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Forrester 32 Shetland 14

On a day of perfect conditions, Shetland Rugby Club lost to Forrester FP in the first round of the BT Cellnet Cup.
Forrester FP Rugby Club lead the SRU National Division 5 (East) and will have been reasonably happy about a home draw against North District League opposition.
While they went on to win, Forrester FP conceded after the game that Shetland had provided a much tougher game than expected.
The Shetland squad arrived in Edinburgh on Saturday morning and prepared by warming up in the shadow of Arthur's Seat.
Once at Forrester Park it was Shetland who kicked off and Captain Brian Murphy will have been pleased with the determination that his team immediately showed.
Familiar faces were noticeable in the in the watching crowd and they had much to cheer about as Shetland matched the home side in the opening stages.
It was Shetland centre Robert Geddes who opened the scoring on 17 minutes when a break by the Shetland backs over-stretched the Forrester defense. Brain Murphy converted.
Forrester took five points from an unconverted try after 25 minutes with K Taylor scoring.
Shetland made the first personnel changes when Murphy had to withdraw through injury and Lincoln Carrol came on as replacement.
Shetland continued to equal Forrester and were unlucky to go in at half time behind when Taylor took a second try just before the whistle.
Forrester Captain Colin Bradford converted but many at the ground believed that the ball had been dropped before it had been touched down.
Half-time Score: Forrester FP 12 - Shetland 7.

The second half started much like the first and Shetland managed the early Forrester attacks before inflicting sustained pressure on the Edinburgh side.
Lindsay Leslie was unlucky not to score when he made an interception in his own 22 but was tackled just short of the line.
The Shetland forwards were working harder than ever and playing exceptionally against the experienced opposition.
By the final quarter of an hour fatigue was beginning to show and Forrester began to dominate the set plays.
Despite a backs-to-the-wall defense, Forrester took a penalty, three tries and a conversion. Billy Whitelaw who had controlled the impressive Forrester attack lived up to his nickname as the Broomhouse Bomber and drove through several players for one of the scores and Colin Bradford rounded off a great performance with the last Forrester try.
The Shetland team never gave up and after good play by Colin Kirkness and Mike Skinner had taken the play right up to the Forrester line, Lincoln Carrol beat the final tackles to score under the posts. Robert Geddes converted. Final Score: Forrester FP 32 - Shetland Rugby Club 14.
The Shetland coaches came away pleased with how the team had performed. It was never going to be easy to play a team in a much higher league and if the effort shown in Edinburgh is repeated for the remainder of the season, there is reason to be optimistic of Shetland's chances in the North District League.

Shetland 49 Inverness Craig Dunain 5

Powerful running and committed defense gave Shetland Rugby Club full points in their first league match of the season. Having considered the weaknesses identified in the cup loss last month and worked out a few of the kinks in training, the Shetland side strode out to the Clickimin rugby field on Saturday very much a team with a mission.
Club Captain Brian Murphy remained unavailable for selection, tending the injury sustained in Edinburgh, but Shetland Rugby now has depth to its quality so Lindsay Leslie took possession of the Captain’s armband and Craig Webb joined the back-line.
Two early penalties from Robert Geddes started the scoring with most of the initial play occurring in the visitor’s half.
Inverness Craig Dunain flew in by chartered flight before the game and it was clear from the committed tackling that they were determined to get something out of the game.
The weather conditions could only be described as uncomfortable and this was reflected during most of the first half with both teams generally stuck in the middle of the field. The only exceptions to this malaise were when Shetland shipped the ball wide for Mike Skinner to burst in from full-back and score wide and when Craig Dunain made the mistake of allowing John Roy Nicholson the time to build up a head of steam before attempting to tackle him. The sturdy Whiteness man knocked several players backwards before scoring next to the posts. Geddes was able to convert the second of these tries and the half-time score was 18-0 to Shetland.
The highland men, now playing with the wind at their backs, had a purpose and conviction previously missing as the second half got underway but their frustration grew as Beano Bowern, Brain Floyd and other players were denied despite ICD being camped at the Shetland goal line.
The Reds’ failure to score emboldened the local side and the quality and number of counter attacks increased. Eddie Nicol was unlucky to be called back for a forward pass after having supported a backs move that took play from one end of the field to the other.
The Shetland team’s confidence began to show and points soon followed. Shane Patterson took his first try of the season and Robert McBain scored a brilliant try, running from half way and breaking several tackles to touch down under the posts. Geddes made both conversions.
ICD were using the wind to pin Shetland deep in their own half but the Shetland backs were taking every opportunity to run with the ball. Craig Webb and McBain gained scores as Geddes and Derek Ross took every chance to put the ball wide. Geddes’ second conversion attempt bounced back off the cross bar to leave the score at 42 nil.
By now local man Neil Martin, guesting for the Inverness side, will have wondered if his team were going to get any points and Bob McBain’s hat trick will have reinforced the doubt. Geddes final conversion made the score 49 nil with only minutes left.
While the standard of play by the Shetland backs had been impressive, overconfidence crept in and a positional kick by ICD full back Jim White that should have been cleared to the safety of the crowd was instead recycled in front of Shetland’s own posts. Almost inevitably, a poor pass led to a fumble by Derek Ross and Mark Harper nipped in to score. The conversion was missed and the final whistle blew soon after.
Final score: Shetland Rugby Club 49 Inverness Craig Dunain 5. Both sides looked much better in the second half and the principal reason ICD did not score more was mainly down to Lindsay Leslie’s unfailing tackles.

Gordonians 5 Shetland 51

The home side chose to host the game on the main pitch at Countesswells and the small crowd in the stand witnessed the Shetland side overpower the dark blues, who moved down to district rugby this season after years in the top national divisions.
Gordonians, in fact, had to start with only 14 men at the early morning kick-off. Despite this disadvantage, the Aberdeen side played better in the opening moments, passing assuredly and retaining possession. The uncertainty felt playing new opposition who seem capable may have been behind the decision for Robert Geddes to kick for goal and take three early points after a Gordonians foul.
Gordonian's good play gave them an opportunity to equalise but their kick was wide. From the resulting 22 play were right back to the other end of the field. A back move followed a won throw and good handling created enough confusion for Geddes to score wide. He was unable to make the conversion.
The Shetland line-out has been heavily practised since the Craig Dunain game and a stolen throw gave the next score as the ever-youthful Mike Skinner sold an outrageous dummy to take five more points.
A third try followed quickly after when Robert McBain sprinted around a stretched defence. Geddes converted and at half time the score was: Gordonians 0, Shetland 20.
Gordonians were unhappy with the score, especially after being up to the full 15 and having made much of the play. The home centre had been particularly dangerous with his mazy runs, which the Shetland midfield seemed unable to stop.
The second half started with the wind at the islanders backs. Geddes immediately used this advantage to kick play right down to the Gordonians corner. Another stolen lineout led to a drive over and score for Don Stone. Geddes converted.
The blue and white backs now had the measure of their opponents and the ever-abrasive Bruce Whakaari made a 50-metre break after a clever inside pass by Skinner. The ground gained made it easier for McBain to claim his second try, pirouetting through two tackles when it might have been easier to pass to the free man outside. Brian Murphy converted. The coaches said McBain's sticky hands had nothing to do with his substitution shortly after.
The Shetland forwards had been quietly working their socks off and now began to take a bigger role in the game. They don't come much bigger than John Tait, who powered forward after receiving the Gordonian's restart. John somehow ended up with the ball again after a breakdown and a second run took play deep into the Gordonian's territory. Dhanni Moar's first touch made more distance and the ball was passed to the cleverly positioned Geddes who touched down wide. Brian Murphy converted to leave the score 41-0.
Gordonians finally got the score their play deserved on 60 minutes with a well-executed move that used a broken tackle to create an overlap wide. The conversion was missed.
Skinner capped an excellent game with he picked up from the back of a ruck and collected his brace.
The final score came from Martin Sidgwick after the Shetland forwards had again built phase after phase to take play to the goal area. Geddes missed the final kick and the whistle blew soon after for a final score of Gordonians 5, Shetland 51.
The Shetland backs took most of the points but everything they did was built on good forward play. Andrew Hough was unlucky not to score right at the death after a run that surprised everyone, including his own team. Generally Shetland still had room for improvement but the standard of play was better than before. The club hopes the rise in form continues.

Banff 0 Shetland 40

Rugby players give Banff boys a thrashing SHETLAND Rugby Club travelled to Banff Rugby Club at Duff House last weekend to continued their North District League campaign and attempt to maintain their unbeaten record in the league.
For Banff, having already lost one, this game was virtually make or break as far as their title challenge was concerned.
From the kick-off it was obvious what kind of game Banff like to play, a big ugly mauling up the middle kind of game that rugby league supporters still enjoy watching.
Unfortunately for them, Shetland have moved on from a couple of seasons ago and whereas once the islanders would have been sucked into Banff's game they now had the experience and quality to not only match and better Banff at the coal-face, but to change the way the game was played and play it on their own terms.
After 10 minutes of huff and puff the Banff forwards, having gained nothing, lost the ball at the mid way and with the ball for virtually the first time in the match Shetland scored through Bob McBain, and immediately the pattern for the game was established.
Up front at the set pieces Scott Hatrick, Andrew Hough and the rest of the Shetland forwards fought and won possession and spun it wide. When it got wide Shetland scored, as simple as that.
Of the seven tries scored, four for McBain, Mike Skinner and Craig Webb, only Colin's try, the games' second, was scored in the middle. The rest were all classic wing tries, with the centre partnership of Shane Patterson and Bruce Whakaire not only stonewalling the Banff attack but producing some excellent handling to create time.
As for McBain, he was almost outstanding, scoring virtually every time he received the ball and on the one occasion when he didn't have the gas to finish it himself, Mike Skinner scorched up on the outside, took the pass and finished it for him.
The only low point in the game came when the Banff captain Hein Mizzen collided with his own hooker and had to be stretchered from the field, but thankfully was not seriously injured.
Shetland played well again, not as well as against Gordonians, but still well enough. Their defence was superb and never looked like conceding and apart from those already mentioned Don Stone, Robert Geddes and Lindsay Leslie were all superb.
A spokesman for the club said: "Once more the club would like to thank NorthLink, whose support makes these fixtures possible."

Shetland 62 Aboyne 5

LAST Saturday, as England were being crowned champions of the world, Aboyne flew north to take on Shetland at the other end of the rugby spectrum. No ungracious Australian press. No Brian Murphy voodoo doll. No talk of upsetting the team with car horns. What was on show at Clickimin was just good old grass roots rugby.
Garioch Rugby Football Club referee Neil Barber got things under way at 1.45pm and it took only five minutes for veteran full back Mike Skinner to get his name on the scoreboard. A fine break by Robert Geddes was supported by Colin Kirkness who passed on to Skinner for a try.
The game was a tight affair for the next 15 minutes or so until Donald Stone made a fine pick up and drive over the line. Geddes converted. The grind then continued with neither side looking like scoring.
Just before half-time, however, Shetland made one of their trademark back play sequences with the ball going through the hands of Bruce Whakaari, Murphy and Skinner to get themselves within striking range of the Aboyne try line. Aboyne cracked and gave away a penalty only 10 yards out. Quickly taken by Geddes he was held up by the Aboyne pack but second phase ball was securely delivered and Lindsay Leslie drove over.

Half-time showed Shetland ahead by 19-0.

Aboyne simply didn't look comfortable in the first half and in the second half it got worse. Until then they had been able to keep Shetland under control but then the floodgates opened, not through bad tackling but because the Shetland team just ran free. Aboyne's only tactic was to kick but this resulted in two things. It either put the ball into the hands of the almost-salivating Geddes or else it was too slow, allowing Shetland to charge down and put them under further pressure.
Enter Robert McBain, stage left. After a short period of scrappy play he picked up the ball and beat his opposite number to get his first try. Geddes converted. Another Aboyne clearance kick was picked up by Geddes and passed to McBain who pirouetted away from two tacklers and dragged another couple over the line with him for his second.
Then the boiler house pairing of John Roy Nicolson and John Tait, clearly fed up with the flowery backs, decided to have a stroll down the park. In a scene not dissimilar to the Walking with Dinosaurs television programme Nicolson pounded 15 yards and released the ball to Tait who did likewise. This species tends to overgraze and 15 yards is as much as can be expected of them. Luckily, sprightly flanker Colin Kirkness was on hand to take the ball from Tait and run to the line. Geddes hit the posts with the conversion attempt so the score stayed at 36-0.
There were a number of delightful passages of play from the Shetland team but the outstanding moment of individual skill belongs to Skinner. Play was building momentum down the right wing when the ball came to him in a rather unfortunate position. There was no room and no time. Clobbered almost the instant he received it and going upwards and backwards he managed to transfer the ball to his right hand, looked left for his target and flicked the ball behind him to the ever-alert Murphy. Wonderful.
Martin Sidgwick then displayed football talents the likes of which appeared to come straight from the Scottish national side's coaching manual. He booted it down the field. Then he did something that isn't in the manual - control it. A further little nudge was all that was needed before pouncing to score. There was no Wilkinson-style potty training from Geddes who slotted the conversion from five yards in from left touch.
Poor Aboyne. They really looked like lost souls by this stage. Thankfully for their own pride at least, one of their kicks out of danger bore fruit and after a wee guddle from the winger the ball was kind. He ran up to the Shetland full back before giving a sweet pass to Tom Feuchs, in his first game at scrum half, to score under the posts. The missed conversion just summed up their day.
Andrew Hough scored a try, McBain got his hat trick and Geddes converted the latter, this time from the left touchline to give a not unflattering score of 62-5 to Shetland. A stunned Scott Egerton remarked in the bar after the game: "Everyone was thinking about the air hostess." Well, not Shetland. They weren't on that flight.

All in all it was a convincing display from Shetland and captain Murphy was nearly excited.

Andy Sharpe was declared best for Aboyne and Geddes likewise for Shetland. Aboyne fielded 13 Englishmen in their starting line-up. Thankfully for them Shetland's resident Aussie Shane Patterson wasn't aware of that.

Shetland 62 Aboyne 5

Where were you when England beat Australia to win the 2003 Rugby World Cup? The intrepid Aboyne 1st XV were 16000 ft above the North Sea en-route to Shetland for a North District League match and missed all of the exciting extra time played in the final, although the BA captain did give out the final result over the tannoy.
The top of the table clash saw a depleted Aboyne team meet at Aberdeen airport. Work and family commitments had accounted for a number of regular players and a final squad of 16 was all that could be mustered on the day.
Aboyne’s fortunes took a turn for the worse before the match even started with Mark Williams suffering a freak accident during the warm up which prevented him from taking any further part.
Playing with a light Shetland breeze at their backs the Aboyne team started well with Burrows winning an opposition line-out to allow Keir to play the ball deep into the Shetland 22. The well drilled Islanders withstood the early pressure and with their hard running centres and No 8 to the fore they soon had the Aboyne line under pressure. An early try was conceded when Shetland crossed under the posts from a series of close drives.
Aboyne’s scrum was holding up well despite some over zealous refereeing of the engagement. Injury to Scott Egerton saw the scrum re-shuffled as the hooked took refuge on the wing and new boy Lyle Ground came in at flanker. Ground only arrived on Deeside from South Africa earlier in the week and has already seen more of Scotland than most visitors.
ood line out work by Sharp and McBeath saw the Abovne team create some good field positions from driving mauls but they were unable to take their chances and saw Shetland pull away to a 19 point lead at the break. Aboyne’s only scoring chance came from a long range Fuchs penalty which fell agonisingly short.
The sheer number of tackles that Aboyne were making in the backs soon told as in the second half the Islanders started to run in tries seemingly at will. Everytime a player was tackled a support runner appeared to take the play on and this is an area that Aboyne must improve on if they want to regain their winning ways.
Thomson and Falconer in the centres held out the Shetland “Maori” midfield for much of the second half and were involved in an excellent move which saw winger Edge put clear down the flank. Edge had just returned to the field having been felled in full flight by a high tackled but he still managed to skin his winger on the outside and had the presence of mind to pass inside Fuchs to score under the posts. The long run had clearly drained Fuchs and his conversion kick had the look of a tired chip shot as it drifted wide of the posts.
Despite conceding 43 points in the second half the Aboyne side continued to battle to the end. Scott MacDonald, in his first full match for 6 years stood up well and Fyvie and Colleran battled hard in the tight all day.

Peterhead 5 Shetland 82

Last weekend saw Shetland Rugby Club head south by North Link ferry for their penultimate fixture in the North District League.
Pre match team talk was about maintaining the standards set this year.
Shetland kicked the match off and Peterhead drove forward, Shetland immediately turned over the ball and after good handling from Bruce Whakaari and Robert McBain, Mike Skinner scored a precious try. Bob Geddes missed the conversion.
One minute gone and it was obvious even now that Shetland held the advantage in both the Forwards and Backs. This was underlined a few minutes later when McBain scored after more good handling in the backs.
Further scoring in the first half from Whakaari, Scott Hatrick, Dhanni Moar, Martin Sidgwick, Andrew Hough, McBain and Skinner.
The pick of these was Sidgwick's which started with Skinner fielding a kick inside Shetlands 22, running an intelligent diagonal run to commit defenders, releasing the ball for McBain and Moar to make ground up the right touchline, the move was supported by John Tait who drew in the home defence before off-loading to Geddes, long passes from Geddes, Murphy and Skinner saw Sidgwick score on the left touchline.
Eighty metres up the pitch and a move from left touchline to right and back underlines the standard of rugby this team is capable of.
With Geddes successful with only three kicks from nine the score was 51 - 0 in Shetlands favour at half time.
Shetland coach, Wayne Leslie, made three substitutions at half time, Brian Johnston for Wilson Shaw, Craig Webb for McBain and Laurence Williamson for Sidgwick.
Shetland started the second as they had finished the first with Webb scoring after good work from Moar. Geddes being consistent in missing the conversion.
Shetland then went to sleep for the next quarter of the game being camped in their own territory, trying to play the ball a bit much instead of clearing their lines. The inevitable happened as Murphy and Geddes got in a guddle to gift Peterhead a score.
Shetland were lucky to escape five minutes later when the Peterhead Prop forward grounded the ball on the five-meter line instead of the try line. This seemed to spur Shetland into action as Whakaari burst through the middle to score under the posts, this must have tired Bruce out as he missed the simple conversion.
From this point on it was all Shetland as Hatrick got his second, Geddes his first and Laurence Williamson scored his debut try and a cracker it was, taking a long Lindsay Leslie pass at full pace to burst through from halfway.
Murphy showed what he lacks in try-scoring ability he makes up with the boot slotting three from three.
There was no further scoring but Hatrick and Skinner blew chances for their third scores, trying to be too complex when the simple thing was to touch the ball down.
Final Score Shetland 82 - 5 Peterhead.
A club spokesman said ' A good performance from Both Forwards and Backs, positives were, movement of the ball and good variations in the lineout, negatives were, lack of concentration in the second half and the usual gifting of points to the opposition, Man of the Match was Scott Hatrick who just piped Mike Skinner and Bruce Whakaari'
This result means Shetland need only a point against Stornoway early next year to clinch the League.

Peterhead local paper match report

AFTER a long break from playing, Peterhead played host to Shetland RFC on Saturday. With a 12 noon kick-off, to accommodate the Islanders' ferry departure, the home team seemed out of sorts before the kick-off.
Shetland started very strongly after the rough crossing. This was helped with Peterhead's attitude from the start being very poor. Most of the players would have been better off staying in the changing rooms, with just about no-one willing to tackle.
This allowed Shetland to run up a convincing try tally by half time. The score would have been worse had the Shetland kicker converted all his team tries.
To use a soccer saying, this really was a game of two halves.
With a stern talking to from the captain and coach, Peterhead came out for the second half a different team. With only two changes of players at half-time there seemed to be a real sense of purpose from all the Peterhead 15 right from the kick-off.
The Peterhead forwards dominated their opponents from the start and forced themselves deep into the Shetland half. Unfortunately, Shetland were sharper onto the loose ball and scored a number of breakaway tries.
Peterhead's finishing in this half should have seen them come back into the game a bit, but they were able to score only once throughout. This came from good forward control, allowing scrumhalf Darren Carter to chip over the Shetland defence, with the resultant catch finding the Shetland scrumhalf over his own try line. Good follow-up play from Neil Davidson saw a strong tackle force the Shetland scrumhalf to throw the ball loose for Darren Carter to pounce for an unconverted try.
With a much better performance in the second half it is a shame to see such a high score for Shetland when, with a better attitude, Peterhead could have come out of this game with a lot of pride.
This is against a team who look likely to win the league and promotion to National League duty next season.
Peterhead again have suffered from the lack of interest from players in doing the hard work at training.
Final score - Peterhead 5 Shetland 82

Orkney 5 Shetland 20

Last Weekend saw Shetland Rugby travel south courtesy of Northlink to Orkney for the annual Inter-County match.
A noon kick off at the Pickaquoy center with a strong cross-field wind and wintery showers that would have a big influence on the match pattern.
Captain Brian Murphy won the toss and elected to play with the elements in the first half.
The early passages would set the tone for the match, Shetland trying to utilize their Big runners from second phase ball to give targets to run off with Orkney defending tenaciously around the fringes and using their mobile forwards to slow the ball down at the breakdown.
The first quarter saw Shetland camped in Orkneys half, a real forward battle, Robert Geddes varying play well with some intelligent kicks.
After a spell of pressure Orkney eventually conceded a Penalty in front of the posts, Geddes was accurate to give Shetland a 3-0 Lead.
Orkney took the restart and another good kick this time from Craig Webb saw Orkney under pressure again. Orkney won the resulting lineout but their kick did not make much yardage. From the resultant lineout Shetland spun the ball wide unfortunately Brian Murphy was injured, receiving a nasty gash to the cranium. Shetland reshuffled the backs with Mike Skinner going to First Five, Craig Webb moving to Fullback and Laurence Williamson coming on at wing.
After another five minutes of pressure Shetland were awarded another Penalty in front of the Posts, this time however wily Vice Captain Lindsay Leslie chose to take the tap penalty, a good drive by John Roy Nicolson put the ball within a yard the ball was delivered to Andrew Hough who used his power to drive through three tackles to score. Geddes was unlucky to narrowly miss the conversion.
Another Orkney restart and another good kick from Shetland and play was again in Orkneys 22. This time Orkney were able to build a number of phases with the half back combination of Rushbrook and Heal directing play well. Shetland now were losing their discipline and being penalized for silly offences at the breakdown. Luckily for Shetland this was a minor blip and strong defense from Bruce Whakaari and Shane Patterson stopped Orkneys progress at half way.
With the ball again Shetland ground their way up field. From a ruck on Orkneys 22, Don Johnstone burst through a tackle and ran on to score under the posts. Geddes made his first mistake in shanking the conversion wide.
With five minutes of the first half left Orkney now had their best passage of play driving forward and running hard in the backs. After a number of phases on the Shetland 22 another indiscression from Shetland resulted a Penalty to Orkney, although it was struck well it flew narrowly wide.
Half Time 13-0. The coaching staff identified Defense and Discipline the target areas for the second half.
Orkney kicked off the second half and Shetland drove forward, after a minute they were 10 yards from Orkneys line. A penalty was awarded and Geddes took a quick tap and danced his way over the line, a successful conversion and Shetland were looking comfortable at 20-0.
Orkney however had other ideas and with half time replacement Roger Hall to the fore spent the next 20 minutes camped in Shetlands half.
Excellent Defense from the whole unit and a far more disciplined attitude at the breakdown stopped Orkney from scoring in this period.
Shetland was unlucky not to score With Patterson's pass just out of Martin Sidgwick's reach.
Shetland were showing confidence at the lineout calling adventurous moves to give their half backs better ball and more time to deal with things.
This spell was Shetlands best in the second half although Orkney soon used the elements to put the pressure on again.
With twelve minutes left Orkney scored the try their play deserved pulling Shetlands defense to the blindside from a scrum and passing open to Steven Towrie who used his pace to score at the corner, the conversion was missed leaving the score 20-5 with 10 minutes left.
Shetland now put on fresh legs in the form of Alan Blair and Thomas Smale. With time running out Alan produced a sublime cover tackle on an Orkney Center who may well have scored had he not been tackled.
The Final Whistle Blew with Shetland 20-5 Deserved Victors.
Another good performance from Shetland, a day for the forwards, standouts were 2nd rows John Tait and John Roy Nicolson and Powerhouse Prop Andrew Hough. They ensured Shetland were going Forward in the first half. The line out was excellent with Colin Kirkness and Lindsay Leslie varying options well with Scott Standring's throwing immaculate given the weather conditions. For the backs it was really just a tackling exercise with no one letting the side down.
Shetland now are focusing on their final NDL game against Stornoway in Aberdeen on the 28th February, Players are reminded training continues Brae Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Shetland 52 Ellon 7

Shetland Rugby Club entertained a visiting team from Ellon Rugby club at the Clickimin on Saturday morning. Before the match the Shetland team talk had emphasised the need for everyone to be focused from the start and on trying to keep up the standards set in previous games.
The Shetland team certainly responded as they started the match with a bang. Brian Murphy kicked off and Shane Patterson followed up the kick and smothered the Ellon receiver. The ball was turned over and spun wide to Paddy O'Connor who managed to break through 2 tacklers. He then fed Donald Stone who offloaded for Robert Geddes to score underneath the posts. Geddes successfully converted and Shetland were 7 points up with barely 30 seconds on the clock.
The pressure from the home side continued and it was not long before the next Shetland score. From a lineout 10 m inside the Ellon half hooker Scott Standring threw the ball short to the front of the line for prop Andrew Hough. Houghy took the ball cleanly and then sprinted down the touchline past the defence before veering across the pitch to score between the posts to make the conversion by Geddes straightforward.
The Ellon team recovered from these early setbacks and started to come more into the game. Their lineout started to function and their half backs used the possession well to put Shetland back into their own 22. The Shetland team withstood the pressure and hit back to score again. From a ruck the ball was spun to John Roy Nicolson and then transferred down the line to Martin Sidgwick. The veteran winger went round his man and showed good pace to run in from 40 yards. Robert Geddes converted again to make the score 21-0.
The pattern of play was then repeated with Ellon pinning back the home team before being hit by another counter attack. This time the Shetland score originated from a piece of individual brilliance by Number 8 Donald Stone. Finding himself in the stand off position Donald chipped the ball over the defence and regathered the ball. He then passed to the supporting Andrew Hough who showed blistering pace to scorch past the full back to score underneath the posts. Geddes kept up his 100% record by again converting.
Despite this further setback Ellon refused to lie down and responded by putting more pressure on the home side. This time they were rewarded with a well-deserved try. This came from their scrum half Todd Patterson who fooled the home defence by throwing a dummy at the base of a ruck and scampering over from 10 yards. The try was converted and referee David Smith blew for half time with the score line reading 28-7 to Shetland.
Coach Wayne Leslie made a number of changes with Neil Hamilton, Alan Blair and Derek Ross entering the fray.
The second half began with a scrappy period of play with neither side on top and both sides struggling to put phases of play together.
This trend was bucked when Shetland produced a vintage try. The ball was spun wide from deep inside the Shetland half. Paddy O'Connor dummied to his outside and cut back to find Donald Stone in support. Donald rounded the last defender to score beneath the posts. Geddes converted to make the score 35-7. Another score followed when a ruck was set up in the Ellon 22, Donald Stone drew in a couple of defenders and fed Scott Hatrick into a gap and the prop powered his way over the line. The Shetland team was now beginning to put together some good handling moves and one of these resulted in a trademark finish by Mike Skinner.
The game then degenerated into a scrappy affair with the home side losing their pattern. More changes in personnel were made with the most significant being young Matthew Nicolson coming on to join his dad in the line up. The home side finished on a high when Andrew Hough plunged over from short range to complete his hatrick. Robert Geddes completed the scoring by converting the try to make the final score 52-7.
It was a good overall team performance by Shetland with modern day props Hough and Hatrick outstanding. There was also a strong debut from young Neil Hamilton who perhaps epitomises the more conventional prop forward. Alan Blair put in a useful shift at hooker and the back row performed well as a unit. Bruce Whakaari and Paddy O'Connor were the standouts in the backs along with Robert Geddes. The final score line somewhat flattered the home side but the team took their chances well and defended superbly. Laurence Williamson and David Thomson guested for the visitors and both put in creditable performances.
The match was ideal preparation for this weekend's league decider against Stornoway. The full squad for this all important match is as follows: Scott Hatrick, Alan Blair, Scott Standring, Neil Hamilton, Andrew Hough, John Roy Nicolson, John Tait, Lindsay Leslie, Colin Kirkness, Donald Stone, Robert Geddes, Brian Murphy, Bob McBain, Craig Webb, Shane Patterson, Bruce Whakaari, Martin Sidgwick and Mike Skinner. The match kicks off at 10 am at Woodside in Aberdeen.

Shetland 7 Stornoway 8

Shetland failed to clinch the North District League title last Saturday when they travelled to Aberdeen to play Stornoway in their last game of the league. Unbeaten in five matches they were full of confidence. And that was part of Shetland’s downfall. The quiet men from Stornoway clearly weren’t going to sit back and let Shetland take the title without a fight.
It is testament to both sides enthusiasm for the game of rugby football that between them they spent nearly 30 hours on vessels, about 10 hours driving and a night in Aberdeen for the Stornoway team to make this long awaited event happen. The game had already been postponed three times because of bad weather. Quite an effort for 80 minutes of sport.
The referee kicked off just before 10 o’clock and for a while the drone of the electricity station and the rattle of the trains passing the Woodside pitch were forgotten. The only thing to be rattled in the next wee while was to be the Northern Islander’s confidence.
Stornoway had the first of the pressure and kept Shetland camped in their own 22 for much of the opening phase. The defence was sturdy however, Stornoway couldn’t break through and Captain Brian Murphy eventually cleared the line.
Both sides were jittery. Stornoway settled first although it took them about 15 minutes to do so. But once they had, they kept a tight control over the game and didn’t let Shetland dominate in any area. Indeed, Stornoway had worked out Shetland’s lineout codes within that opening phase and was so predictable they may as well have just given the ball to their opponents to save them the embarrassment of losing it.
Despite one or two flurries of pressure from John Tait in support of Andrew Hough and Bruce Whakaari with a powerful run and kick, there were to be no breaks for Shetland. Robert Geddes missed a penalty that on any other day he probably would have knocked over with ease and he was later held up over the line after becoming isolated after a quick tap penalty. No support, no try.
A well-deserved try eventually came for Stornoway when Steven Liddle scored in the corner after a period of sustained pressure. 0-5 to Stornoway.
Robert McBain easily won the clown of the game award when Stornoway’s number 3, the largest man on the park by volume, sold him the most outrageous dummy. It was as if the move was in slow motion. In fact it was in slow motion, which made McBain’s shuffle past like a geriatric on a moving walkway even more comical.
Another missed penalty from Geddes and the half time score remained at 0-5.

Shetland skipper Brian Murphy must have thought all his nightmares were coming true. His performance was typical of the man and he remained cool while most around him were making basic errors by the bucket load.
And what errors. There were some handling mistakes by Stornoway but nothing to compete with the bungling of some of the Shetland players. Mike Skinner, normally as cool as a cucumber under the high ball at full back, had a shocker. After being tested by the Stornoway fly half and found wanting he was targeted again and again and dropped it again and again. Even Hough seemed to forget what to do when the ball is on the deck, choosing to diddle at it with his feet before eventually falling on it.
But to blame Shetland’s defeat on their mistakes would do Stornoway an enormous injustice. Had Shetland been on their game they would have won. But they weren’t and Stornoway just kept plugging away. Their scrum half even roared out at one point for them to keep up the pressure because “they can’t respond”. They’d settled first and were bent on keeping it that way.
They went further into the lead with a drop goal even the great Zinzan Brooke would have been proud of. From right on the half way line Stephen Nelson took a pop at goal and the moment his boot struck the ball he knew it was going over. What an absolute gem. And as it turned out it was the winning score. Nelson’s slightly more well known namesake Horatio once said, “Time is everything: five minutes makes the difference between victory and defeat.” Stephen Nelson might not have realised it at the time but his five-second effort was the difference.
Shetland lost what little composure they had, lost yet another line out on their own throw and Geddes lost control of his mouth to give away a silly penalty.
However, Martin Sidgwick fielded a high ball and although taken down by the hungry Stornoway backs he kept his cool and presented the ball back for his teammates. Sidgwick was one of the calmer Shetland players and had another fine run up field, rounding it off with a nice flick pass inside to the supporting Whakaari, and then to substitute Craig Webb who was eventually bundled into touch.
In the dying minute Shetland scored a try through substitute Alan Blair and this was converted by Murphy. The whistle blew and Stornoway had won a well-deserved victory by a point. The score of 7-8 flattered Shetland.

Stornoway played a solid, well-organised game and what was most striking about them was their ability to knock down every man who went near them. While Shetland has been used to the rampaging runs of Scott Hatrick and Andrew Hough in their earlier games they were invariably taken down without making much headway.
Shetland were left to cure their dysphagia in the bar of the Northlink boat on the way home.

So the champagne is on hold until Aboyne, second in the league, play Craig Dunain on the 27th of this month. According to the league table they have to win by 233 points to take the title. With only 80 minutes to do it that would seem just a little unlikely. Despite losing at the weekend the Shetland players really do have a lot to be proud of this season.