
The reshuffle paid off soon later as Stornoway once again found themselves deep into Huntly’s 22 and with forwards gaining momentum,
Jeff MacDonald spotted a gap and darted over the try line from close range to give Iain MacKinnon a simple conversion and Stornoway now once again, led the match.
But the drama was not finished there. During the last phases of play in the match, Stornoway once again found themselves defending for their lives and Huntly did touch the ball over the line, only for the referee to disallow the try and eventually through a knock on, Stornoway gained possession back and David MacKay punted the ball out as the clock turned red as an almighty sigh of relief was felt around the ground.
“These are the sorts of games we would have lost in previous years” club president Colin Maciver assured the players after the game “sometimes you have got to win ugly, as long as you win”.
Never a truer word spoken. Stornoway will certainly feel it will not be their strongest performance of the season, despite a strong side taking to the field, but a bonus point win is a bonus point win and the target Stornoway set out to achieve at the start of the match was achieved and that is certainly a positive.
Huntly will feel disappointed to only be leaving the island with a losing bonus point but Stornoway will certainly be able to take positives and still see progression from the first game of the season.
The second half was very encouraging at times and again, being able to come back and win from 17-0 down so early in the game shows the grit, determination and resilience this squad of players have.
Stornoway’s next match is a home match in the quarter final of the North Caledonia Bowl against Inverness Craig Dunain on the 5th October.
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Thanks to Lewis Macdonald Photography for all the images from the two matches.