PICTURES: High-scoring battle in Inverness as Moray are edged out by Highland seconds
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After a short winter break, Moray travelled to Inverness on Saturday to play Highland Raptors in a return Tennent’s Caledonia North Region League Division 2 fixture, writes Brian Foreman.
The hosts started brightly but sound defence by the Elgin side turned into a 7th minute 0-7 lead for the visitors when following an attacking line-out take, Steven Clark crashed over the try. Rory Millar converted.
Highland returned to the attack and in 21st minute, their left wing evaded some tackles before turning the ball back inside to the supporting full-back to score a converted try to level the score at 7-7.
On the half-hour mark, Moray regained the lead.
A big scrum, following a penalty award, was released to Cameron Hughes who managed to wriggle free from a number of tackle attempts to score. Millar added the conversion for 7-14.
The visiting pack was causing problems and on several occasions throughout the first half disrupted Highland ball.
In the 34th minute, Lewis Scott ripped ball free on halfway and raced to the try line leaving defenders in his wake for a converted try and 7-21.
Moray were in control at this point but, just on half-time, a loose pass in their 22, went to ground, allowing Highland to pounce on it for an unconverted score and half-time 12-21 score-line.
The Inverness side made a number substitutions up front to try and give more impetus.
This had an immediate effect and they went on to control the next 30 minutes of play with Moray living off scraps.
The Elgin side faced up valiantly but in the 57th minute the lead reduced to 19-21 when the loose-head prop barrelled over the line after an attacking line-out.
Within four minutes, Highland had scored two further tries to take, and then stretch the lead, from two very similar situations.
On both occasions, cruel bounces in the 22 left the Moray defence stranded, allowing the Inverness side to collect and profit from two converted tries, creating a 33-21 score-line.
They were in complete control and from a driving maul added a sixth converted try in the 73rd minute for 40-21.
With very little time, Moray seemed down and out but in the 76th minute, from a quick penalty tap, Tom Reynolds made the line. Millar converted the bonus point score for 40-28.
A couple of minutes later, they set up an interesting finish when wing Tom Letch sidestepped and swerved past a couple of defenders on his 10-metre line and sprinted 60 metres to score a converted try under the posts for 40-35.
Moray’s tails were up and there was still time but, in their desperation to win ball at a ruck, they gave away a penalty. The Highland stand-off stepped up and landed the long penalty kick for a final score of Highland 43, Moray 35.
It had been a terrific game of rugby 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 but need to try and get maximum points in their final games.
This Saturday, Moray are away to Aberdeen Grammar 2nds.