The Mackie FP 1st XV squad rose early on Saturday morning to get the early flight to Orkney for their Caledonian League 1 clash with the islanders. Unfortunately what would have been an easy trip up with plenty of time to relax before the game became fraught when prior to take off, a problem with the plane’s engine meant a delay of 3 1/2 hours. This made for a mad dash at the other end to get from the airport to the rugby ground and kicking off within half an hour...not ideal preparations for what was a must win game for both Mackie and their hosts. Both teams sat bottom of the league and struggling to re-capture the form they displayed last season to finish 3rd and 4th in the league.
The weather in Kirkwall was fortunately very nice barring a stiff breeze running across the pitch and at kick off, both teams displayed the desire and intensity that had been sadly missing from the Mackie team in recent weeks. In the first 40 minutes of rugby which was entertaining to watch, neither team could break the deadlock despite some great flair play from the backs in both teams. The Orkney backs releasing their blind side winger through the tiniest of gaps on two occasions was a joy to watch. Just as exciting was seeing new recruit Rawri Atkins starting his first game at outside centre where he joined a settled Mackie back division who look capable of great things if they could just be given the platform to do so.
The game was nip and tuck for the whole of the first half with neither team really managing to put together consistent phases. This has been Mackie’s problem all season so far and part of this can be put down to the high turnover of players so far this year due to injury, offshore and illness. With different combinations of 18 players player 8 positions in the forwards each week so far this season it is hard to work together at training so the pack is a solid unit. Coupled with a downpour just before kick off, this meant a greasy ball and there were quite a number of knock ons and turn overs in the rucks, compounding efforts to retain ball.
Mackie is known for their fitness around the park and in each game this year they have ‘won’ the second half, so going into the 2nd period at 0-0, the belief that they would win was definitely there. unfortunately the actions did not match the belief and a 10 minute spell of hell with some odd refereeing decisions and mistakes meant that at 60 minutes the score was 26-0.
Coach Colin Mair was incensed at the performance and demanded more in a tirade under the posts that Alex Ferguson would have been proud of! It worked however and Mackie began to press again with an anger that was perhaps lacking in the early part of the second half. Captain Simon Morgan lead from the front in an unfamiliar back row position and powered over in his trademark spinning tornado technique to score a try under the posts which was converted by Levack.
The fitness was telling now and Mackie broke again as fly half Atkins released centre Levack at the half way line to ‘sprint’ off down the pitch sending a couple of defenders the wrong way with a dummy pass. Miraculously however he was caught just before the line but the support was there and after a quick ruck Atkins popped off to Ross Gray to score in the corner. One of the Gray brothers has scored in all six league matches this year so it looks so far like a two horse race for top try scorer this season. Levack, still recovering from his run unfortunately missed the kick into the wind.
The game ended 26-12 and Mackie sit bottom of the league. Confidence is a big issue now as well as the consistent team list. The squad is improving though and numbers at training are superb. Perhaps with the 2nd XV getting their first game and first win at the weekend this will boost the whole senior squad to start climbing back up the league.