Montrose Under-16 rugby team successfully made their way into the second round of the Caledonia Cup after an exciting trip to Shetland last weekend.
Departing on Friday afternoon, the squad and coaches left Montrose to Aberdeen to catch the ferry to Shetland. They arrived in Lerwick on Saturday morning and, after a hearty breakfast on board, the team visited the Shetland Museum. It was then time to head up to the pitches at the Clickimin Sports Centre.
The pitch is in an idyllic setting with heather covered hills coming down to the boundary of the playing fields. However, the bright green grass on the playing surface hid the fact that the pitch was waterlogged, so a muddy match was an inevitability.
Kicking off at 12 noon, Shetland won the toss and elected to play downhill. From the kick-off, it was clear that this was going to be a fast and physical game. Montrose’s forwards took the ball on, to produce quick ball for the back. While the conditions meant that the handling and running was difficult, Montrose were looking to move the ball wide. The initial attacks were foiled by strong tackling by Shetland. From a breakdown in the Shetland 22, Montrose scrum half, Lewis Hill, created a gap by through a an excellent sidestep and ran towards the line to slide in beside the posts for the first try of the match. Scott Morland knocked-over the conversion.
Montrose maintained the intensity, with good interplay between forwards and backs. After a number of phases, Montrose number 8, picked up the ball from the back of a ruck and barged past a number of Shetland players to score a try. At this point, the Shetland team upped their game and started to spend more time in the Montrose half. From a scrum, the Shetland back row went blind and an excellently-timed offload allowed Shetland to score in the corner.
The referee blew for half time shortly after with the scoreline being 5 -12. Through the first half, there had been hail, sunshine and rain, so nobody knew what weather to expect in the second half.
Shetland kicked-off with the same intensity and commitment. Power of the home pack was starting to tell in the scrums and the breakdown. Montrose needed to continue their structured defence and ferocious tackling to keep themselves ahead.
After about 15 minutes, Montrose had a line-out on their own 10 metre line. With the swirling wind, Montrose didn’t catch the ball cleanly, so the Shetland pack barged through and secured the ball. A quick pass met one of the Shetland forward running at pace and they broke over the Montrose line. The conversion was missed meaning that the score was 10 – 12.
This was heading for a nail-biting finish, with both teams knowing that one missed tackle or lost possession could cost the match. As the minutes counted down, the Montrose team slowly took control, with Shetland giving away two penalties. This allowed the visiting team to maintain their composure but there was a need for robust tackling to keep the islanders the right side of the try line. After a long passage of play, Shetland broke into the Montrose half. They started to run up the left wing when a diving tackle caused the Shetland player to knock the ball forward. The referee blew his whistle for full time.
Both teams had given their all and either could have won. However, Montrose prevailed and now go into the second round of the Caledonia Cup.
Hugh Dennis, Montrose coach, said “We are really proud of the boys’ efforts over the weekend. They contended with the overnight ferry, a very wet pitch and difficult weather conditions to secure an excellent result. The effort from all of the players was first class and the way they held on for the victory was a joy to watch. After such a physical match, it was great to see all of the players congratulating each other and showing their appreciation to the opposing coaches and the referee. This was a great advert for youth rugby and we look forward to welcoming Shetland Rugby to Union Park in the near future.”
The game was followed by a meal with the Shetland players and coaching team. Montrose captain, Calum Thomas, gave a vote of thanks and presented Montrose ties to the Shetland Captain and their man of the match. The Montrose man of the match, selected by the Shetland coaches, was Thomas Lindsay for his impact in the contact area and leadership on the field.
Buoyed by their success, the players spent the next two hours in the Clickimin swimming pool, making use of the excellent facilities including diving boards, flumes and an outdoor pool. They then made their way back to the ferry terminal for the crossing back to the mainland.