Shetland 0, Ross Sutherland 22
The Shetland rugby team took on old foes Ross Sutherland at home in the first round of the Scottish Hydro Cup on Saturday.
Shetland were determined to improve on their performance following a stuttering contest against Huntly the previous week.
Ross Sutherland had the advantage of the wind in the first half and used it well, scoring out wide following a good passage of play from the kick-off. The conversion was unsuccessful and the score remained at 5-0. Shetland switched on following the try and managed to put some phases together, with the forwards working hard and the backs being well marshalled by veteran Mike Skinner at fly half.
Ross Sutherland were struggling to win any clean line-out ball, so kept the ball in hand, which they managed to do quite well. Shetland were working hard on defence with several big tackles coming in from the loose forwards and centre Maurice Williamson. An indiscretion at a ruck gave Ross Sutherland the opportunity to kick for goal, which they did to make it 8-0.
The Shetland pack were starting to struggle against the bigger and more experienced Ross forwards, so after 30 minutes experienced prop Phil Manley came on for his first match for Shetland. This settled the scrum somewhat and created a better platform for the backs to attack from.
Unfortunately for Shetland, Ross Sutherland struck again before the break and the try was converted, extending their lead to 15-0 at half time. However, Shetland felt they were still in it with the wind at their backs.
More changes were made at the break, with Connel Gresham coming on for Logan Nicholson on the wing and Daniel Meadows for Niall Christie at prop.
Shetland started the second half well, putting pressure on the Ross defence with some hard straight running from the pack and some clean breaks from centre Williamson. They were unable to finish off, however, often leaving players isolated in the tackle at crucial times causing the ball to be turned over.
Frustration seemed to be returning, as it had the week before and the focus was lost to a degree, enabling Ross to slow the game to their pace. Shetland made two more changes, with Peter Farquar coming on for Nathan Coote on the right wing and Lincoln Carroll stepping in for the injured Dominic Odell at scrum half.
With the clock ticking away Shetland valiantly launched attacks from attacking scrums, but the Ross defence was up to the task, showing their experience in snuffing out the attacks without Shetland really threatening the line.
The Shetland pack were starting to tire and Ross Sutherland attacked through the impressive number eight down the blindside. The defence was found wanting and he ran close to 50 metres before feeding the ball to the tighthead prop, who managed to score near the posts. The try was converted, stretching the lead to 22-0.
That proved to be the last score but the Shetland team can be proud of their effort, especially the forwards who for the second week in a row held their own against a bigger and more experienced pack.
The loose trio of Stewart Jamieson, Stewart Mouat and Matthew Nicolson worked hard all day, winning a majority of the line-out ball and putting in a lot of tackles. Dom Odell put in a good shift at scrum half, providing good ball for Mike Skinner, who organised the backs well.
The Northwards man of the match was hooker Kristian Fraser, who continues to impress with his work rate and leadership on the park.