BT National League Three



IRVINE stayed on the tightrope for another week with a gritty but well-deserved bonus point win over Orkney at Marress.

Jake Cresswell scored a brace, and Ruchin Filander, Neil McMillan and Craig Lang singles, as the home side twice came from behind to register a third successive win, and fourth in five league games.

With the game kicking off early to accommodate the visitors’ travelling plans, the result moved Irvine above both Livingston and East Kilbride, who were due to play each other at Torrance House, and out of the relegation zone.

That game ultimately fell victim to the weather, however, meaning Irvine remain fourth bottom for the time being – albeit having now played two games more than the sides around them.

Irvine finish the season with trips to Dumfries and Orkney, and the challenge for them now is to hold their nerve and win both games, and give their rivals something to think about when they play their games in hand.

The hosts got off to a slow start in the wet conditions, and there only looked like being one winner in the opening quarter as Orkney jumped out to an 8-0 lead, through a try for number eight Adam Brown and a penalty from fly-half James Linklater.

Earlier in the season Irvine’s heads might have gone down after a start like that, but they stuck to their guns and slowly but surely worked their way on top – and there was no surprise when the hosts crossed twice in the closing 10 minutes of the half through captain Filander and Cresswell.

Player-coach Blair Skipper converted the latter from in front to put the home side up 12-8, but Irvine did not get in their current position without being their own worst enemy at times – and after Linklater had missed from the kicking tee on the cusp of half time, hooker Scott Rendall scored in the corner two minutes into the second half to regain the lead for the visitors.

Again Irvine rallied however, and brought up the bonus point when McMillan and Lang both raced clear for touchdowns, the former converted by Skipper, as Irvine continued to play the more enterprising rugby.

It would not be an Irvine game without at least one yellow card for the hosts, and it was Stuart Docherty who was the offender when the music stopped. Orkney capitalised on their numerical advantage with a second try for Rendall, converted by Linklater this time, to cut the deficit to four points – but Cresswell cancelled it out with his own second, converted by Skipper.

That rounded off the scoring, and the only further drama came with eight minutes to go when Lang earned the hosts’ second yellow card of the afternoon for pulling his opponent back by the jersey as the visitors broke upfield, before Rendall turned from hero to villain by being sent off for violent conduct after confronting Lang.

IRVINE: I Kerr; N McMillan, J Cresswell, R Elliston, C Lang; B Skipper, J Carson; D Kirkwood, M Skeoch, E Callaghan, A Nugent, T McHarg, J Doolan, A Lang, R Filander (captain. Reps: S Docherty, B Nesvat, A Maxwell, C Maxwell.

MAN OF THE MATCH – Alan Nugent (Irvine)

* Meanwhile Marress’ trip to Braidholm to play GHA Lions also fell victim to the weather. They are also next due to travel to play their Dumfries counterparts.