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Postponements 'getting past a joke' for Greens after latest Millbank no-show

By Iain Grant

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Caithness in action against Ellon at Millbank last year – but Ellon failed to make the journey for Saturday's scheduled match. Picture: Mel Roger
Caithness in action against Ellon at Millbank last year – but Ellon failed to make the journey for Saturday's scheduled match. Picture: Mel Roger

Caithness RFC is considering contacting the sport's national governing body about the number of its men's 1st XV home matches that have gone by the board.

Saturday's Caledonia Region Division 1 match against Ellon was the sixth this season to suffer an eleventh-hour postponement.

Just one – their 54-21 victory over Mackie – has gone ahead.

As the Greens prepare for yet another away foray, versus Highland Seconds in Inverness on Saturday, the club management is keen to clarify Scottish Rugby's protocols for dealing with call-offs.

They note that, while Caithness Seconds have twice been docked match points for being unable to fulfil away matches, none of the Millbank no-shows have so far attracted any sanction.

Caithness have no complaints about either RAF Lossiemouth postponement – for operational reasons, and then when players were on flood alert standby – or Highland, when the A9 was blocked by a serious accident.

But they have questioned to a greater or lesser extent the genuineness of the others.

"It's really getting past a joke now," first-team coach Cameron Boyd said.

He said that most clubs accept Thursday evening as the latest when a decision can be made on whether a game is going ahead in order to confirm with the referee and finalise other arrangements.

He said Caithness had bent over backwards in order to help visiting clubs.

"When Ellon let us know they were struggling for players on Friday night, we offered them a couple of our players and a guy from Orkney also offered to play for them," he said.

"The next I knew was when the ref phoned at 9.30 on Saturday morning to say the game was off. Apparently some of their players hadn't turned up for the bus."

Boyd said it seems anomalous that, while Caithness Seconds have been deducted seven points for call-offs, none of the Millbank no-shows have been similarly punished.

"It has been a really frustrating season," he said. "We were struggling for numbers early on, but just as the Firsts were getting guys back and getting a bit of momentum we have had another call-off."

Ellon first-team manager Matt Pearce said: "I am incredibly disappointed that we had to call off.

"I drove up on Friday night to Thurso, so you can imagine how I felt when I got a phone call from the coach Saturday morning.

"We couldn't apologise enough to Caithness for the inconvenience. We had a bare 15 players, including the couple that Caithness were loaning us, and when a couple of our players didn't turn up it came to the point of asking why are we only travelling with 11-ish?"

Mr Pearce said it is the first time Ellon have had to call off in recent seasons because of a lack of numbers.

A spokeswoman for Scottish Rugby said: “The administration of all competitions is undertaken in line with the competition rules, with relevant sanctions applied to all teams who fail to fulfil competition fixtures.

“Unfulfilled games and the reasons provided by teams are reviewed by competitions committees, and the application of relevant sanctions can sometimes take time.

"Should any sanctions be applied, these will be updated ahead of this weekend’s round of fixtures."

She added: "Scottish Rugby has not been provided any information or evidence which suggests games have been postponed due to an unwillingness to fulfil the fixture by the opposition."

On Scottish Rugby's fixtures and results website on Tuesday, the reason for Saturday's call-off was said to be due to Ellon having "insufficient players", with an "investigation ongoing".

It has since been updated to give the reason as "other", adding that the fixture has been rescheduled for January 6.

Boyd, meanwhile, is looking to take a strong squad for Saturday's game against Highland 2nd XV.

Back-three player Cameron Ryder is likely to miss out through work but he expects to have the rest of the personnel who were primed for action last Saturday.

"We're starting to get a pretty settled squad with good competition for starting places in some areas," Boyd said. "I'm looking forward to the game – it should be a really good challenge for us."

Aberdeen Wanderers' woes hit a new low on Saturday when they were walloped 106-0 away to Moray in the Highlands and Islands conference of Caley 1.

That extended their points differential to -500 after seven games while allowing second-placed Moray to move four points behind leaders Aberdeenshire.

RAF Lossiemouth defeated Highland Seconds 36-12 at the air base.

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