Shetland’s rugby team began their Scottish Hydro League campaign at home on Saturday in a repeat of last year’s first fixture against Banff. Shetland were keen to avenge last season’s defeat and get off to a good start in the 2009/10 League.
Unfortunately for Shetland, the start was far from good. A poor chase from the kick off allowed Banff to launch an attack right away. Shetland stuggled to contain the big Banff forwards and within two minutes conceded a penalty within kicking range. The Banff centre made no mistake, 3-0 Banff.
Things got worse for Shetland, with the subsequent kick off not going 10 metres. Banff elected for a scrum and immediately went on the attack again. The Banff backs punched holes in a disorganised Shetland defence and after several phases the right winger scored wide out. The conversion was successful, so within five minutes Shetland were 10-0 down and things were not looking good.
However, the team pulled themselves together and managed to hold out the Banff side, who were looking quite slick in the backs. A dropped goal attempt after 15 minutes went wide, but from the drop out Shetland again went to sleep and Banff went on the offensive. From a scrum 15 metres out, the fly half worked a slick double round and scored under the posts, again it was converted. Banff were now ahead 17-0.
Shetland had some of the play over the next 10 minutes, but struggled to put any attacks together, apart from a couple of good breaks from winger Nathan Coote and charges from hardworking forwards Stewart Mouat and John Roy Nicolson.
Banff were able to use the wind to good effect and attacked the right hand corner, being stopped short by some good defence and then held up over the line, before the big second rower charged over close to the corner. The kick was missed, but Banff had what seemed to be an unassailable lead at 22-0.
With minutes left to play in the first half, Shetland launched their best attack, setting up phases and using the width of the park to get into the Banff 22 for the first time in the half. With Shetland finally looking dangerous, Banff infringed and referee Paul Woods blew for a penalty. Fullback Shane Jamieson stepped up and kicked the goal and the sides went to half time with Shetland down 22-3.
A blast from coach Nicolson at half time seemed to work on the Shetland side and they came out firing in the second half. With Shetland dominating the lineouts and beginning to put phases together, starving Banff of the ball, the game looked to turning to the home sides favour. There were some good breaks from Joe O’Connor, but often wrong options were taken in the midfield which snuffed out promising attacks.
The worrying aspect for Shetland was that the scrum started to disintegrate somewhat, with Banff winning a number of tightheads. This was unusual for Shetland and they seemed unable resolve the issue, which meant attacking options were cut down severely.
Shetland did manage to turn over some ball and this led to some good counter attacks from O’Connor, fullback Jamieson and wingers Lewis King and Nathan Coote. They were rewarded after 20 minutes, with a try to Coote out wide on the left. The conversion was missed but the Shetland heads lifted, 22-8.
Shetland continued to attack for the next 10 minutes, but were unable to add to the score, although Stewart Mouat, Craig Mann and Stewart Jamieson worked hard in both defence and attack. With time running down, Shetland emptied the bench, with Callum Williamson making an immediate impact at scrum half with his tenacious efforts around the scrum. There was no further scoring, but Shetland clearly could have added to their score, had they taken the right options at crucial times. Best for Shetland were the Stewarts, Mouat and Jamieson, Joe O’Connor and veteran John Roy Nicolson worked hard all day.
The team are away on the NorthLink ferry tonight to face Deeside at Aboyne tomorrow, with a noon kick off.