Orkney 5, Selkirk 33

Never-say-die Orkney make Selkirk fight all the way

NO WAY THROUGH. David Cassidy puts the brakes on opposite number Erlend Hutchison during Saturday's cup tie. (Picture: Gordon Hunter)

BILLED as Orkney's biggest game in the club's 39-year history, Saturday's BT Cup tie at the Pickaquoy Playing Fields just about lived up to the pre-match publicity, although both sides probably felt they hadn't produced their best form on the day.
What is not in doubt, however, is the commitment shown by each team over the full 80 minutes, with the island players never allowing the visitors to rest on their Premier 2 laurels at any stage of the contest.
Indeed when Orkney scored early in the second half to cut the deficit to 14-5, at a stroke revitalising the record home crowd's vocal chords, Selkirk's players knew they had a fight on their hands.
To their credit, the Philiphaugh men refused to press the panic button. In fact as weather conditions deteriorated, with sheets of heavy rain blowing across the pitch, the visitors began to exert increasing control over possession and territory, crossing for three unanswered tries to put the issue beyond doubt.
Having had a team photo taken on the pitch just before kick-off (an Orkney tradition), Selkirk subjected the home team's defence to some over-exposure within three minutes of the start.
Michael McVie charged down a clearance kick to give his team good field position, and from the next scrum visiting skipper Scott Jeffrey (making a successful comeback after a six-week injury lay-off) picked up the ball and linked with full-back Fraser Harkness, who waltzed between two Orkney players to touch down near the posts.
Such an uncomplicated try so early in the match might have convinced Selkirk's handful of travelling supporters that the scoring floodgates would soon open, but a series of handling errors induced by some over-elaborate moves allowed Orkney to regroup and keep in contention.
After 24 minutes it appeared Selkirk's replacement prop Rob Taylor had managed to bulldoze his way over for a try following a quickly taken tap penalty, but the referee ruled the ball had been held up.
Moments later fly-half Michael Rutherford managed to rectify matters by dummying his way over for a try under the posts, landing his second conversion kick of the day to put Selkirk 14-0 ahead.
There was no further scoring before halftime, and you didn't need to be a lip reader to appreciate the intensity of the team talk delivered to the Selkirk players by coaches Steve Scott and Brian Cassidy during the interval. 'Must do better' was the unmistakeable message.
Initially things didn't go according to plan, however, and a knock-on allowed Orkney to make significant ground up the middle of the field. A series of drives and mauls took play deep into the visitors' 22, and the biggest cheer of the day erupted from the packed touchline when Rob Thomson and Erland Drever were driven over in the left-hand corner for a well deserved try.
Stung by this setback, Selkirk finally stepped up a gear, with flankers Denver Rumney and Scott Tomlinson always to the fore. Successive breaks by Fraser Harkness and Neil Darling put the home side on the back foot, generating enough momentum for Martin Murray to peel from a rolling maul and score his team's third try, superbly converted by Rutherford.
Soon afterwards a typically mesmerising run by Harkness saw the strong-running full-back cross for his second touchdown of the afternoon, although the former Youth Club skipper subsequently had to retire to the sidelines after taking a blow to the face in the act of scoring.
With the lashing rain producing handling mistakes from both sets of players, Selkirk had the final say when Steven Renwick's clean line-out take was driven 30 metres by the pack towards the Orkney try line. It was left to hooker Ewen Robbie to break free and dive over for the visitors' fifth try.
So it was that Selkirk's much-discussed Orkney adventure had a happy ending, and the warm reception accorded the whole Selkirk travelling party in the clubrooms after the match will live long in the memory of players and officials alike.

ORKNEY - J. Linklater, A. Towrie, E. Hutchison, G. McLellan, R. Moodie, J. Dearness, A. Watson, E. Drever, D. Sutherland, L. Thomson, K. Sinclair, S. Spence, G. Burton, E. Russell, A. McGill. Replacements (all used): N. Work, R. Thomson, C. Risbridger, K. Pepper.

SELKIRK - F. Harkness, G. Blair, D. Cassidy, A. Lyall, S. Hendrie, M. Rutherford, M. McVie, B. Rawcliffe, E. Robbie, M. Murray, N. Darling, M. Barnett, S. Tomlinson, D. Rumney, S. Jeffrey. Replacements (all used): G. Patterson, R. Taylor, S. Renwick, J. Ross.

Referee - J. Thomson (Aberdeen GSFP).

LEADING LIGHT. Skipper Scott Jeffrey makes contact with an Orkney defender during his successful comeback appearance on Saturday. (Picture: Gordon Hunter)