Garioch travelled to Inverness to play Craig Dunain, Inverness, in the first round of the BT Caledonia Regional Bowl North on Saturday and were quietly optimistic against a side one league below them.
A much changed team from the previous week due to injuries and work commitments saw Stuart Morrison captaining the side in the absence of regular captain Fraser Smith. Despite having to get changed a mile from the pitch Garioch adopted a professional attitude from the start and, after a good warm up, looked to stamp an early authority on the game.
Direct from the kick off the forwards made great ground through Callum Morrison and Steven Dey and after quick ball and some good work by the backs Sean LOW scored an unconverted try. Garioch 5-0 up inside the first minute.
The second and third tries followed very quickly. Firstly Liam Watkinson made great progress in midfield after a line out on halfway and LOW finished the move under the posts, Raeper converted. Then after some good rucking by Stuart Morrison and his brother Callum Morrison, LOW was on hand once again to finish the move. Another Raeper conversion made the score 19-0 inside 10 minutes.
It was now the forwards turn to get in on the act and Steven Dey made the hard yards to take play deep inside the Craig Dunain 22. A steal by Toni Smith in the line out led to a catch and drive by that man Dey and David TURNER was on his shoulder to finish the move off. The tricky conversion was missed. 12 minutes played 24-0.
The rampaging Steven Dey went off injured to be replaced by Ian Ferguson. Dey’s strong forward drives were sorely missed and Garioch now became a bit disjointed and lost their shape allowing Craig Dunain back into the game. The next 20 minutes saw Garioch camped almost entirely in their own 22 under some real pressure but some fantastic defence, particularly from Stuart Morrison and Fraser MacRobb, ensured the line would not be breached. Coach, Andy Gowrie, became frustrated at the lack of structure and emphasised the need to stick to the game plan. Garioch regained some control and a break by Paxton was unlucky not to bring a try but from the resulting plays Garioch showed patience and eventually scored an unconverted try when Stevie DRIVER took the final pass from Ian Ferguson. There was still some time left in the first half and some more good work by Paxton resulted in an unconverted try in the right corner for Sean LOW, his fourth try of the game.
34-0 at half time.
The second half was more of the same with the Garioch forwards gaining ground at every opportunity and the backs in turn taking the game to the opposition and playing everything on the gain line. Another steal from Fraser MacRobb allowed Stuart Morrison to give the scoring pass to his brother Callum MORRISON for a try under the posts. Stuart Raeper, who along with his fellow half back Quinn MacDonald was beginning to control the game, converted. Callum Morrison became the creator and his long kick into the zone was recovered and touched down by Andrew PAXTON for his first competitive try for Garioch with Raeper again converting.
Liam Watkinson was now becoming extremely dangerous in the Garioch midfield making some great line breaks and after one such burst and controlled play by the forwards the ball was spun wide and PAXTON finished it off in the corner. The Garioch RDO was on a roll now and he scored two more tries in quick succession. PAXTON was then released after some good hold up play by Gowrie in the middle of the park and then, after yet another steal from the superhuman Fraser MacRobb, Man of the Match PAXTON scored under the posts. Raeper converted the last try.
In the dying minutes after a brilliant chip, chase, rip, steal and pass by Calum Davies the supporting Quinn MACDONALD was on hand to finish it off. Callum Morrison was successful with the difficult conversion to make the final score Inverness Craig Dunain 0, Garioch 72.
Interviewed afterwards Coach Andy Gowrie said “When we stuck to the game plan we were excellent and when you consider we had five players in the squad over 45 this was really pleasing. This was a real team effort from Garioch and plaudits go out to everyone who travelled including players, staff and supporters alike”.
Garioch: Ho, C Morrison, Driver, Smith, Dey, Turner, MacRobb, S Morrison, MacDonald, Raeper, Davies, Watkinson, Paxton, Lonchay, Low, N Morrison, Ferguson, Harris, Gowrie
Next Saturday Garioch open their league campaign with a tricky game away to Aberdeenshire 2nd XV, KO at Woodside Sports Complex, Aberdeen. Kick off is at 3pm.