Krakens bow out in semis as Cartha Claymores have too much firepower
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
More streetwise and battle-hardened opponents ensured there would be no fairytale end on Saturday to Caithness Krakens' debut season.
Mike Flavell's squad were put to the sword as Cartha Queen's Park Claymores ran in six unanswered tries for a 36-0 win in the National Bowl semi-final at Millbank.
The Glasgow outfit, the club's second string, had too much firepower for the Krakens as they claimed their place against Greenock Wanderers in the final at Murrayfield.
A crowd of about 300 were treated to a high-octane contest which left the home outfit perhaps ruing that they did not do themselves justice. But they can take comfort in the huge strides they have made in such a short time.
On Saturday, their naivety in some areas was ruthlessly exploited by a well-drilled city side who were also adept at slowing up Caithness ball at the breakdown and keeping them on the back foot for long periods.
The afternoon started badly for the Krakens when Caitlin Harvey had to be helped off two minutes in. The inside centre wrenched her right ankle when tackled following a trademark jinking run in which she had burnt off a posse of opponents.
Her replacement Ellie Anderson was prominent with a couple of meaty tackles and a steal at a maul.
The Cartha number eight, Frenchwoman Izzy Desoindre, soon showed the big influence she was to have with some yard-guzzling carries and offloads.
The home side enjoyed the edge throughout in the scrums and, thanks mainly to Helen Richard, pirated a few opposition feeds at the lineout.
Caithness defended valiantly deep in their own half but could do nothing to prevent the visitors working an overlap on 18 minutes when Rachel Shankland put winger Zoe Johnston in to score wide out left.
The Caithness tackle count continued to mount, with Devin Stuart and Richard, in particular, putting in a power of work to repel attacks as the home side battled to get a toehold in the game.
The Claymores worked space out on the right after 28 minutes to allow right winger Vic Halstedt to cross.
Centre Ellie Sutherland grabbed a third, with Sam Donnelly's conversion extending the interval lead to 17-0.
The pattern resumed after the turnaround, with the Krakens living on scraps and continuing to struggle to build platforms to launch attacks.
The Caithness replacements all made their presence felt, with Shannon Pasotti showing her versatility to fill in at scrum-half and make some sparky half-breaks. But the bulk of play continued to be directed by the visitors.
Halstedt was cut down within breathing distance of the line before first Desoindre and then tighthead Erin Gilmour touched down a couple of minutes apart midway through the half.
The try-scoring was rounded off by a solo run-in by loosehead Asha Prasad 10 minutes from time. Replacement Caitlin Bell goaled the final two tries.
In a defiant last stand, the Krakens worked their way into the Cartha 22 for the first time and were pressing the line only for full-back Ashley McLean to be bundled into touch near the right corner flag.
Claymores coach Steven McLoughlin said: "I was delighted with how the game went. I told them beforehand to make sure they played the game and not the occasion.
"I thought we stuck to our game plan pretty well and, after struggling for the opening 10 minutes, we settled down and got into our rhythm.
"Caithness were dominant in the scrums and were resilient to the end in what was a really competitive game."
Flavell had no complaints in defeat.
"We were beaten by the better team on the day," he said. "They did the basics very well. They played with tempo, they were very aggressive in the tackle and at the breakdown, and they defended very well.
"We suffered from a bit of nerves at the start and losing Caitlin so early was obviously a big blow."
The Krakens did not have their troubles to seek on the injury front, with Ellie Mackay retiring with an ankle knock and then her all-action replacement Donna Edwards being forced off after receiving a bang to her jaw.
Flavell said: "I thought we defended really well for long spells and we made them work really hard for most of their tries.
"We had a fantastic crowd come along to watch us and, overall, it was a great learning experience for us."
He noted that Cartha are getting 40 to their training sessions and are planning starting up a third team next season.
"It means they can have full-on games at their training," Flavell said. "That is the sort of set-up we would aspire to achieve."
Cartha are now looking forward to their big day at Murrayfield on May 14 when they play Greenock Wanderers, who on Sunday defeated Kirkcaldy 22-10 in the other semi.
The Krakens, meanwhile, have entered a side in Saturday's Orkney Sevens in Kirkwall.