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Dramatic change in fortunes for under-strength Greens


By Iain Grant

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The defeat to Glenrothes came a week after Caithness had beaten them 75-8 in Thurso. Here, Charlie Quinn evades an opponent during the Millbank game. Picture: James Gunn
The defeat to Glenrothes came a week after Caithness had beaten them 75-8 in Thurso. Here, Charlie Quinn evades an opponent during the Millbank game. Picture: James Gunn

A week may be a long time in politics but Harold Wilson's observation could equally be applied to the dramatic change in fortunes over that period by Caithness senior men's rugby side.

Seven days after Ewen Boyd's troops were breezing their way to a 75-8 win over Glenrothes in Thurso, the Greens were licking their wounds after going down 39-19 at the home of the same opponents.

The 87-point turnaround coincided with wholesale changes in both sides that pitched up at Carleton Park on Saturday.

The win was the first of the league campaign for Glenrothes, coming after 14 straight defeats in Caley 1.

Boyd's lengthy list of call-offs left him travelling with 15 players, including a handful who had no or very little experience of first-team action.

The crisis saw Gordie Macleod having his "play anywhere" reputation embellished when he ended up in the middle of the front row, having played full-back the previous week.

Two exiles, seasoned prop Tommy Sutherland and full-back Nathan Quinn, answered the call to join the 13 who travelled down on the minibus.

Perhaps the visitors paid the price for getting into the wrong mindset when scrum-half Euan MacDonald exploited an exposed blindside to zoot over to touch down under the posts two minutes into the game. Jamie Mowat converted.

Glenrothes were soon level when Ross Davidson's offload put Jack Bousie over near the right corner.

Kyle MacIntosh and Shaun Gray touchdowns sandwiched in between centre Charlie Quinn's counter at the other end saw the sides go in at the break with Glenrothes 17-12 ahead.

The home side secured a firm hold on the game in the third quarter, with two more tries from Gray opening up a 27-12 lead.

Further tries from Timmy Kennedy and Davidson and a second conversion from Kain Duguid completed the scoring for the hosts.

Caithness grabbed a third from young front-rower Duncan Macmillan, his first for the club, with Mowat adding the extras.

Boyd had a battle to pull together 15 bodies for the club's last away outing.

"Covid wasn't an issue," the head coach said. "It was to do with work commitments and injuries.

"A fair few of our young guys have now got jobs in the hotel industry where they are on split shifts which means they are not available to travel."

Boyd added: "Fair play to the boys who made the effort to go down.

"However, it was a real struggle to get the team together and when you have boys thrown together, inevitably there are problems with our shape and structure."

Glenrothes got a lot of joy from their one-out, hit-up phases of mini-rucks.

"That was putting us under a lot of pressure and while they did not get easy yards, the previous week we were smashing them back and getting turnovers," Boyd said.

"Our line speed was poor and they also exploited a bit of naivety we showed out wide."

The Caithness cause was hardly helped when a calf injury towards the end of the first half restricted Nathan Quinn's mobility.

Boyd is calling on his players to regroup for the final league match, against Blairgowrie, at home on Saturday.

"The defeat was disappointing but we need to get ourselves ready for Blairgowrie," he said.

"There will be players coming back and we'll be looking to get torn in so we can finish the season on a high."

The game at Millbank kicks off at 3pm.

Orkney could clinch the league title on Saturday when they entertain Glenrothes in Kirkwall. A bonus-point win would put them level with Dunfermline but would be good enough to take the honours by virtue of a better head-to-head record.

The islanders kept on track with a 58-7 thrashing of Hillfoots on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Grangemouth Stags returned with a thumping 78-20 victory over Aberdeen Wanderers.

Ellon's scheduled clash with Blairgowrie was a victim of Covid, as was Caithness 2nds' last fixture of the season away to Deeside.

The latter is now set to go ahead on April 16.


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