Greens meet some familiar faces as they finish with another Millbank victory
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The curtain came down on the Greens' Caley 1 season on Saturday with a victory over opponents packed with very familiar faces.
There was something of an unreal atmosphere at Millbank as visitors Blairgowrie fielded seven Caithness players in their XV.
A personnel crisis saw the host club answer an SOS to ensure the Perthshire outfit could fulfil the fixture and not face sanctions for a no-show.
It still made for a very competitive contest which was tied at half-time and the Greens ended up 24-12 in front.
The opening quarter proved a bore-fest with a rash of nondescript kicking and messy breakdowns in play as both sides struggled to get a foothold.
The tedium was broken by a midfield line break from the Greens' number eight Grant Anderson which saw him surge clear to touch down below the posts. Jamie Mowat added the conversion.
Within five minutes, the visitors had drawn level after dealing the home pack an embarrassing double whammy.
They had advanced 10 metres from a scrum in the Caithness 22 and were looking odds-on to score as the ball emerged, before careless hands aborted their progress.
Blairgowrie then proceeded to turn the screw by winning the ensuing scrum against the head. Two mini-rucks later, Calum Clifford was slithering over to touch down under a pile of bodies.
John McLaren landed the conversion to level the scores.
Blairgowrie withstood long periods on the back foot while their guest half-backs, veterans Russell Mill and George Sutherland, kept the home backfield on their toes with a series of probing kicks.
Caithness centre and captain for the day Charlie Quinn went close with a kick and chase in which an opponent just beat him to the ball in goal.
The home side upped the ante after the turnaround, scoring two tries in the opening six minutes to secure a 19-7 lead.
They scored with their first attack of the half when the ball was worked through the three-quarter line to Scott Webster. The full-back turned on the gas to glide between two opponents before a show-and-go bamboozled a third to see him over.
Lock forward Kevin Budge then was put clear wide on the left flank and he powered his way to the line from the 22.
Mowat kicked the conversion.
Both teams were reduced to 14 shortly afterwards as Budge and Blairgowrie's guest right winger Max Kennedy went off with injuries.
The visitors reduced the deficit on 52 minutes when McLaren broke clear and his run took him clear of the cover to touch down for an unconverted try.
Suitably stung, Caithness regained the upper hand which they kept for the rest of the match.
Prop Michael Gunn was just squeezed out as he looked set to score in the left corner after an hour.
Two minutes later, winger Gordie Macleod was cut down in full flight after a powerful surge for the line. The ball was quickly recycled and Anderson was on hand to cross for his second try.
Caithness head coach Ewen Boyd said the club was happy to help Blairgowrie fulfil the fixture.
"I'm delighted they came up and that we got the game played," he said.
"We also gave them some pretty decent players as we wanted it to be a good, competitive game and we certainly got that."
Of his experienced campaigners, Boyd singled out Anderson for both his performance and his mentoring role.
"Grant has matured a lot and, apart from his own play, he has been handing over responsibility for lead roles in the lineout and elsewhere to some of our younger guys," the head coach said.
"Charlie also did well being captain for the first time and others are also taking on more responsibility."
The result means that champions-elect Orkney were the only visitors to have won at Millbank this season.
Rewards have been harder to reap on their travels where they won just two of eight contests, versus Grangemouth and Aberdeen Wanderers.
Currently third, they could drop a place depending on the outcome of Ellon's four outstanding fixtures.
Reflecting on the campaign, Boyd said: "We have blooded a lot of young and inexperienced players.
"Results-wise, if you told me at the start of the season and said the 1sts would finish third or fourth and the 2nds second or third in their league, I'd be pretty happy with that."
Boyd said a lot of credit has to go to the youth coaches, and under-16 coach Donald Buchanan in particular.
"Donald has worked hard to bring on the boys who joined the club this season," he said.
Orkney continued their march to the title on Saturday with a 98-8 win against Glenrothes in Kirkwall.
Orkney need to harvest a single match point from their two remaining fixtures
away to Aberdeen Wanderers and Grangemouth to be confirmed as champions.
Caithness 2nd XV finish their Caley 4 programme on Saturday with an away trip to play Deeside. A win would see them finish second.