Caithness rugby girls' teams reach finals of Shield contest at Murrayfield in Edinburgh
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Caithness were well represented at the end-of-season girls' rugby showpiece at Murrayfield on Sunday.
The county's under-16s and under-18s both claimed cup final spots in the second tier Shield competition.
Though both ended up on the wrong side of the scoreline, their coaches were delighted with the passion, grit and skill they displayed.
They played on the DAM Health Stadium, Edinburgh Rugby's new 7800-capacity home built on the back pitches at Murrayfield.
Coach Sinclair Dunnett said: "It's a really impressive stadium and the 5G surface is just like grass. We've played at the main stadium before with youth teams but it's so huge, it can be a bit overwhelming for them."
The under-18s were up against Dundee in the final of the Shield. They were hit by five late call-offs, including two Covid victims, and travelled with just 15.
They were still getting their bearings when they found themselves playing catch-up after conceding two tries within the opening 10 minutes.
Caithness absorbed long spells of pressure before conceding a third. Then a dazzling solo effort saw the Dundee girls in for a fourth.
Trailing 24-0 at the break, the game looked well and truly up for the far north side. But a fiery start saw them get a toehold when Shannon Pasotti found a gap in Dundee’s defensive line to get her side on the scoreboard.
Ten minutes later, Pasotti repeated the feat as she broke clear to score her second.
The contest was hotting up and within a couple minutes, the Caithness centre was in again for her third. She converted two to narrow the gap between the sides to 24-19.
Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for Caithness as the next try went Dundee's way and a sixth near the end saw Dundee clear.
Dunnet said: "We got off to a terrible start, losing two tries in the first five minutest, but after we got back into it and started playing like we are capable of, we were looking good and had them on the ropes after our scoring burst.
"Then Rhianna got injured and we lost a soft try and the game ran away from us."
The under-16s, meanwhile, locked horns with Tayside in the final of the Shield. The squad included 11 14-year-olds and many had just taken up the game at the end of last year.
After an early scare when Tayside came desperately close to scoring, both sides struggled to settle with a series of turnovers making for a messy affair.
Tayside opened the scoring with an unconverted try before adding two more to lead 17-0 going into the second quarter.
Caithness came back strongly with some enterprising attacks, featuring some impressive offloads, helping them pitch camp in opposition territory.
The pressure told in the last action of the half when full back Laena Munro was put clear to touchdown. Captain Tamzin Rosie added the extras to reduce the leeway to 17-7 at the break.
Both teams enjoyed decent spells but two tries in close order by Tayside's full back put them back in easy street.
Caithness, however, refused to lose hope and seven minutes from time, Rosie took a quick tap-and-go from a close-in penalty to dive over for an unconverted try.
But Tayside had the final say as they ran in a sixth try to run out 34-12 winners.
Dunnett said: "The 16s are a really young squad and I've seen them get better and better – I think they are a really special outfit.
"They gave a really good account of themselves against a much more experienced team."