FOLLOWING on from the excitement of the inter-county victory and a visit from the Calcutta Cup, Shetland RFC travelled to West Dyce on 4th October and recorded their first away win in nearly two years, meaning that the new Northwards sponsored strips (blue for home matches and white for away) both recorded wins on debut.
Whether it was due to the improvement in play, the figure hugging strips, a combination of both or just the sight of John Roy Nicolson in tight lycra in broad daylight is not known, but the home match with cellar dwellers Peterhead was keenly anticipated on 11th October. Unfortunately Peterhead did not show for the match, but it is hoped they will make it later in the season.
This led to a less than ideal build up for the biggest test of the season against league leaders Aberdeen Wanderers at Groats Road in Aberdeen last Saturday. With several players opting for a bit of sunshine over the October holidays, it was feared that numbers could be thin on the ground. However, there has been a swell in player numbers recently and Shetland was able to boast a squad of 19, the biggest for an away fixture for many years. Included were recent dad Adam Lewis, making a welcome return to the squad and a Fijian dynamo, known simply as Zorro, who is in the process of relocating to Shetland.
It was a clear warm day in Aberdeen and the Shetland players seemed ready to do battle, knowing that Wanderers had clocked up over 100 points more than once already this season.
Following a good chase from the kickoff, where Shetland regathered the ball, there was a lapse in concentration from some of the forwards and Wanderers turned over the ball. They proceeded to move the ball quickly and within two minutes scored and converted their first try. Shetland didn’t learn from that mistake and after five minutes lost the ball, again at a ruck, and were punished by the lethal Wanderers backs, who showed good pace and awareness to score and convert again. At 14-0 heads went down, but Shetland managed to hold the Wanderers – until some poor defending and it was soon 19-0.
A break from centre Maurice Williamson lifted the spirits of the team, but with one man to beat he took a wrong turn and then lost the ball forward just short of the line. Shane Jamieson narrowly missed a penalty attempt and it looked as though Shetland had stemmed the tide, but two more quick tries out wide from Wanderers gave them the bonus point before half time and Shetland looked out for the count.
Changes were made and Adam Lewis had an immediate impact up front with his no-nonsense style, which galvanised the younger players and for the last 10 minutes of the half it was all Shetland.
From the kickoff Shetland took it to the Wanderers, with some good breaks in midfield from Zorro and Williamson, who got close to scoring again early on. Shane Jamieson got the hang of the tricky wind and put in some fantastic punts, which really made the forward smile, carving 50 or so metres off on some occasions. The scrum was not going well for Shetland but they held out quite well, despite losing several tightheads. The defence around the scrum was aggressive and they were able to nullify most of the attacks by Wanderers. Following some foul play by Wanderers, Shane Jamieson nailed a penalty from 40 metres, making it 29-3.
After a spell of good rucking, Shetland flanker Dave Broadford made a break and ran 20 metres before offloading in the tackle to fellow loosie Lincoln Carroll who managed to score near the corner. The conversion was missed, but spirits were high. Soon after, Shetland scored again, from a turnover at a maul.
Lincoln Carroll passed to Euain Webb, who side-stepped two bemused Wanderers players before offloading to Jamieson, who unleashed Zorro. His twinkling toes left the Wanderers cover defence in tatters and he scored near the posts. Shane Jamieson nailed the conversion and with 10 minutes to go 29-15 didn’t look so comfortable for Wanderers.
A lapse in concentration and near exhaustion led to Wanderers scoring their only try of the second half, with eight minutes to go. Shetland made several changes to ensure the entire squad had well-earned time on the park and at the final whistle the players were jubilant. Despite going down to the highly rated Wanderers they realised that come January, at home, there is no reason why Shetland can’t turn that around.
Northwards man of the match was Dave Broadford.
Tomorrow, Shetland are again away, this time to Banff signalling the beginning of the second round. Although soundly beaten in the first game of the season, Shetland are confident of pushing Banff on their own turf.