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PICTURES: Victory for Moray Rugby Club in their Tennents Caledonia North Region League Division 2 opener against Mackie Academy at Morriston in Elgin


By Ali Morrison

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THE Scottish rugby season got under way on Saturday, and Moray RFC made a winning return to action, writes Graham Stables.

Archie Duncan ball in hand and about to score, supported by Ewan Simpson (left) and Cameron Preece. Photo: John MacGregor
Archie Duncan ball in hand and about to score, supported by Ewan Simpson (left) and Cameron Preece. Photo: John MacGregor

Mackie were the first visitors to Morriston and kicked off, but it was the home side that took the early impetus and applied pressure in the opposition half.

In the fourth minute, they took the lead. A scrum, 35 metres out, was cleanly secured and the ball moved to the backs who ran straight at the defence.

A ruck was set and the ball again moved wide to centre Connor McWilliam who found the gap before offloading to full-back Archie Duncan to run in the try. Stand-off Rory Millar converted for a 7-0 lead.

Moray continued to press throughout the first 20 minutes but the combination of sound defence by the visitors and a number of knock-ons and the like in attack meant that they did not add to the lead.

In the final 10 minutes of the half, Mackie came more and more into the game and through a number of penalty kicks and some positive running by their backs, they spent time in the home half. On the 37th minute mark, their efforts produced a try when after some hard running at the line, Mikey Muir found a gap and scored a converted try for a half-time score of 7-7.

Moray kicked off the second half and returned to the offensive, camping themselves in the Stonehaven side’s half.

In the 46th minute, they turned over a scrum, 30 metres out and when the ball was moved to centre, Ewan Simpson, he broke down the blindside and made good ground.

Connor McWilliam goes over the line for his Moray try. Photo: John MacGregor
Connor McWilliam goes over the line for his Moray try. Photo: John MacGregor

He was tackled 15 metres from the goal-line but McWilliam was in support, took the pop and made the line out wide. Millar’s attempt came back off the upright leaving the score at 12-7.

Celebration time for Connor McWilliam. Photo: John MacGregor
Celebration time for Connor McWilliam. Photo: John MacGregor

From the restart, winger Stewart Bright took the ball and ran hard at the defence. He made good ground before being stopped but managed to offload to Simpson in support and when he was tackled, he returned the ball inside to Millar who outpaced the defence to score an unconverted try for 17-7.

Rory Millar races clear to score another try. Photo: John MacGregor.
Rory Millar races clear to score another try. Photo: John MacGregor.

The visitors tried to respond quickly from this double blow but the home defence stood strong.

On the 60-minute mark, Moray increased their lead to 20-7 when Millar slotted a penalty following hands in a ruck decision on the 22.

Both sides continued to attack with defences remaining solid but in the 68th minute, Mackie scored a second converted try.

Clean ball was taken at a line on the home 10 and moved wide. Dave Smith found the gap and scored under the posts for 20-14 to set up a nervy finish.

Mackie pushed hard for a winning score but Moray held strong and the final whistle went with the home side taking the 4-point win.

It had been a good solid start for the Moray side who were well organised, competed well in all phases and always looked a threat with ball in hand.

Yes, there was rustiness but that is only to be expected after 18 months away from competitive rugby.

This Saturday, Moray are again at home on league business when they play Banff at 3pm at Morriston.

It was also a busy weekend for other age groups at Moray Rugby Club.

The Boys Caledonia Club Conference started and on Saturday a combined Moray/Huntly U18 side had a good, but narrow 22-20 win against Deeside/Garioch U18s.

The combined Moray/Huntly U13, U14, U15 and U16 sides played against their Deeside/Garioch counterparts on Sunday and although they lost each of the games, they stuck in well and were generally competitive.

This weekend, the Boys Caledonia Club Conference takes all sides to Ellon.

On Sunday, a group of seven Moray Girls made the trip to Garioch in Inverurie to take part in the Girls Regional Fixture Round 1.

These fixtures are important stepping stones on the girls' journey in rugby and they showed up well on the playing field as well as enjoying the camaraderie of interacting with the other teams.

This week the second round takes them to Huntly.


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