The Shetland rugby team was unable to bring its losing streak in the Scottish Hydro Caledonia North East Division Two to an end on Saturday at Clickimin, this time losing to a well-drilled Aberdeen Wanderers.
Shetland 0, Aberdeen Wanderers 33
The home side were buoyed by the return of John Roy Nicolson at loosehead prop, and Stewart Jamieson at blindside flanker.
The backline had a very familiar look to it, with the only change being on the wings, where Tom Laing and Peter Sidgwick replaced Iain Nicol and Danny Farnworth. Nathan Coote was named on the bench alongside young Thomas Meadows, Iain Derbyshire and Eric Manson.
Wanderers won the toss and elected to play with the wind in the first half. Shetland kicked off through stand-off Jon Pulley, and despite a good chase from the forwards were unable to keep the ball which Aberdeen subsequently booted downfield.
For the majority of the first half Shetland were camped in their own half, and only able to ease the pressure and gain ground through Paul Grant’s excellent kicking into the wind, and good running from Sidgwick, Craig Mann and Kristian Fraser who looked in bullish mood.
Unfortunately for the Blues, these carries were all too often not capitalised on due to poor support of the man with the ball.
Wanderers took the lead through a penalty kick, after an isolated Shetlander was penalised for holding on to the ball after the tackle. The stand-off was accurate with the kick to put the visitors 3-0 ahead. The lead was doubled with another penalty not long after, giving Wanderers a 6-0 lead.
Despite having the lead and a strong breeze behind them, the Aberdeen side never really looked like breaching Shetland’s defence. Indeed the Blues were defending as though their very lives defended on it, and doing incredibly well to keep those in green away from the try line.
This continued to be the case until the last five minutes of the half, when Wanderers were finally able to work an overlap and the winger went over to score near the corner. The stand-off slotted the conversion from a difficult angle, giving the visitors a healthier looking 13-0 lead.
Another penalty extended the lead to 16-0, and Wanderers managed to add another try before the break after Shetland’s first real defensive lapse. Again the conversion was added to give Wanderers a commanding 23-0 lead going into half time.
Shetland made no changes at the interval and looked to attack Wanderers in the second half, knowing that they had to score first to have any chance at rescuing the game.
Unfortunately this was not to be the case, as Wanderers managed to work their way upfield and scored again. This time the conversion was missed but the visitors were now 28-0 ahead, and for the first time the Blues’ heads started to drop.
The Aberdeen side appeared to sense this, went on the attack once again and further extended the lead with a try from the scrum half right under the posts. The conversion again was missed, this time coming back off the upright, but importantly the score was 33-0 in favour of the visitors.
Shetland were lifted at this point by the words of captain Matthew Nicolson, who reminded them that there was plenty of time left on the clock, and that they could still get back into the game.
The Blues went on the attack and spent the final 25 minutes of the match firmly in Aberdeen territory, although they were unable to break through a well-organised Wanderers defence, despite one or two close moments.
Maurice Williamson twice went close to scoring following good work from Jamieson and the impressive Fraser, as did Nathan Coote who replaced Laing on the wing. Eric Manson also came on to the field to good effect, replacing Mann after a solid performance.
Despite pressuring the visiting defence the score was not to come, and when referee Paul Woods blew the whistle for full time, Wanderers had managed to secure the victory.
Best for Shetland were Maurice Williamson and Peter Sidgwick in the backs, while Matthew Nicolson and especially Kristian Fraser impressed in the forwards. The Northwards man of the match award went to Stewart Jamieson for his good work in the lineout and dangerous running in the loose.
Shetland’s next match is away to Banff on Saturday, where they will be hoping to improve on their current run of form which has seen them lose three games on the bounce.
Training continues on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6.30pm at Clickimin, and anyone interested in playing the game is welcome to attend.