Months before the idea was aired by Bruce Ruthven, formerly of Melrose RFC and the wheels were set in motion by the tour steering group, parents and players. Various fundraising events were coordinated to raise the six thousand pounds required for the tour to take place.
The tour party consisted of twenty players and the management group who flew to Edinburgh on the Friday and were accommodated at Melrose Youth Hostel for their three nights stay before returning on the Monday. Saturday saw the Orkney boys take on Melrose U14s as a curtain raiser to the Premiership Final Melrose v Ayr which was a massive occasion for the boys who got the opportunity to play on the The Greenyards with a growing crowd present before the main event.
The Orkney boys showed good strength in the set piece and had good possession of the ball in the early stages of the game. Orkneys Chris Munson picked up an early injury which ruled him out for the rest of the game which would certainly hinder the Orkney side’s progress in the game. Taylor Pilkington scored for Orkney with a well timed kick from a breakdown in play to record Orkneys first Score before Melrose responded with three tries in twelve minutes. Orkney continued to battle hard but struggled with the width of their game and the ball handling of the Melrose back division who had overlaps on the outside which they used to great effect to score a further six tries. Further tries from Adam Shaw, Jason Scott and Mark Linklater in the later stages of the game showed that the Orkney boys could compete and hold their own against a much more street wise opposition and with further competitive matches would certainly close the gap on their game awareness difference. The final score was Melrose U14s 35 – Orkney U14s 16.
Orkney then watched the Premiership final where Melrose dominated Ayr in a spectacular match with big hits, fast paced action and showed commitment to the end from both teams. Final Score Melrose 29 – Ayr 20.
On Sunday 24th Orkney A and Orkney B played 7 a-side rugby in the The Greenyards shield. Both teams were in pools of 4 and received 3 games each. Orkney A played the impressive and top Scottish age grade team Stirling County in Game 1 losing out 32 – 15 which was very commendable result for their boys playing their first formal competitive 7s match and winning the 2nd half 12 – 5. The 2nd game saw Orkney A play Melrose A which was a fantastic contest with the Orkney boys clicking into gear and playing some magnificent rugby and stunning the Melrose players by winning 32 – 17. In the last game the boys were beaten narrowly by Gala Red Triangle 17 – 26.
Orkney B struggled in their opening game versus Hawick losing 38 – 0 and then went on to play Melrose B which they also lost 28 – 7. In their final game the players did exceptionally well and beat Langholm 21 – 17.
Club Development Officer Bruce Ruthven reviewed the tour by saying; “It was a very worthwhile tour to expose the Orkney U14s to some of the best players at this age group in Scotland at both 15 a-side and 7 a-side Rugby. The players will have benefitted hugely in terms of their playing ability and game sense. The boys also had the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere of a top flight game of club rugby and meet the top players and coaches. The squad of boys have shown good commitment towards the tour fundraising which was a challenge and task in itself and a learning experience. This sends a great benchmark out to the rest of the club and indeed other Orkney clubs to pursue top competition and work hard to achieve the funding which allows tours to take place. Orkney received a great deal of praise from opposition players, coaches and officials about their game play and off the pitch respect and general positive tour ethos. Well done to the boys who were involved.
Tour Squad - Andrew Shaw , Jack Patterson, Connor Crawford, Mark Sinclair, Taylor Pilkington – Tait, Chris Munson, Nicol Gray, Ross Sinclair, Cameron Gray , Sam Kennedy, Craig Russell, Ronan Osborne, Jason Scott, Gavin Woodbridge, Jordan Thomson, Mark Linklater, Thomas Penny, Orrin Fraser, Graham Muir, Thorfinn Williamson, Bruce (Batty) Pilkington, Graham Lincoln, Ken Amer & Bruce Ruthven.