A dominant Shetland rugby team scored 13 tries against Peterhead on Saturday to move up to fourth in the RBS Caledonia Regional League Division Three NE.
Shetland 85, Peterhead 0
Shetland looked forward to their first home game of the season on a perfect day, sporting their new Fair Isle ganzie-inspired strips for the first time at Clickimin.
It was all change in the front row with the experienced John Roy Nicolson and debutant Mark Bingham coming in to prop at either side of hooker Kristian Fraser.
Stuart Jamieson and William Coghill made up a mobile second row with Thomas Meadows, Matthew Nicolson and captain Stewart Mouat in the back row.
The backs resembled a Shetland team of times past with Robert Geddes returning at scrum half and Mike Skinner starting at 10. Maurice Williamson and Peter Sidgwick made up a strong centre partnership with Stuart Gray, Nathan Coote and Paul Grant completing the line-up.
Shetland coach Bryan Leask asked his players to start fast and not give Peterhead any chance in the first quarter of the game. The team took him at his word and within the opening 10 minutes were three tries up.
The deadlock was broken after only five minutes following several good phases of play from the Shetland forward. Robert Geddes worked the ball out to Paul Grant who broke two tackles and dived over in the corner before slotting home the conversion from a wide angle.
Shetland scored an almost identical try three minutes later when Stuart Gray broke his duck for Shetland after more impressive work by the forward pack. Grant again hit the conversion from out wide.
The third try summed up the Shetland performance. Peterhead had the put-in at a scrum on their own 22 but Shetland managed to drive the scrum over and release the backs out wide. Nathan Coote took advantage of the turnover and finished under the posts, Grant again adding the conversion.
This seemed to demoralise Peterhead and Shetland were camped in the opposition half and looked as though they could score at will. Indeed, they had two further tries disallowed in the next 10 minutes. Following a break from Skinner he off-loaded to Geddes who, despite being over the try line, decided to pass to Coote. Unfortunately his pass was judged to be forward and the try was disallowed.
Geddes was guilty a second time for a similar offence only five minutes later. Skinner spotted a gap in the defence and darted towards the line. Unfortunately he misjudged how much he had slowed over the years and was tackled and forced to offload to Geddes who passed illegally to Coote as he crossed the line.
It didn’t take Shetland long to make amends and score a fourth try and gain the bonus point. Shetland again won a scrum against the head releasing Matthew Nicolson, who broke through several tackles before scoring under the posts. Grant scored the conversion.
Shetland seemed to take their foot off the pedal after gaining the try bonus and were unable to add to their tally until two minutes before half time. Following an infringement by Peterhead, Geddes took a quick tap before passing to Kristian Fraser who powered over the line to put the game beyond doubt. Grant missed the conversion but Shetland went in at half-time leading 33-0.
Mouat and Leask were concerned about Shetland becoming complacent in the second half and asked the players to continue with the game plan and work through their phases.
They needn’t have worried. Shetland extended their lead within two minutes of the re-start with Thomas Meadows scoring a maiden try after several strong phases of play from the dominant forward pack. Grant’s conversion went narrowly wide from a tight angle.
Three further tries were scored in the next 15 minutes, all by centre Maurice Williamson. The first two were almost carbon copies with Williamson breaking tackles and scoring on impressive solo runs. His third owed much to the vision of Skinner who kicked a delightful chip in behind the Peterhead defence for Williamson to run on to and score. All three were converted by Grant.
With Shetland nine tries to the good they made several changes with Skinner and Stuart Jamieson being replaced by Jon Pulley and Craig Mann, both looking to regain match fitness after returning from watching the World Cup in New Zealand.
John Roy Nicolson and the impressive Bingham were replaced by Phil Manley and another debutant, Chris Poleson. Maurice Williamson was replaced by Brett Haining after suffering an ankle injury when scoring his third try.
Despite the changes the flow of the game never changed and Shetland continued to threaten the Peterhead line. A further four tries were recorded in the last 20 minutes with Meadows, Sidgwick and two further tries from Coote.
Coote’s last try was the pick of the bunch. With two minutes to go, Geddes spotted a gap on the blind side and fed Coote to scamper half the length of the pitch to score under the posts. Grant scored three of the four conversions to make the final score 85-0.
Following their previous 5-0 win where the team were criticised for not being clinical and resorting to needless kicking, it was pleasing to see the team stick to the game plan throughout the match and reap the rewards. Most pleasing to the coaching staff will be the second successive shut-out with the defence particularly strong again.
It was difficult to choose a single player who stood out as Shetland were so dominant up front, winning line-outs and scrums against the head on a regular basis, and the backs handling and open field tackles so outstanding. However, Mark Bingham got the Northwards man of the match award on his debut for his tireless running and strong tackling.
The whole forward pack deserve a special mention for their effort and the quick, clean ball they achieved for the backs all day. Geddes, Williamson and Skinner were the pick of the bunch in the backs with the experience of Geddes particularly noticeable in his marshalling of the team.
A spokesman thanked all the supporters for creating such an enjoyable atmosphere and sponsors Northwards and NorthLink Ferries for the continued support.
Training continues on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6.30pm. All players, old or new, are very welcome as Shetland prepare to face the Grampian Police in Aberdeen on Saturday.