Caithness 7 - Mackie Academy FP 25
Mackie 1st XV made the long trip to Thurso on Saturday to face Caithness at Millbank rugby ground.
History was against them as Mackie had only triumphed 3 times in 35 years against their northern opponents. Despite this, Mackie went into the game bouyant with 2 wins behind them. Cathness, who were playing 2 leagues above Mackie last season, were looking to bounce back after 3 losses on the bounce.
A bright blue sky, a light dew on the grass and the lightest of breezes greeted the teams as they ran out onto the pitch at millbank. Perfect conditions meant that a large crowd lined the ground expecting to see some great rugby.
Mackie won the toss and opted to start the first half playing into the sun, knowing that it would pose more of a problem in the second half. Caithness started strongly putting mackie under pressure straight from the kick off. In trying to steady the ship, Mackie conceded a penalty on the 22 but missed the kick. Caithness pressed again from recieving the drop out and 2 mins later scored the opening try from a mistake by Mackie, their No8 running under posts with their young fly half adding the Coversion 7-0.
Straight from the restart mackie put the pressure on and it resulted in a penalty, kicked by Michael Levack 7-3. An injury to flanker Mikey Kelly's hamstring ended his involvement and Mathew Flynn joined the action. Mackie started to dominate the game and on 32 mins a penalty by caithness ended in a sinbin for stamping. The referee judged the resultant kick by Levack as just wide over the top of the post despite the linesman flagging it was good. With the extra man Mackie continued to push and were awarded another penalty on 35mins, successfully kicked this time by Levack. Mackie were now in control heaped the pressure on to score the best try of the game. Good interlinking play by foprwards and backs results in levack cantering over for a try and a conversion. The Mackie side smiled as the tannoy announcer continued to mispronouce "Leeeevack".
Half time 7-13.
In the second half, despite the sun in their eyes, Caithness came out looking for a result but the mackie defence was resolute. 5 mins into the half saw scrum half Cammy leask limping of with an ankle injury after a challenge by his opposite man. Leask had been a constant thorn Caithness' side. Fortunately, Mackie had a strong bench and Chris Kay came onto the wing, freeing Rory Mellis to slot into his preferred scrum half berth. On 55 minutes, Mackie made another change, bringing on line out specialist Stuart Byers for Andy Philp who had run himself in to the ground. This tightened up the line out, where Caithness were beginning to make some in roads. With the scrum and the lineout solid, standoff Anaru Atkins was now in control of the game. Making good use of his boot and his mobile forward pack, who by now were getting the upper hand on what was a very heavy pitch.
After absorbing much Caithness pressure mackie made the break through after a great pick up from the back of the scrum by No. 8 Steve Akauola. An inside pass from Atkins found Levack who crashed through for his second try of the game which he converted with aplomb from wide on the left. 7-20
The remainder of the game saw mackie dominating almost every aspect and the resultant pressure resulted in Atkins crossing in the corner for a try assisted by new prop Dan Cary, who dragged the Kiwi over the whitewash when it looked like he was coming up short. Unfortunately the conversion missed by the usually trusty left peg of Leeeeevack.
Full time result - Caithness 7-25 Mackie
The 5 hour drive home allowed for some reflection on the match and indeed the past few weeks as a senior squad. With competition and quality in all positions and the 2nd XV players pushing hard, the results are starting to reflect the effort and performances. This result was dedicated to the clubs founder President, Bob Lewis, who sadly passed away last week. Involved from the clubs inception, Bob laid down standards and an approach that became a template that is still followed by the club today. He was a mentor to many and a guiding hand for all subsequent Presidents. His quiet common sense approach to life was a great boon to all and our sympathies are extended to his wife and children – he will be sadly missed.
It is perhaps fitting that the club marked the sad event with one of the best performances it has turned in at senior level for many years