Shetland 12, Ellon 2nd XV 8
Shetland Rugby Club got their season back on track with a solid, if somewhat unspectacular victory over Ellon’s 2nd XV in their latest match in Scottish Hydro Caledonia North East Division 2. The match was played on a cool, dry day at Clickimin, and although it was far from pretty at times, the victory was more than welcome for the home side.
The Blues were forced into a few changes in their starting lineup, Peter Sidgwick coming into the centres, with Tom Laing and Stuart Gray starting on the wings, the latter making his debut for Shetland. In the forwards, Robbie Hall and John Roy Nicolson started at prop with Craig Mann and Iain Robertson in the second row. An unchanged back row of Stewart Mouat, Stuart Jamieson and Matthew Nicolson started the match.
Ellon won the toss and elected to kick off the match. The kick was well fielded by Shetland, who were able to work through a few phases but couldn’t gain much ground. It was clear that they were going to be in for a tough battle at the breakdown against a physically bigger visiting pack. It did not take long for Shetland to give away a penalty, the forward pack pinged for going off their feet at the ruck. Fortunately, the kick at goal was missed, but this was to serve as a warning to Shetland.
Shetland again conceded a penalty at a ruck soon after the first, which the Ellon centre kicked to put the visitors 3-0 ahead early in the game. Captain Matthew Nicolson had some words with his forwards and made sure they understood that giving away so many penalties would lose Shetland the game.
The remainder of the first half was played out mostly in the middle of the park, with neither side able to break through the opposition defence. On the home side, much credit for this has to go to the centre partnership of Maurice Williamson and Peter Sidgwick, who were tackling like demons in midfield. Despite being unable to break through the Ellon defence on a regular basis, the Blues did gain some ground through the collective boot of stand-off Jon Pulley and full back Paul Grant.
At half time, the score was still just 3-0 in favour of the visiting side, and Shetland knew they had to run harder and flatter at the defence if they were to puncture through, or look to kick the ball in behind the defence and chase well. Nathan Coote was brought on for Gray at this point, where it was hoped his greater experience could influence the game more.
Shetland got the second half underway, and a great chase from Jamieson saw him claim Pulley’s kick off, but he was turned over, and Ellon had the ball. With a reshuffled backline, the visitors looked different in attack, but still they were unable to break through the solid blue defensive line.
Midway through the second half, scrum half Callum Williamson threw a miss pass unexpectedly to Pulley, who, with the defence rushing up on him put in a deft chip over the visitors, which was expertly gathered on the full by Sidgwick. The Shetland centre took the ball almost to the tryline where he was stopped by the fullback, but a brilliant offload to the supporting Coote saw the replacement winger score the try. Grant narrowly missed the conversion, but Shetland were 5-3 ahead.
Ellon decided to change tactics at this point, and used their forwards to rumble the ball almost 40 yards up field with a series of strong pick and drives. Eventually this led to them scoring in the corner, with some sterling defensive work from Coote and Williamson eventually being overpowered. The try was scored in the corner, but the conversion was missed, leaving the score at 8-5 to the visitors.
Shetland were to have the final word however, when from a rehearsed move, full back Grant was able to beat a number of defenders out wide and crashed over to score in the corner putting Shetland back in front. The conversion in the dying seconds gave the home side a deserved 12-8 victory.
Best on the day for Shetland were Robbie Hall and Stuart Jamieson in the forwards, and once again Maurice Williamson and Paul Grant were solid in the backs. The Northwards Man of the Match award went to Peter Sidgwick for a solid performance both in defence and attack.
The Blues are travelling down to Huntly this weekend, where no doubt the home side will be looking for revenge for their opening day defeat at Clickimin. Training continues on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6.30pm at Clickimin, and anyone interested is invited to attend.