A stirring second-half comeback was not enough for the Shetland rugby team, as they succumbed to another Scottish Hydro Electric North East Division Two defeat, this time at the hands of Deeside, on a cold, wet day at Clickimin on Saturday.
Shetland 21, Deeside 34
The home side had to re-jig the team a little due to illness and injury. Scrum-half Jon Pulley was moved out to stand-off, while Iain Nicol moved in from the wing to fill the number nine shirt and Logan Nicolson was handed his first start in the blue and white.
Paul Grant was welcomed back into the side at full-back while the forwards were a little more settled, with captain Matthew Nicolson having recovered sufficiently from a shoulder knock to start.
Deeside won the toss, electing to attack with the wind in the first half, and indeed it was the away side which started the brighter, exerting great pressure on the Shetland team from the kick-off.
The home side were forced into kicking the ball downfield as a result. From this kick Deeside spun the ball out to their winger who outpaced the cover defence to score in the corner. The conversion was missed, giving a score of 5-0 to the visitors.
Deeside continued to pile on the pressure and were rewarded with a second try, this time in the other corner after again spinning the ball wide. The conversion was also missed. Shortly after they added a third score, when the centre raced through the Shetland defence to score. This time the conversion was added, giving Deeside a healthy 17-0 lead.
It was only from this point that Shetland began to come back into the game, electing to run with the ball, rather than kicking it. Some powerful running and good angles from centres Maurice Williamson and Peter Sidgwick, along with full-back Grant, took Shetland up the pitch. However, the ball was lost and Deeside worked downfield. This time, however they were kept out by the home side.
During the half-time break a number of changes were made, with Shetland looking to use their wind advantage in the second half. The evergreen Mike Skinner was brought on for Logan Nicolson, who had played well. Iain Nicol was moved back to his preferred position on the wing and Pulley was likewise moved to scrum-half, with Skinner filling in at stand-off.
The local side knew they had to up the intensity and work rate if they were to take anything from the game, and signalled their intention with a good chase from the kick off, immediately exerting pressure on the visitors. The ball was quickly recycled by the forwards, who worked through a few tight phases, before the ball was released to the backs.
Play followed this particular pattern for a number of phases, with Shetland looking increasingly likely to score, and after Grant went close with a good run, Pulley was able to get over the line from short range. Grant converted to make the score 17-7.
Unfortunately Shetland switched off after scoring and allowed Deeside to score an easy try to put them 22-7 up, after missing the conversion.
That seemed to spur the home side on again and substitute Connel Gresham, making his first appearance, made a storming break down the left wing. Unfortunately he was stopped just short of the line, but the supporting forwards were able to secure the ball which was passed directly to Peter Sidgwick to score in the corner. Grant was successful with the difficult conversion, making the score 22-14.
Shetland heads went up at this point and they were on the attack again straight away, and when a poor clearance kick from the Deeside centre landed in the hands of debutant Gresham, the flying winger was able to sprint home to score his first try. Grant was once again able to kick the conversion, bringing Shetland to within a point of the visitors at 22-21.
At this point it looked like Shetland would go on to win, and arguably they should have done so. A lack of composure became apparent though, as they were unable to turn their dominance into points.
Deeside scored a fortuitous breakaway try after winning a turn-over in their 22 with just nine minutes left on the clock. The conversion was missed once again, leaving Shetland with a glimmer of hope six points behind and needing a converted try to win.
With that in mind Shetland attacked at a frenetic pace, hammering away at the Deeside defence, but they were unable to find a way through.
The final nail was hammered into Shetland’s coffin when the Deeside stand-off intercepted a pass and ran the length of the field to score, before kicking the conversion. This gave something of a gloss to the score, which did not do justice to Shetland’s remarkable second-half comeback.
That said there have a number of things to work on in training, most notably defensive work, and making first-up tackles, as too many were missed in the first half. The backline appeared to lack any sort of spark for the majority of the first half, and this has been worked on as well.
As always, anyone interested in playing the game will be made more than welcome at training, which continues at Clickimin on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6.30pm.