Boyd accepts title is now Orkney's to lose as Caithness look to future
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Caithness head coach Ewen Boyd reckoned a mud-bound Millbank counted against his troops as they licked their wounds after suffering one of their biggest home defeats to Orkney.
"The conditions were shocking for both sides," he said after the islanders ran out 25-3 winners on Saturday. "But they have a big, robust pack so the conditions suited their style of play.
"They also played the conditions better than we did."
Boyd felt Orkney were also more clinical in turning their spells of red-zone pressure into points while his side failed to do so.
He flagged up two botched opportunities when there was a single score between the sides.
"Stuart [Crichton] had a great run which took us into their 22 and he linked up but we chose to pick and go off the back of a ruck when the best option would have been to go wide."
The attack was aborted when a Caithness player was pinged for a side entry at the breakdown.
Then a powerful drive from a five-metre lineout was moving inexorably forward when Orkney collapsed the maul.
In Boyd's book, that could easily have resulted in the award of a penalty try and a yellow card for the offender.
His frustration was compounded when the resultant play from the penalty saw his side foul up the line-up and allow Orkney to escape unscathed.
Had either or both attacks yielded a score, Boyd believes that could have been crucial in developing momentum and belief among his players that they could extend their four-game winning streak on their home turf.
Boyd conceded Orkney had the better of the scrums and that they had applied a vice-like grip on the game in the latter stages.
Accepting the title is now Orkney's to lose, he said Caithness's priorities lie elsewhere.
"Right from the get-go, our ambition has not been to win Caley 1," he said.
"If things went our way, then great. But our focus has been to win our games at home and be competitive on the road and, most importantly, give all the young lads coming into the squad the experience of playing at this level."
He cited prop Michael Gunn who played the full 80 minutes on Saturday.
"He put in a very good shift and is learning the whole time," Boyd said. "He'll continue to learn and improve as he gets more games."
Boyd said the process is developing future replacements for the senior campaigners in the squad.
Euan MacDonald was taken off with an ankle injury while there is particular concern for Ewen Scott who was taken from Millbank by ambulance and who was earlier this week in Raigmore being scanned for a suspected ruptured disc.
Orkney coach Gary Coltherd said the conditions did neither side any favours.
He said: "In the first half, the game plan was to keep the ball in the forwards and work our way up the pitch without giving any penalties. That worked out fairly well.
"Caithness were on the front foot early in the second half and we had to work hard to contain them but we gradually got on top and showed a lot of patience to take the chances we created."
Coltherd added: "It was a really good display by the boys. Any win over here is fantastic and getting a win bonus topped it off."
Caithness are next in league action away to Aberdeen Wanderers on January 8.
Orkney then travel to Dunfermline, who moved above Caithness into second on Saturday with a hard-fought 16-10 win at home to Hillfoots. That put the Fifers two points behind the islanders who have played two games fewer.
In the other game, Wanderers went down 31-12 at Blairgowrie.