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Governing body urged to act over Caithness opponents’ call-offs

By Iain Grant

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Michael Gunn in the front row gets ready to lock horns in the scrum during the Greens' 26-14 victory over Aberdeenshire in December, an all too rare home match for Caithness. Picture: James Gunn
Michael Gunn in the front row gets ready to lock horns in the scrum during the Greens' 26-14 victory over Aberdeenshire in December, an all too rare home match for Caithness. Picture: James Gunn

The governing body of rugby in Scotland is being asked to get to grips with the rash of unfulfilled fixtures that have plagued the Greens' season.

Their scheduled clash with Ellon on Saturday was the latest in the eight-team North Conference of Caley 1 to be hit by a late cancellation.

Of Caithness's opponents, just Mackie, Aberdeenshire and Moray have made the trip north, with Aberdeen Wanderers due to come this Saturday, having previously called off.

RAF Lossiemouth were unable to make two dates and at the weekend pulled out of the league ahead of the rescheduled clash on April 13. It was Ellon's second no-show, having reneged on the original date in mid-November.

The north-east side also scratched from their second-round National Shield tie at Millbank on February 17.

Salt was rubbed in the wounds for Greens when they later learned Ellon that day had been cleared to travel to play Highland Seconds in a rearranged league game.

Despite the flurry of call-offs for the regular season, which was due to be wrapped up by Christmas, no side has suffered any points reduction or other sanction.

"Scottish Rugby really needs to do something about this," Caithness head coach Cameron Boyd said. “There's obviously something that is not working."

Referring to the latest non-appearance, he said Ellon were in touch early in the week to indicate they were struggling for players. It was agreed by Caithness and cleared with Scottish Rugby that the visitors could borrow several Caithness players to make up their numbers.

Boyd said: "It looked like the game could go on but then Ellon heard Lossie had pulled out of the league and asked for their game to be switched to when Lossie were due up here.

"They were also concerned about player safety. Eventually, they called off at a quarter to eight on Friday evening."

Boyd said Caithness sides are regularly less than full strength and sometimes, in the case of the 2nd XV, are short of a complement of 15 when they travel. "We always try to fulfil the fixture with however many players we have," he said.

Boyd is at a loss to understand why no club that has called off trips to Milbank because of player shortages has faced any sanction.

He believes Scottish Rugby needs to take action to protect the integrity of the game in the north.

One solution, he believes, is to give teams travelling to Caithness an extra premium in their travelling expenses.

A spokesman for Scottish Rugby said: "We understand the frustration that postponed fixtures cause clubs, including Caithness.

"Of the many reasons a game might be postponed, the number of players available is one reason that a club may cite, given that competition rules specify the number/minimum number of player required to start/conclude a fixture.

“In line with the competition rules, the cause for each postponement is investigated and sanctions applied where appropriate. This process is standard across all our leagues.

"In each instance that a game is postponed, whether that be a team scheduled to play against Caithness or instances whereby Caithness have sought a postponement, they have been treated in line with the competition rules and applied fairly."

A hastily arranged training session was held at Millbank on Saturday afternoon.

"The guys were naturally pretty demoralised after hearing another game had gone by the board but they were in good spirits at the session," Boyd said.

He is quietly confident that Wanderers will fulfil the fixture on Saturday.

The relegation-bound Aberdeen side are going through a particularly rocky time with tight playing numbers and they have shipped an average of 63 points.

Boyd said: "Hopefully the game goes ahead and we get the chance to finish the season with a bit of a flourish."

Kick-off is at 3pm.

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