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HIGHLAND 2NDS 43 MORAY 35
Fri 14th Jan 2022
After a short winter break Moray travelled to Inverness on Saturday to play Highland Raptors in the return leg of the Tennent’s Caledonia North Region League Division 2. The first game saw Moray on top in the first half with Highland fighting back to secure a draw. Would this one be similar and go down to the wire? An eleven try thriller ensued.

On a bright and crisp day, the hosts started brightly and put Moray under pressure, but sound defence turned into a 7th minute score for the visitors. Highland failed to release from the tackle on halfway. Millar’s penalty kick found touch, 5metres out. Ball was secured and Steven Clark crashed over. Millar converted. Score 0-7.

Highland continued attacking, spreading the ball wide at any opportunity and on 21mins, they were rewarded with a try. For once the Moray defence was left wanting as the Raptors left wing evaded a couple of tackles before feeding inside to the supporting fullback for the score. This was converted. Score 7-7.

Just before the half hour Moray were back in front. A yellow card for a swinging arm high tackle saw Highland lose a man for 10mins. Moray chose a scrum from the penalty award, 15metres out. Their pack drove the hosts back before releasing to Cameron Hughes. As usual, the centre found a way to wriggle free from the numerous would-be tacklers and score near the posts. Millar converted. Score 7-14.

Moray had managed to steal possession on multiple occasions throughout the first half and one on 34 mins proved the most profitable. Dynamic prop and captain for the day Lewis Scott, ripped the ball free in a stand-up tackle on halfway and raced to the try line leaving defenders in his wake. The conversion from Millar made the score 7-21.

Moray were in control at this point but let the hosts back into the game just as half time approached. With Highland pressing, Moray once again disrupted possession near their own line. With no apparent option for a clearance kick to touch, a couple of loose passes ensued resulting in the ball going to ground. Highland pounced on it for an unconverted score. Half-time 12-21.

Moray were soon put on notice that things would be very different over the next forty minutes. The hosts had made astute substitutions during the break, and they became a much more cohesive unit up front. This almost bore fruit within five minutes of the restart but a forced fumble over the line, whilst in the act of scoring, saved Moray.

There then followed a thirty minute spell of sustained pressure by the hosts. Moray were always on the back foot, unable to get out of their own half and living off scraps of possession. What ball they did get, they couldn’t retain and on 57mins Highland finally broke through. Moray were caught offside on halfway. The kick to touch set up good position and the lineout take lead to the loose head prop finding some space and barrelling over the line. The conversion took the score to 19-21.

Within two minutes Highland had scored again and were ahead for the first time in the match. Moray secured line-out ball on halfway but kicked away possession. A long range reply put the retreating winger under pressure in the left hand corner. As he tried to gather the ball near the try line, a cruel bounce took it away from him. The grateful attacker scooped it up for a converted, bonus point try. Score. 26-21.

Two minutes later, Highland scored again through a similar method. This time the ball was lost in the tackle on halfway and grubbered through to the same corner and with a carbon copy cruel bounce, a try resulted. Score 33-21.

Highland, in complete control, added to their tally on 73mins. A driving maul from a penalty lineout giving them a sixth try to stretch the lead to what seemed an almost insurmountable 40-21 lead.

With four minutes left and possibly resigned to losing the game, Moray knew they could still secure a bonus point with a fourth try of their own. A rare second half foray into the opposition territory led to a penalty, when Highland infringed at the ruck. Millar saw an opportunity and took a quick tap ball and released the backs for substitute Tom Reynolds to score. The conversion made it 40-28.

Though still twelve points in arrears and with only a few minutes left on the clock, Moray decided to make things interesting by scoring again. From a lineout deep in their own territory they spun the ball wide to left wing Tom Letch. From his own 10m line and urged on by centre Hughes to ‘back himself’, he sidestepped and swerved round two flailing defenders to dash 60 metres and score near the posts. With time fading, Millar had to hurry the kick but kept up his 100% conversation rate to make it an almost unthinkable 40-35.

With time still on the clock, Moray’s tails were up. They had now got into losing bonus point territory, but wanted more with a try and conversion to win it.

But there was to be no fairy-tale ending. The final word would go to Highland. They secured the ensuing restart. Moray, in their desperation to regain possession, transgressed at the ruck and the cool composed Highland stand-off slotted the long range penalty to end the game and dash Moray hopes. To add insult to injury, the final score of 43-35 would increase the gap between the teams to 8 and thus deny Moray the losing bonus point.

A terrific game to start the New Year but for Moray, a hard pill to swallow. They gave so much and after conceding a few tries and the lead after half-time, they showed great character and battled to the very end, just coming up short. They are still in the title fight and they should take great heart from their resolve and commitment to drive them on for the final few games and maximise their final points total.

(More images from this match can be found in the Gallery

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Caledonia 2 North

(2021/22 Results)
TEAM PLD PTS
Aberdeenshire 10 36
Moray 11 35
Highland 2nd XV 8 31
Ross Sutherland 8 17
Banff 9 12
Mackie 7 9
Aberdeen Grammar 2nd XV 7 6

Last 1st XV Game

1st XV Season (2021/22)
Moray 81 - 14 Aberdeen Grammar 2nd XV
22nd Jan 22 - KO: 14:00
Venue: Morriston
:: Match Report

Next 1st XV Game

1st XV Season (2021/22)
Banff vs Moray
5th Feb 22 - KO: 14:00
Venue: Duff House
:: More Fixtures

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Moray Rugby Football Club is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) regulated by the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), Scottish Charity number: SC051430