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Yellows get the better of Highland 3rd XV for second conference win

By Iain Grant

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Cameron Ryder played well in his first game at stand-off. Picture: James Gunn
Cameron Ryder played well in his first game at stand-off. Picture: James Gunn

Caithness Seconds posted their second win of the Caledonia North Region 2 Highlands and Islands conference after they got the better of Highland 3rd XV at Millbank on Saturday.

Cameron Ryder's fourth penalty and a five-pointer from a maul drive, both in overtime, sealed a 31-19 victory in a game in which the Yellows were only briefly behind early on.

With Caithness 1sts and Highlands Seconds both grounded, the sides were able to draft in a handful of late additions and field two full squads of 21.

The home side opened up a six-point lead in the first 10 minutes with Ryder's first two penalties. In between, they had to do some last-ditch defending deep in their own territory.

Visiting number eight Adrea Navilinikoro went closest before being bundled into touch near the right corner flag.

Despite Highland stand-off Mikaele Stark having been yellow-carded for his team's repeated offside infringements, they drew ahead on 18 minutes when centre Mala Vakadewabuka latched on to a stray pass from Yeager Coghill to race in from the halfway line.

Donald Ferguson landed the conversion to edge his side in front.

The lead lasted less than five minutes when the latest in a series of offside penalties in the Highland 22 ended with number eight Cole Wilson touching down. Ryder's conversion put the Yellows 13-7 up.

The half ended with Ryder going close with a drop goal.

The Yellows resumed brightly with Wilson prominent in a sequence which ended with Ferguson at full stretch to ground flying right-winger Scott Mackay.

Duncan Mackay, Tom David and skipper Dave McIntosh worked tirelessly in attack and defence for the Yellows, who drew further in front with a Ryder penalty on 50 minutes.

Stark was then cut down less than a metre from the line with Highland held up over the line from the follow-up surge.

Play quickly switched to the other end and a slick right-to-left move ended with Drew Mathieson sending left winger Max Kennedy free but he knocked on as he went to touch down in-goal.

Highland regained the ascendancy with home full-back Gary Mackay featuring with a crucial tackle in front of his posts.

The pressure was unrelenting and finally Stark's line break was finished off by Navilinikoro with 12 minutes left.

The unconverted try reduced the deficit to four points but that was as close as it got.

The introduction of Hamish Coghill and Kevin Budge added heft and bite to the forward effort and within two minutes Ryder's probe down the blind side found replacement prop Ally Williams who burrowed over for a try, converted by the stand-off.

Highland responded with a Vakadewabuka solo try, improved by Stark.

But as the clock ticked towards no side, Ryder's penalty and Duncan MacMillan's touchdown following a lineout drive made sure their side would prevail.

The match proved a fitting farewell for Cameron Boyd, in his third season as second-team coach.

He is remaining with the club and will still have oversight of the Seconds but he has just taken up the reins as the men's head coach.

Boyd said: "I thought it was a really good performance by our guys and it is always good to get a win over Highland as we haven't had one at senior level for quite a while.

"I was also really pleased with the turnout. There was a really good crowd, the biggest I've seen at a Seconds match."

He was delighted how well Ryder played in his first game at stand-off and also gave mentions in despatches to Wilson and Mathieson in what he said was an excellent team display.

The Yellows will face a tough task at Millbank on Saturday when they host Ross Sutherland, who head the conference with 427 points from their seven matches. The game kicks off at 2pm.

The Invergordon side stayed top with a 41-15 win over Moray 2nd XV. Kinloss Eagles remain undefeated in second, a point behind Ross with a game fewer played, after their 73-15 thrashing of Skye.

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