Students too good for Stornoway

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Scottish Cup - Regional Bowl Round 1

Stornoway RFC 5 Aberdeen Uni RFC 31

AT the weekend Aberdeen Uni followed in the footsteps of Helensburgh, Caithness and Dalziel in travelling to Stornoway, who have never won a Scottish Cup tie, and dumping the local side out of the cup at the first hurdle.The try count was five tries to one, and could have higher but for aggressive defending by Stornoway and the occasional dropped pass by the visitors.

The students looked to play with pace and width, while Stornoway looked to push the visitors back and use their bigger forwards to attack form close in. Four of the student’s tries were either scored or resulted from long distant breakouts, with Stornoway’s try coming from a catch and drive from a lineout 5 metres out from the line.

For the majority of the match the young student side were just too good for Stornoway, who couldn’t hold on to the ball long enough or often enough to develop the field position required to build pressure. The students had the upper hand in the set pieces, most surprisingly in the scrums, for much of the match, and in the loose their all round pace, intelligent support lines and off loading skills caused constant problems.

Stornoway did have some good spells of pressure through the match and managed to put a number of multiple phases together, the problem being that they couldn’t generate quick enough ball for their backs to play from to allow them to vary their play. Also, players were too often left isolated and either turned over or penalised for holding on in the tackle.

Stornoway were without Roddy Graham and Donald Sinclair in the forwards, but Davie Graham was available. In the backs Jerome Curran, Quintin Nel, James Kearns and Albi Macdonald were all unavailable so Stornoway had to play two hookers in the backs, Iain MacPhee on the left wing and Paul Macdonald at inside centre.

Stornoway got off to the worst possible start conceding two converted tries in the first 10 minutes. The first a well executed effort following a lineout on half way, two quick rucks, then a midfield break, which left a 3 v1 against the fullback. The second came from an intercepted miss-hit chip by Euan Moley, leaving a simple run in for the left winger.

Stornoway managed to strike back on 15 minutes when a succession of pick and go’s led to a penalty 40m out, which Peter Hobson drilled into the corner. From the resultant lineout Stornoway drove for the line but were held out by the students defence. The ball came back to Peter who was stopped just short, but Bubble Mackay was on hand to dive over for the score. Euan’s touchline conversion effort was just wide.

For the remainder of the half the Uni side piled on the pressure but although the home side were missing tackles in open areas their defence of the try line was superb. Tackles by Iain MacPhee and Euan Moley stopped certain tries and two pinched lineouts close to their line brought welcome relief. Half time arrived with the score 14 – 5 to the visitors, with Stornoway still in the match.

Stornoway began the second half brightly, putting some good phases of play together, at last giving Peter time and space to push the students back with some well-guided kicks. But they were frustrated by the well organised Uni defence. This frustration grew as the home side gave away some soft penalties allowing the students to clear their lines.

Had Stornoway managed a score during that opening spell it may have put doubt in the students minds but it was they who scored next with a simply worked break in midfield, which left their centre with an easy run in. And they soon put the match out of the home side’s reach with two quick long distance tries, which again exposed the cover defence.

Stornoway regrouped and the last ten minutes did belong to them as they pushed for a consolation try. Their best effort came with the last play of the match, and showed what this group of players is capable of. Two quick rucks following a No 8 pick from a midfield scrum by Oggie, a half break by Paul Macdonald supported well by Tomasz Soszka, further ground made down a narrow blindside by Darren, Davie and Euan, but the final pass just went astray and the danger was cleared.

Stornoway now have three league games left and will be looking for further improvements, with thoughts moving towards building for next season. Two flying visits to RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth before a mouth watering finale against Highland’s South Sea Islanders at Bayhead on the 12th of March.

Thanks to our sponsors: Woody’s Express Parcels, Macleod IFA and Star Inn.

Squad: Bubble Mackay, Murray Macleod, Mark Grinney, Craig Allan, Tomasz Soszka, Oggie Macarthur, Davie Graham, CT Moody, David Mackay, Peter Hobson, Paul Macdonald, Darren Beattie, Iain MacPhee, Angus Williams, Euan Macleod, Andy Ribbens, Adiey Macdonald, JM Macritchie.