Rugby team on course for victory before crucial error in final minute
Arbroath 21, Shetland 19
SHETLAND travelled to Arbroath last Saturday for a much anticipated cup fixture with opponents who, like Shetland, are struggling somewhat in their league, the Caledonia Midlands.
Shetland had never won a cup fixture and for experienced hands John Roy Nicolson and Lincoln Carroll, a chance to be part of another first for the club was a great motivation.
The trip on the ferry was not ideal preparation, but the players seemed well rested and ready for action on arrival. Much had been made in recent weeks of the team’s inability to start well and this was the focus of the warm-up and motivational speech from skipper Matthew Nicolson.
The sides observed a minute’s silence before the match for Remembrance Day, as the Arbroath squad is made up mainly of Royal Marines from the nearby base.
The first 10 minutes saw both sides checking each other out, with some kicking into space and running up the middle of the park by the big men. Shetland soon realised that the pitch was very narrow and that kicks had to be very accurate not to go out on the full.
Shetland had competed well against Huntly the previous week in the line-out, but were having some difficulty with their accuracy early on. The scrum, however, was a lot more solid and a good platform was being laid for the lively young backline.
Somewhat against the run of play, the Arbroath number eight burst clear from a poor tackle in the midfield on the Shetland 10 metre line. Shetland looked to have him covered, with plenty of numbers getting back, but the lively forward brushed off several would-be tacklers to score left of the posts and lift his team which until then had not threatened at all. The conversion was missed.
The try seemed to galvanise Shetland and they attacked from the kick-off. Several drives ensued with some great ball being laid back for the runners to take on. After 19 minutes Shetland struck back, with prop Dhanni Moar driving over out wide to score. Shane Jamieson nailed the difficult conversion to put Shetland 7-5 ahead.
The game was mostly played in the centre of the park for the next few minutes, with a number of mistakes and interesting calls from the referee. But neither team managed to make any headway.
After 26 minutes Arbroath were penalised 40 metres out. Shane Jamieson’s kick looked to be over but the referee over-ruled his touch judges to disallow the score. This would prove costly to Shetland later.
After 35 minutes Jamieson made no mistake with another penalty attempt, making it 10-5 at half time.
Shetland started the second half well with Jamieson carving off good yardage with his boot and wingers Peter Sidgwick and Magnie Einarsson chasing well. Arbroath were penalised in their half again after seven minutes and Jamieson punished them further with another well-taken penalty.
At that point Shetland looked to have the game in the bag. Several substitutions were made and Shetland seemed to push on, until gifting three points to Arbroath for a silly penalty. That was followed quite quickly by another to make it 13-11.
After more changes Shetland managed to extend the lead to 16-11 with another penalty from Jamieson, but it was then that the wheels fell off.
Arbroath launched an attack and the runner was able brush off some weak attempts at tackling and scored his second near the posts. The experienced kicker converted to restore Arbroath’s lead at 18-16.
Last season the Shetland side would have probably thrown in the towel at this point, but determined to win, the youngsters showed real character to attack the Arbroath line. Inspirational captain Nicolson had to leave the field with a neck injury, requiring a reshuffle in the pack, but the boys were determined not to concede with less than 10 minutes to play.
Arbroath had been struggling to cope with the Shetland pack at times and had often been penalised for illegal play at the breakdown. With five minutes to go Arbroath infringed again and Jamieson coolly slotted his most important kick of the match to put Shetland back ahead at 19-18.
With time nearly up Shetland looked to run down the clock and were doing well, until a turn-over near halfway. Arbroath, given a sniff of a late comeback, attacked with a tenacity that had been missing most of the match.
After negotiating several rucks, where the ball was all but turned over, a Shetland forward foolishly killed the ball to try and slow play down. The referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty to Arbroath, signalling that it was the last play of the match. Despite a very difficult angle their kicker was successful and Arbroath won 21-19.
Although there was deep disappointment in losing (especially from the more experienced players), there were several positives to the game, especially in the way the forwards are improving and the work rate of the backs.
Stewart Jamieson was outstanding in the pack, Shane Jamieson kicked superbly and Maurice Williamson was all action in a back line which worked hard but didn’t get enough quick balls to show their strengths. Williamson was the Northwards man of the match.
A local match is planned for noon tomorrow at Clickimin, for all those interested in trying rugby or coming back after a break. Despite losing last week, there are still several cup matches to be played and it is still possible for Shetland to play on the cup finals day at Murrayfield.
The next league fixture is away to Deeside on 29th November. All information is available on the club website at www.shetlandrugby.com