Moray Rugby Club suffer first defeat in over a year as Aberdeenshire take over top spot in Caledonia North Conference
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Moray’s 13-month-long unbeaten league record came to an end last Saturday when they lost out by 35 points to 29 in Aberdeen.
The Elgin side last tasted defeat on the opening day of last season's Caledonia North Division 2 campaign, before winning their next 15 on their way to the title and promotion.
Moray also won their opening five fixtures in the Caledonia North Conference but finally found their match in hosts Aberdeenshire on Saturday.
An early penalty for over the top at a ruck, 30 metres out, gave the visitors the chance to take the lead but the windy conditions were difficult and stand-off Rory Millar pushed the attempt wide.
Three minutes later, Moray lost a scrum against the head in their 22 and when the ball was spun wide, the overlap was created and Shire score an unconverted try for 5-0.
In the 13th minute, the Elgin side took the lead. Having progressed into the 22 and a ruck, the ball was opened to centre Cameron Hughes, who took on the defence before offloading the ball to no. 8 David Clarke to run in the score. Millar added the extras for 5-7.
Four minutes later, they added a second. A sliced clearance from the home side allowed Moray to run back at them and set ruck. Ball was moved quickly to Hughes who breached the defence and scored an unconverted try out wide for 5-12.
In the 26th minute, a penalty took the visitors to an attacking line, 15 metres out. Clean ball was taken and wing-forward Kris Morrison broke and took the ball to a ruck. The ball was moved quickly to Millar and he stepped inside his opposite number and made the line for a try he converted for 5-19.
In the last five minutes of the half, the Elgin side leaked two tries. A penalty gave the home side an attacking line 15 metres out and after a number of drives for the line, the big forwards made the line for the first, a converted try.
From the restart, a scrum for not 10 allowed ball to be taken up the right side of the pitch and a clean break saw an unconverted try scored for a half-time score of 17-19.
Moray attacked through hands early in the second half but an unenforced error brought the opportunity to a halt. A high tackle allowed Shire to progress into the 22. Ball was taken at the line and after a number of drives for the line, the No 8 burst through and scored an unconverted try to take the lead at 22-19.
With the wind at their backs, the home side pushed to increase the lead. In the 57th minute, they added another unconverted try,through a similar driving move, for 27-19.
In the 67th minute, a penalty again gave the Aberdeen side an attacking line deep in the 22. The ‘catch and drive’ was working well and they scored another unconverted try for 32-19.
Moray were down but not out and camped themselves in the home 22 for the next 10 minutes. After a number of drives for the line by the forwards and a series of penalties conceded by the home side, the ball was moved to wing Lewis Scott and he broke through to score the bonus point try. Millar added the conversion for 32-26.
They were back within a converted try of a win but in the 38th minute the referee controversially adjudged a choke-tackle to be a high tackle and handed Shire the opportunity to land the penalty to take the score to 35-26.
The Elgin side managed to turn over ball from the restart and were handed a penalty 30-metres out centre-field. With time almost up, the game was now out with their reach and Millar therefore stepped up to try and win an extra bonus point for being within a converted try scoreline. He struck the ball superbly into the strong wind and landed the kick for 35-29.
It had been a hard day in horrible weather conditions. The Aberdeenshire scrum had been strong and was effective when near the line. The Moray side are disappointed to lose their unbeaten record but will come back stronger from the experience.
This Saturday, both the 1sts and 2nds travel to Thurso to take on their Caithness counterparts. Moray Women are also in action this weekend, away to Highland Women.