The Shetland Select side lost narrowly to the Royal Marines of the Arbroath Smokies team in the grand final of the BP Sullom Voe Terminal Shetland Rugby Mid-Summer Sevens at the weekend.
The event, which attracted one of the biggest contingents of players and spectators for several years, was hailed a success by the organisers.
On a perfect weekend for rugby, the Touch on Friday night pitted men, women and children from eight upwards against each other in a close contest, of the non contact variety.
On Saturday morning, players for the Sevens tournament assembled at 11am, eager to get stuck in. With Orkney unable to attend, the contest was wide open, with eight teams competing in two pools.
Pool A saw the Shetland Select, top seeds, against the North Zetland Vets, the Arbroath Vets and the Shetland Recreational Trust.
The youngsters in the Select squad made no contest of the pool, but the battle for second was thought to be closer. However, the North Zetland Vets dispatched nearest competitors Arbroath Vets 26-0. The SRT help up the rest at the bottom, but pulled off a try in their first game against the Select, which kept them enthusiastic for the rest of the day.
In Pool B Arbroath Smokies faced the Shetland Barbarians, The Oros of Aberdeen and Delting. The Smokies were smoking from the beginning, putting 24 points over the tenacious Oros, who had the benefit of a very enthusiastic group of cheerleaders, as many as they had players.
The Smokies had a tough encounter with the Baa Baas, winning 12-0, before beating Delting soundly to win the group. The Baa Baas, with their playmaker Jamie Renton, captain of Duns RFC, and his own group of travelling cheerleaders, took on the Oros and their vocal support for the last semi-final spot. The Baa Baas won 34-0, consigning to Oros to the shield playoffs.
In the main semi-finals, Arbroath Smokies dispatched the out of puff North Zetland Vets and Shetland Select easily accounted for the disappointing Baa Baas who were tiring too.
The wooden spoon playoff between the SRT and Delting was a classic, with some of the youngsters showing great improvement, especially big Iain Robertson and peerie Iain Nicol for Delting, who both featured in attack and defence. For the SRT it was hard work, but Ashley James showed much promise as did the two Callums, Mustard and Williamson.
The Shield final saw the Oros take on the Arbroath Vets. This proved to be a tighter affair, with the Marines desperate not to be outshone by their young guns in the Smokies. However, with youth on their side the Oros managed to win 19-10, giving their travelling supporters something to cheer about. For the Oros, young Danny Farnworth impressed with his speed and running lines.
In the tussle for the Murray Anderson Memorial Cup, the Shetland Barbarians took on the North Zetland Vets. With contrasting styles of play, the big pitch was always going to be difficult to cover for the Vets.
For the Baa Baas young Spurs footballer Connel Gresham was outstanding, showing speed, strength and skill to score three tries. He was well assisted by Celtic keeper Paul Grant, who left bruises on many players with his charging runs and big hits. For the Vets, the ever reliable Lyndsay Leslie and Derek Ross were the standouts – final score 27-10 to the Baa Baas.
The grand final was much anticipated, with the impressive new BP Sullom Voe Terminal Trophy up for grabs.
The Arbroath Smokies started with a bang, scoring four tries in the first half, leaving the young Shetland boys reeling and 20-0 down at half time. Stern words from skipper Matthew Nicolson and the introduction of impact player Maurice Williamson kick started the revival, and with four tries in six minutes, three converted by Jon Pulley, it looked like it was all over.
Unfortunately for Shetland, Marines don’t give up that easily, and with seconds to go they scored a great try under the posts, meaning that a conversion would give them the win. The Arbroath kicker was cool under pressure and nailed it, giving them the win 27-26.
Despite the disappointment for the Shetland side, Arbroath showed they are a class side and deserved to win the competition. For Shetland, Matthew Nicolson, Peter Sidgwick and the indomitable Maurice Williamson were the stand outs, while play maker Jon Pulley pulled the strings and kicked well all day.
The BP Sullom Voe Terminal trophy was presented to Arbroath after the game by BP representative and former Shetland player Tommy Clark. At the official presentations, Neil Manson of BP Sullom Voe Terminal presented all the awards, which included the top try and points scorer.
Joint top try scorers were Maurice Williamson from Shetland and Ben Keillor from Arbroath with 13 each. They were also top point scorers with 65 points, so it was settled the old fashioned way, with an arm wrestle. Maurice claimed both awards and some consolation for his side. He also won Player of the Tournament.
On Sunday a survivors football match was played by those able to manage it. Unfortunately for Shetland, Arbroath claimed that one too. However, over the course of the weekend £200 was raised for Help for Heroes, in recognition of the efforts of the men from 45 Commando of the Royal Marines.
There was also a collection for the CLAN 1,2,3 appeal, with a portion of the takings for each drink and burger sold going toward the appeal. Players and supporters alike did their best to support the appeal in this way. No firm figures were available, but CLAN 1,2,3 chairwoman Elaine Jamieson was seen flipping burgers for the cause on Saturday.
Organisers John Roy and Ann Marie Nicolson, Bryan Leask and all the Shetland players would like to thank the teams and their supporters who made the journey north and everyone who turned out for a side locally, or came to support the event.
Many thanks must go to BP Sullom Voe Terminal for its very generous sponsorship, NorthLink Ferries and the Shetland Recreational Trust and Clickimin Centre for the meal and hard work in preparing for the tournament (especially the narrow pitch suited to veterans).