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Yellows return to competitive action as Caithness Rugby Club aims to boost sport in county

By Iain Grant

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Russell Mill breaks clear with Ewan Macdonald jumping over a defender. Picture: James Gunn
Russell Mill breaks clear with Ewan Macdonald jumping over a defender. Picture: James Gunn

Saturday was a red-letter day for Caithness Rugby Club as it marked the return of competitive rugby for the men's second XV.

The Yellows last took part in a league in the mid 1990s, since when their outings have been confined to at best a handful of friendlies per season.

Opponents Aberdeen Taekali were themselves making their debut in the Caledonian Division 4 North, the bottom tier of Scottish Rugby's club league pyramid.

It proved a chastening experience for the city new boys as they toiled at Millbank in an unrelenting downpour and found themselves at the wrong end of a rout as the home men scored 72 unopposed points.

Winger Stuart Crichton ran in five tries in 20 minutes but was pipped by lock Sinclair Bremner for the man-of-the-match award.

For first team coach Ewen Boyd, the re-emergence of the 2nds as a fighting force is another step towards achieving the aim of making Caithness a fully-fledged community club.

"It's great to see the 2nds having regular fixtures again," he said. "They are in a league of 11 and actually have more scheduled games than the 1sts.

"They've got a large group of players and just now it's a case that if you don't train, you don't get in the squad."

The move, he said, will ease the transition into senior rugby for the upcoming clutch of under-18s.

"Previously there was no option but for them to be launched right into the 1st team," said Boyd.

The club is not getting carried away and appreciates that historically the lower leagues have been disrupted by call-offs caused by teams struggling for numbers.

It is believed organisers have a Plan B in the event of this happening in Caley North 4, which has eight sides from Grampian, together with Caithness, Highland 3rds and Inverness Craig Dunain.

While Boyd and his squad were idle on Saturday, it proved a busy day for the club.

The Caithness RFC 2nd XV. Picture: James Gunn
The Caithness RFC 2nd XV. Picture: James Gunn

"As well as the 2nds, the women had a come-and-try event, which even though the rain was bouncing down, went well and attracted half-a-dozen new people interested in getting involved," Boyd said.

He said the club aims to forge pathways from micros and minis through the schools to the senior level for both sexes to elevate rugby "right up there in the sports played in the county".

There is an incentive for clubs to maximise participation across the board in terms of attracting financial and other support from Scottish Rugby.

The Greens, meanwhile, will be looking to build on their opening day victory in Caley Division One when they host Aberdeen Wanderers tomorrow.

Boyd is hoping to field much the same squad as ran in seven tries in their 43-3 triumph over Hillfoots.

Niggling injuries to centre Douglas Webster (shoulder) and scrum half Kris Hamilton (foot) will require late fitness tests while Grant Anderson is offshore and Marc Nicolson is on the long-term injury list.

Wandies got their campaign off to a flier on Saturday with a hard-earned 34-26 bonus point win over Blairgowrie.

Boyd said it will be some time before the league settles down and the frontrunners emerge.

"We don't know what level they (Wanderers) are at and we are not going to focus too much on them," he said. "It's important we keep the focus on what we can do and play to our strengths."

The match at Millbank has a 3pm kick-off.

The 2nds, meanwhile, make their first trip down the A9 to play Highland 3rds at Canal Park.

Skipper Michael Tait said: "We had a squad of 22 on Saturday and it was obviously good to run in a few tries.

"But we know it's going to be a step up tomorrow against Highland."

The other Caley 1 matches on Saturday saw Dunfermline edge to a 17-11 win at Hillfoots and Ellon and Grangemouth earn three points apiece from a 32-32 draw in the north-east.

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