CALEDONIA enjoyed one of its best weekends in years after three sides from the area reached national finals, while another clinched a national league title, sparking off joyous celebrations in Kelso, Edinburgh, Inverness and Kirkwall.
But while there was joy for Aberdeen Grammar and Highland when they reached the final of the largely ignored National League Cup after wins against Kelso and Musselburgh, and Aberdeenshire eased through to the final of the National Bowl at the expense of Edinburgh Northern, there were mixed emotions in Orkney.
Gordonians were happy to settle for a losing bonus point in their 14-13 defeat at the hands of the islanders, enabling them to clinch the National League 3 title, but the win was not enough to prevent the home side from being relegated.
Jim Sugden, the president of the Aberdeen side summed up the mixed feelings at Pickaquoy when he said: “We were delighted to have won the league. We have led from start to finish, enjoying ourselves in the process, but gutted for Orkney.
“Orkney are one of the great clubs in Scotland who will be sorely missed by the many friends they made in the national leagues. I just hope they will bounce back.”
Ironically, it was the result from nearby [or as nearby as is possible] Caithness which put Orkney down after they lost 25-23 in a tight finish against relegation haunted Perthshire, who saved themselves from the drop with a late score.
Aberdeen Grammar were on top form at Poynder Park, never having to get into top gear against a stuffy Kelso side who eventually had to bow the knee to the power of the Rubislaw pack, giving head coach Ali O’Connor a day out to remember.
“We have had a good season, what with a final to come on April 20, and a great chance to finish fourth in National League 1 if we can beat Dundee High at Rubislaw on Saturday,” he said. “The guys are looking forward to meeting Highland in what should be a great final.”
Highland were given a much sterner task at Canal Park where Musselburgh were leading 28-25 with only two minutes to play, but thanks to full-back Johnny Rokodugni’s awesome 40-metre dash, the Inverness side roared into the final by a mere two points.
Head coach Davie Carson hailed his Highland heroes. “This was a great win, especially as we had a number of players stepping up from the 2nd team.” he said. “We now have to keep our focus in National League 2 where two wins from three games will see us promoted. We can then think about the final.”
Caley’s day of joy was completed when Aberdeenshire scored a last gasp try against Edinburgh Northern in their 14-10 win at Inverleith Park, which see the Woodsiders into a Murrayfield final for the first time in its 144 year history, where they will play Dundee University Medics on April 27.
There was further good news for the area when SRU representative Bob Richmond announced: “After a great weekend for the area, I am happy to say that next season both Aberdeenshire and Ellon will be fielding 2nd fifteens.”
The only downside for Caledonia was Strathmore’s agonising 21-20 defeat by Greenock Wanderers in the semi-final of the National Shield.