Marauding Stags In Masterful Bonus Point Win.

St Andrews Uni vs. Ross – Sutherland RFC
Caledonia League 1
9th April 2011
25 - 40
Ross-Sutherland moved off the foot of the table this weekend for the first time this season with 40 points to 25 away win against St Andrews University.
This was Ross-Sutherlands fifth away game in a row and after the disappointment of going out of the Regional Bowl in the semi's the previous week it was always going to be hard to get back to winning ways, but the incentive of finally hauling themselves off the bottom of the league was a big carrot for the plucky lads from Invergordon. 
There was a different look to the side that had performed so well in the cup run and a few late call offs and late injuries meant the Stags departed the Naval Grounds with a much changed side. But in true Ross fashion they managed to secure the services of a few Stags in exile to fill the team sheet.  Nonetheless, the team that took the field was packed full of talent and victory was well within reach.
Captain, Ken Mackenzie (standing in for trans-continental romeo Ali Ansbro) won the toss and elected to play up the not inconsiderable hill in the first half.  The day was a belter and the pitch in great nick and no doubt he felt that if Ross were in touch at half time they would run in tries down the slope in the second half.  Ross have committed to playing fast, running rugby with plenty of offloading from tackles in the second half of the season and this was to be their plan again as they immediately took the game to the students.  However, after great pressure from Ross the ball was spilled and the useful University backs capitalised with a scintillating counter attack try which remained unconverted. 

This looked ominous but Ross stuck to their task hoping to set better defensive lines at the next time of asking. The Ross forwards played outstandingly well, Lachie Stewart and Kerr Smith making hard yards and getting the ball away out of contact to the graceful Gareth Braddick on the wing but the slope and the heat making it exhausting work.  However, the students constant offside infringements meant Johnny Mann was presented the opportunity to get Ross off the mark- which he duly took with aplomb.

Ross's defence was becoming an issue as the students always looked dangerous with turnover ball, strong runners using the downhill advantage, and they quickly scored a converted try to take their lead to 12-5.  The students threatened to overwhelm their opponents in this period and but for some brilliant cover defence from kilted kiwi Jimmy Sutherland and perennial club hero Stewart Mack (who passed up a day with the family flock to play) they might have done just that.  The Ross team responded to their task and hung on. Some Herculean efforts up the slope by Ruaridh Waugh, his flowing style so important to Ross's revival this season, again brought a penalty for offside as the students couldn't react to the quick ball that these men of the north thrive upon.  John Mann took the 3 points easily and was called on again minutes later from a harder position but once more stroked it effortlessly over, his economical style drawing comparisons to his boyhood hero Chris Patterson, to bring the score to 12-9 at half time.

Ross had worked so hard to stay in the game and now had the slope advantage and perhaps became a little complacent in the early stages of the second half and but for tremendous tackling from Donald 'Chopper' Gordon and evergreen talisman Ian Thompson they might have found themselves down still further.
 
The breakthrough finally came with 55minutes played as Ken Mackenzie scored a Captains try handing off and sidestepping the perma-tanned full back to dot down under the posts.  The metronomic boot of John Mann adding the extras.
The 12-16 lead was short lived however as the home side hit back with another break away score after Lachie Stewarts pass couldn't go to hand and they scampered away into the corner and converted to lead again 19-16.  The rangy number eight was to atone immediately however with a pick up from the base of a scrum against the head, drawing his man beautifully and this time releasing Tain flyer Ben Parkes to race home from 40 yards.

 Ross were well on top by now and another quick try by Jimmy Sutherland took the score to 26-19 before the all important bonus point try by Ali Kennedy. The St Andrews dotted down for a consolation try before Ali Kennedy once more brought the curtain down with a swashbuckling run in from all of 50 yards.  John Mann capping a man of the match performance with yet more extras to leave the final score 40-24 and put an end to the students who had been run ragged by a tireless Ross performance that helped ease the pain of missing out on a trip to Murrayfield next week.

Honourable mentions must be made to fan's favourite Kenny Dalrymple who rolled back the years to throw in at the lineout admirably once again.  The continuity and support play make this Ross - Sutherland team a great side to watch

With it being the Cup Finals day at Murrayfeild Ross-Sutherland have a free weekend but are looking to have a friendly or a Stags Vs Wildcats interclub game. For more information go to www.ross-sutherland.com
Ross-Sutherland: 1. K. Drain 2. K. Dalrymple 3. K. Mackenzie 4. G. Morrison 5. K. Smith 6. D. Gordon 7. R. Waugh 8. L. Stewart 9. S. Mack 10. J. Mann 11. B. Parks 12. I. Thompson 13. A. Kennedy 14. G. Braddick 15. J. Sutherland: subs A. McLean
Ross – Sutherland ‘Wildcats’ were also in action this weekend with a 50 – 10 win over Craig Dunain RFC