Friday, May 30, 2014

Lochaber lose and ‘More draw at Drum.

Glenurquhart2 Lochaber 0 (Orion Group Premier League)
Glenurquhart 1 Newtonmore 1 (Marine Harvest North Division 1)

Why the delay in posting the story of the Lochaber game? Well, truth to tell, after the high drama of the last two weeks there was more excitement in the midweek Lotto draw than there was in the whole Lochaber match. In fact it was a surprise to the Wing Centre that it was on at all as he fully expected that the death-and indeed the funeral on the Saturday- of the late Mrs Toal, mam of that superb Lochaber stick player the late Joe Toal, would have occasioned a postponement and that would have been acceptable to all, however loud the cries might have been for continuity. The game went ahead however-hard on the heels of a very competitive second string match against Newtonmore (of which more later, if you pardon the pun) but Lochaber did not seem to be up for it. Not that this betokens any pattern for this week’s Camanachd Cup match at Spean where the home side will be much more prepared and competitive.
Lochaber seemed to be a few players short-Zander Ferguson was certainly absent as was Neil Macdonald-and they got off to a shaky start when a saved shot from one of the Glen forwards-too far away to be seen and in the aftermath of a dull game the Wing Centre was too bored to ask who actually played the ball- came back out to James Macpherson who slammed the ball home from close range. There were just 4 minutes on the clock. You have to hand it to big James; he can strike a ball and this was yet another of the vital goals he has nabbed for the Glen this season. The Courier got it wrong though-he was not signed last season: he has been playing in black and red since season 2011-2012 and has been linked with the Glen long enough to qualify for a council house in the area if such a thing still existed. In case anyone forgets, as Mr Reid is keen to remind us, his father Alan gained immortality as one of the Strathdearn Cup winning side of 1977.
Speaking of Mr Reid it only came to light a week last Wednesday at the Lotto draw in the Steading that he is as blind as a bat.
Young Glen Macdonald drew the balls and as you can see from the picture, Mr Reid is struggling to actually see the number. Yet he seems quite capable of cutting the grass at The Nessiedome without it appearing to be uneven. Remarkable really.
Back at the game Lochaber struggled to make progress and only big Shaun Nicholson, well marshalled though he was by Fraser Heath, looked really to have the skill to get through a Glen backline where Lewis Maclennan was superb with his tackling and first touch.

John Barr is carrying a little niggle and was deployed up front leaving the rear to be policed by Lewis, Fraser Heath, Euan Lloyd and Stuart Reid. Considering the absence of Mike Brady, Ally Mackintosh and Andy Corrigan the surprise was that Lochaber could not quite get into swing and keeper Stuart Mackintosh was not really bothered all afternoon. EJ Tembo received a nasty head injury after 25 minutes and he was replaced by Billy Urquhart who moved up front with Dave Smart dropping to full centre .Fortunately, EJ was able to re-join the game after some patching up from trainer Alan Corrigan.
The Glen made the points safe in the 53rd minute when John Barr laid a ball across to David Smart and he swept it into the net for the winner. Glen deployed Jack Hosie, Billy Urquhart and Ross MacAulay later in the match and they all performed well which means that over the last few matches a good number of second team lads have had to turn out in the senior squad and thereby gained some experience. Glen continued to create chances and Neale Reid was particularly unlucky not to score.
Lochaber did have some ball with their forwards later in the game but never really threatened to score and only had a single shot in the 90 minutes. It was particularly pleasing that centre man Arran Macdonald had his best game of the season by some measure and his consistent long shies were a real asset.
In the context of coming on the back of two very intense games, this was overall a good result; Lochaber are a decent team but they did appear short on confidence.  The hope is that their confidence does not return in the next week!
Such is the nature of the intensity of this Premier League that few sides will be playing with the same set of guys that they began the season with back on March 1st.
Glen are not the only side to suffer like this. Newtonmore seconds played in Drum earlier in the day and it was clear that they too were struggling to find a full set of players for their first team to travel to Kyles apparently to inaugurate the pitch by playing the opening game of the season on the Tighnabruaich Park. How that can be happening as late as the 24th of May is a mystery to this writer but there we are.

The Newtonmore North Division 1 match was however a very competitive and enjoyable affair which the Glen really should have won.
Glen took an early lead through Jack Hosie who tucked the ball into the net in three minutes and then had an opportunity to double their lead when goalie Owen Fraser was judged to have caught the ball when attempting to sweep it by.
Fraser however redeemed himself when he saved the resultant well struck spot hit from Raymond Robertson. Glen youngster Liam Robertson had to leave the field with a nasty hand knock as did one of the Newtonmore youngsters - these kids need to wear gloves or learn to keep the blocking club vertical when they tackle (see pic with Paul Mackintosh above) - and the balance of the game swung then a little to Newtonmore. Chris Sellar evened up the score in 48 minutes with a simple strike and for the rest of the afternoon the sizeable crowd were treated to an entertaining match which either side could have pinched. A draw was probably the fairest result.
Best for the Glen were Ewan Menzies and Raymond Robertson who were always on the front foot though youngster Lachie Smith was not far behind them.
Drew Maclennan also put in an excellent shift as did Brad Sneddon and Jack Hosie while Liam Robertson until the moment of his departure was also putting in a tremendous performance.

This Saturday sees the Lochaber youngsters coming to Drum for a Strathdearn tie and once again the Glen will have to be on top form to make progress. The majority of the good photos - indeed all of them are by Donald Cameron. There were unfortunately no real snappers at the Premier game so the camera phone snaps will have to do. The most memorable is of Lewis Maclennan having a wee rest at the end of the game. The Lochaber game pics are only interesting in that if you big them up you can see how bonny the sky was-which is really the only reason for putting them in.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Hold the back page! Newtonmore are even worse than the Glen at taking penalties

Look at this pic of the two keepers - are they laughing because they cannot believe the quality of the penalties they are facing ? Mebbies aye-mebbies naw but what was certainly true was the fact that the excitement engendered during Saturday’s epic MacTavish semi-final was so great that your correspondent decided to let the dust settle before committing his twisted version of the event to a semi-permanent existence in cyber space. Well no - actually he missed the game - not that that has ever stopped him before. This time it has. Why?
For a start the excitement was so great on the day that nobody took notes; all the Glen eye witnesses were looking at their feet, looking up at the sky or hiding behind their hands - then after the result they all piled into to the Loch Ness Inn and there they stayed until it was time to go to church next day. By that time nobody could even remember the score which was why, if Astie had not been informed of the result by one of the many Camanachd Assessors of Assessors present at the game, then would the win even have been counted?
Things looked a bit tight for the Glen on the morning of the match: Andrew Corrigan was unavailable, Ali Mackintosh was injured and Mike Brady suspended. That just happens to be three of the four first choice defence. However as fortune would have it the second team had been playing at home earlier that morning which meant that at least there were some other bodies available to fill in the gaps. But then you can’t win anything with kids can you? Apparently you can.
Drafted in to the squad were Calum Smith and Jack Hosie while two other youngsters in the persons of James Hurwood and Euan Lloyd have settled into first team berths over the last few matches. The first half passed without Newtonmore conceding a goal which was good for them because they did not have Norman Campbell at full back and if the Glen score it is usually early in the match.
“What were the first half stats like?” The Wing Centre asked Steve “Statto” Henderson at training on the Wednesday .
“Don’t know. I didn’t bother with any this week.”
The one time that hard facts and figures are important and Statto is too busy peering through his fingers to jot them down.
“I suppose we had a pile of shots on target in the second half then. How many?  9 or 10?”
Statto stopped for ten seconds to ponder.
“Probably, if you count the penalties.”
“They had a few chances right enough.”
“Must have been more than a few, Statto. Paul John said in the P&J they had the lion’s share”
“What do you expect him to say? And it also depends on how much you think a lion will eat.”

Reflecting on the fact that Statto of all people ought to know about putting feed to beasts since that is his day job, the Wing Centre left it at that and sought out other witnesses and in the course of that quest came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as truth, only the muddied and indeed muddled account of witnesses. Given the confusion revealed it’s a wonder that the justice system bothers with the testimony of eyewitnesses at all.
Two things occurred in the first half that delighted and depressed those Glenners who were present in the large crowd. First Danny Macrae went over his ankle and not that anyone wishes him ill, but his departure removed a huge threat from the Newtonmore front line. Indeed if Danny had been there to take a penalty …………. Best not to dwell on that.

Depressing was the fact that the only remaining regular defender, John Barr picked up a first half injury too and he had to leave the field. That caused a bit of juggling around in the Glen back line with Calum Smith having to move deeper. At the break, John clearly received a bionic implant at the hands of physio David MacFadyen and was fortunately able to return to the fray in the second half.
This makes it all the more mysterious that Calum Stewart was allowed to run through and fire home a first time volley direct from a corner to put Newtonmore ahead in 63 minutes.
For the next 17 minutes the Glen were gallant runners up but still they kept plugging away until in 80 minutes David Smart fired home the equaliser. Nobody can recall how it happened except it was rumoured to be after some neat interplay so one can assume that James Macpherson, Jack Hosie or Neale Reid was involved but unless the Camanachd come up with some TV pictures then who can say?
Glen were the stronger side latterly and Newtonmore keeper Michael Ritchie had to make a quality save or two to keep his side in the game. Then came a last minute penalty which Glen keeper Stuart “Smack” Mackintosh stepped up to strike. His drive hit keeper Ritchie and the rebound was knocked home by Neale Reid only to be judged off-side.
That meant extra time and penalties.
Glen’s Lewis MacLennan and ‘More’s Norman Campbell were the only two players to convert from the first ten spot-hits. Michael Ritchie denied James MacPherson, Stuart Mackintosh, John Barr and Neale Reid with three of his saves being outstanding. Glen keeper Stuart “Smack” Mackintosh saved from Glen Mackintosh, Michael Ritchie and Steven Macdonald while youngster Calum Stewart missed his attempt.
Norman Campbell who had come on as an extra-time sub took his sudden death effort and joined the ranks of Glen immortals by blazing it over the bar and hitting the shop. Not an easy task and he joins a select “able to hit the shop” company which includes big Ron Fraser, Andrew Iain Macdonald, and of course the unrivalled Donald Paul Mackintosh who holds the record for hitting the shop more than anyone. Mind you Norman’s punt would have gone into John Tom’s former field on the other side of the A82 if the shop hadn’t stopped it.
Then Stuart Mackintosh stepped up hammered the ball at goal; it hit Mike Ritchie on the shoulder and flew up into the roof of the net for the winner.
What sort of a game was it?
The old Glenner put it thus: “You had two teams which were short of their full squads but all teams need to get used to that for that seems to be the way it is. It wasn’t a great game but it was full of excitement and tension. It was a hard physical game and both sides were pretty even. Newtonmore were on top in the first half but the Glen came back into it and by the end of normal time they were on top and should have won it. Things even themselves out. Two years ago Newtonmore went through on penalties; last year the Glen lost on penalties; this year they won. Best for the Glen? Lewis Maclennan and Euan Lloyd-so what if they were both defenders.”

Earlier in the day the Glen seconds defeated Col Glen 6-0 in the Sutherland Cup. The Skye website (recommended reading for anyone who really wants to know what happened on a Saturday) tells the story in its weekly round-up: “Ruaraidh Cameron was back in the Glenurquhart side and he gave them an 8 minute lead. Jack Hosie made it 2-0 on 21 minutes and the same player added a third on 32 minutes. Ruaraidh Cameron also got a second a minutes before the break to make it 4-0. Late goals from Cairn Urquhart on 74 minutes and player / manager Iain MacLeod just 5 minutes from time rounded off a 6-0 win and gave Glenurquhart a place in the next round.”

The pictures are from Neil Paterson  (1,2 & 3) Tina Marshall (4,6 & 10) and Sheena Lloyd (5,7,8,9,11 & 12) Thanks to them all.

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Monday, May 05, 2014

Smart finishing helps give Glen both points in Lovat clash.

Glenurquhart 2 Lovat 1 (Orion Premier League )

Isn’t shinty a funny old game? That's what Glen  goalie Stuart "Smack" Mackintosh seems to be telling Lovat keeper Stuart Macdonald as they shake hands at the end of Saturday's thriller. Indeed any Fort William guys watching the results come up on Facebook on Saturday would have been confused. How could the Glen team they watched last week stumbling to defeat against them, be two up on League leaders Lovat just after half time? The answer is simple: this week Glen wanted to win. They wanted to win because Lovat are their closest neighbours and because Lovat beat the Glen on the last four occasions including in the final of the MacTavish. It was always going to be a difficult game for Lovat. Difficult for the Glen too but difficult in a different way. The pressure was all on the Crofters; the Glen would have been expected to play well enough but not quite make it, but as has been said already ….it’s a funny old game.
Cards on the table: Lovat can still win the League. What’s more they could win something else too though the Wing Centre would prefer that not to happen this season. However, Lovat have to win these trophies while their team is at its peak and they had better do that quickly because by the look of the under-17 results Kingussie are in the process of legacy building. Unless a pile of their lads go off-shore or emigrate, the trophies will be returning to Badenoch in five years’ time. Lovat also should try not to argue with their coaches, when things are not going well otherwise they will end up doing a Liverpool when they don’t need to.
At the same time after the victory there were mixed feelings on the Glen side-lines at the end of the match. A Lovat win in Drum would have set them up well for a league victory which would have reclaimed shinty for the civilised part of Inverness-shire for the first time since 1953 but it wasn’t to be.
It was the tightest of games and in the last 20 minutes Lovat pressed hard enough to keep the Glen spectators on the edge of their seats and if life was fair they might have been rewarded with a draw. Indeed if Kevin Bartlett had done what you would have bet on him to do and scored ten minutes from the end when he had a glorious chance, then they would have shared the points but Greg Matheson playing deep for parts of the game will reduce the chance of goals from him. Does he have to go back so far to look for the ball?  Moving him to full centre also did not help the Lovat cause. Kevin Bartlett is also an excellent player but in a tackle with John Barr he is always going to lose out. You need to get a ball over the top beyond the backs to give him a chance. As far as one can recall Lovat managed that twice: “Statto” Henderson will confirm the fact.  It was not often enough and that is where they lost it.

However, perhaps the real difference was that Glen’s experienced players all put in a performance for the first time since August 2012: John Barr, Andy Corrigan and Eddie Tembo were all available and did what they were supposed to do - and the two youngsters James Hurwood and Euan Lloyd -last years under 17s - played their part effectively and clearly have Premier quality.
Lovat are a quick team and all are fine hitters of the ball but the Glen defence matched them for speed - Corrigan v Bartlett in particular was one contest which was even, while Ally Mackintosh kept to Greg Matheson until he twisted a knee at which point Fraser Heath took over the job of keeping the Lovat man under wraps. Lovat lost Daniel Grieve to an early ankle injury which also upset their balance and a head injury to Lewis Tawse further weakened them. It also has to be said that the Glen goals were both superb which they would have to be, given that Lovat goalkeeper Stuart Macdonald is usually an excellent stopper. On this occasion however he looked unsure.
The first Glen goal came right at the start of the game and it certainly caught the black and whites on the hop. Arran Macdonald played the ball forward and Neale Reid swept it across to the excellent David Smart. He made space away from Calum Cruden and smashed the ball past Macdonald for an early opener that stunned the Lovat faithful.

The rest of the half was nip and tuck: Lovat had a spell of pressure, which the Glen worked hard to clear, the centreline having to drop deep to cover all the runs from the Lovat centre line.  Although the pressure was intense, Glen keeper Stuart Mackintosh did not actually have many saves to make and as always Glen continued to look dangerous on the break.  Glen had a chance or two to get another but what really did pay dividends was the fact the team made it clear to Lovat that they would be in a seriously competitive high pressure game thanks to a massive performance from Eddie Tembo in the middle. In 25 minutes Ally Mackintosh suffered a knee injury and had to be taken off. He was replaced by James Hurwood up front and Fraser Heath dropped back to defence. As the half progressed the Glen started to win more ball in the middle of the park and Lovat keeper Stuart Macdonald had to make a save from Lewis MacLennan and then when Eddie Tembo chested the ball down and shot goalwards, Macdonald managed to palm the ball onto the post.

Just before half time, Arran Macdonald developed a muscle injury so mindful of the fact that there are some important games to come he was replaced at half time by James Macpherson who had more or less recovered from a hamstring pull picked up in the MacTavish tie  against Skye.  Youngster James Hurwood moved back to wing centre.

The game was so much in the balance through the first half that the Treasurer decided to take the collection before the break, the experience of leading Lovat being such a rare phenomenon that he wished to gather in the cash before the anticipated comeback. Lovat take a large, good natured and generous crowd with them and they put up with the Treasurer’s nonsense as he went round with the hat though at that point the Lovat faithful probably felt they could come back.
The fact that the Glen scored a second right after the restart made that doubly difficult. Lewis Maclennan left a ball to go across to James Macpherson and he fired a beauty right into the top of the net with his first touch. 

 A decent spell of Glen pressure followed and should have extended the Glen lead, before Owen Ferguson fired in from close range to make it 2-1 after 60 minutes. 
That goal had a bit of good fortune about it. Glen keeper Mackintosh stopped a goal-bound strike but the ball bounced up and hit him on the nose. His eyes filled with tears and so his mishit clearance struck former Glen under 17 player Graham MacMillan and fell kindly for Ferguson. In a sense the god of shinty evened matters up - former Lovat player James Macpherson scores for the Glen and a former Glenner sets up a score for Lovat!
Lovat then re-organised their team to find an equaliser and did create some decent changes, and as mentioned already one in particular fell to Bartlett but he fired wide.  The last 15 minutes remained tense and there were certainly opportunities at both ends, but no further scoring.
If there are any lessons for the Glen from this game it is that every week they play they have to play with intensity and fire. They will undoubtedly do this against Newtonmore in the semi though they will miss Mike Brady who will have to sit on the sidelines having copped a ban after an undeserved booking in Fort William: what was Gordy Mackinnon thinking about?  As for the Glen they probably should try to do it against other sides too.

 The pictures are from Tina Marshall (the last two) and Sheena Lloyd. Thanks to them both.

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Thursday, May 01, 2014

It’s never about the shinty: it’s always about the community.

All’s well that ends- eventually. Let’s put it no higher than that- and if the truth be told , it was just as well for the Glen to be out of the MacAulay at this stage rather than make it through to play in a final scheduled to be held on a date they could not fulfil. The MacAulay final will take place on Saturday August 23rd:  It is also incidentally the one Saturday which Glenurquhart have traditionally earmarked as their “free day”.
Why so? Simply put, that is the date on which the Glenurquhart Gathering & Games is due to be held and given that this occasion involves most Glenners specifically the Shinty Club in an orgy of …… let us say for the sake of decorum , fundraising  then it’s difficult to see how the club could have made it to Oban for the big day. Now though conspiracy theorists in the Glen have hinted that the MacAulay Association chose this date after having checked that it really was the day of the 2014 Glen Games (those of you puzzled about this should ‘google up’ the shinty news for August 2012) the Wing Centre does not subscribe to this view. Rather he is inclined to the view that the MacAulay Association had to find a date when Mossfield was free but, at the same time, also find a date that suited the ‘real’ BBC as incomers to the Glen call it. The lot fell on the 23rd of August and that left the Glen management with a problem.
“It’s not about the shinty, “said the management duo to the Glenners before they left to travel down the A82. “It’s about the greater good of the community as a whole. ”and they left it like that.

What this statement actually meant was that the managers or ‘Billyanddavie’ as they are universally known in the Glen, had to find a way of not progressing to the next round without making it too obvious that that was what they were doing. The MacAulay Association could have helped by letting us play Newtonmore or Lovat in the first round but what happened? The Glen got a skoosh of a game against Fort William. What was to be done in a fixture that must not be won at all costs?
The main plank of the plan was to leave out of the starting line up the two Glenners who are always liable to score even if you tell them not to: Neale Reid and Ewan Brady. As for the rest, the Managers philosophy was perfectly simple - go out, give them a game but not too much of a game and it worked a treat. It would have worked sooner if only the musical keeper had paid attention to the pre-match briefing. Doubtless he was making up an accordion tune in his head at the time but that’s an artist for you.

Fort as befits a team packed with youngsters who train all the time started like an express train albeit an old steam one which is losing heart with the thought of Mallaig as its destination. However youngster Arran Macphee shook off the attentions of Glen defender Stuart Reid inside four minutes and fired a rasper in on goal which keeper Stuart Mackintosh instinctively got a foot to and the chance for Fort to go ahead early was lost. Macphee had another chance a few minutes later but he put the ball over the bar. Fort then seemed to work a tactic to split the Glen defence and drag the Glen fullback off the ‘dust but because Eddie Tembo, Arran Macdonald and Euan Lloyd got a bit of a grip on the centreline at this point not so much ball went up to the Fort front men and they either lost concentration and defaulted to the traditional diamond - either that or Victor countermanded Addie’s orders. Who can say?
Glen mounted a few attacks at this point and were awarded three fouls in a row and from them managed to win corners. One of these yielded a shot on target from Fraser Heath but Fort keeper Paul Mackay was alert to the danger. Lewis Maclennan got in a shot in 38 minutes but that seemed about it and although the Glen did have the ball up in the danger area just as often as Fort did, Victorandaddie’s side certainly looked the better team.
A head knock to David Smart unintentionally inflicted by one of the Fort William youngsters added a few minutes on to the game before half time. But no matter the delays, it was still 0-0 when the whistle blew for the break. Things were not going to plan.
The half time break was pleasant enough as the Wing Centre  stood in the queue for teas with some seriously retro-pop coming from the funfair adjacent to the park. The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar” and the “Macarena” (by Los del Rio not Miss Piggy) seemed to be the most modern pieces being played, though perhaps funfairs are only allowed to play stuff which ought to be out of copyright. Anyway on the orders of Bill, the hungriest of the managerial duo, the Wing Centre picked up some coffees-two in authentic mugs because the nice ladies had run out of Styrofoam ones- and a tea plus 4 sausage rolls and set off to deliver them to the bosses. By the time he had been served and was on his way round behind the bottom goal with a tray Glen were on the attack and the outcome was that after some neat work first by Eddie Tembo and secondly by Andy Corrigan, Fraser Heath managed to get in two shots, one of which went narrowly by and the other of which forced Paul Mackay to make a stop.
The grub delivered and his seat in the stand resumed, the Wing Centre settled down to watch a game which had become somewhat dull. Both sides seemed to be very even. It was the sort of match that some would right off as a poor game but it really wasn’t: it simply was that defences and midfields were on top and both sets of forwards were more or less equally snuffed out.
On the 65 minute mark Glen put together a nice piece of play when Arran Macdonald, who had a fine game throughout, knocked a ball forward and wide to Lewis Maclennan: Maclennan beat his man and played it inside to Corrigan but his shot just went narrowly past.

At this point the Wing Centre decided it was time to return the authentic mugs and the tray to the Fort clubhouse. He had promised the nice ladies he would take the tray back and his experience of life is such that when you promise something to any lady, you had better do what you said you would do, otherwise bad things will happen. As he passed the goals on the way back Fraser Heath had another chance this time from an angle: thankfully, Mackay stopped it.
By the time your narrator emerged from the clubhouse Fort William had scored the goal that mattered. Piecing together the story from various Fort witnesses, it appears that Gordy Mackinnon had fired in an excellent shot which was saved for some reason by “Smack” Mackintosh but fortunately the ball fell to young Arran Macphee and he was able to poke it home.
Not before time : the managers were beginning to think the game would have to go to penalties and were writing out their list of takers starting with Tembo ,Corrigan and Barr in the hope of getting off to a bad start. Fortunately it was not to be though Lewis Maclennan and Corrigan made further late attempts to score for the Glen.
Then just as the game was approaching the last minute Fort’s Gordy Mackinnon grabbed Mike Brady round the neck for no obvious reason that was visible from the stand. For that he received a booking as did rather harshly Mike Brady. Niall Macphee who also got involved for reasons only known to himself received a straight red card.
It was a disappointing end to what had been a less than explosive match.
On a final disappointing note Fort’s Gary Innes broke his finger in the encounter and will be out for a week or four. Such an injury will obviously impact to some extent on his day job as a professional musician but credit to the big Fort forward ,he stayed on to the end of the match and played through the pain barrier because the game was so tight. Let’s hope he’s soon back on the field: he is one of shinty’s big characters and the sport needs the good guys like him.

This Saturday the Glen face up to Lovat and another moral dilemma. Do they go all out to beat Lovat, risking injury and thereby help Newtonmore win another League championship or do they take it easy to make sure everyone remains fit for the Newtonmore semi the week after?  Any other team than Lovat and it would be the latter. On the other hand………. maybe not.

The match pictures are courtesy of Sheena Lloyd.

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