Nicholson keeps nerve to win thriller for West with last kick

Dru Nicholson's last-gasp conversion sealed West's win at Orkney (pic courtesy of The Ordcadian/Mark Harcus)
Dru Nicholson's last-gasp conversion sealed West's win at Orkney (pic courtesy of The Ordcadian/Mark Harcus)

West of Scotland returned from their long trip north with a last-gasp 36-34 victory after a thrilling league opener at Orkney on Saturday.

In ideal conditions for open rugby, spectators were treated to a high scoring, free flowing game with the result in doubt until the last kick.

West got off to a poor start and were 12-0 down within five minutes, Orkney wingers Steve McPhail and Craig Slater both crossing the line. However only one score was converted.

West regrouped and went on the offensive, their efforts rewarded when good work by Pete Rhodes created the opportunity for Dylan Matthews to score a try converted by Dru Nicholson with 12 minutes on the clock.

Both sides probed for any weaknesses but West closed the gap to 12-10 on 22 minutes with a Nicholson penalty.

Both defences were playing well and there was no further scoring in the first half, but Orkney were reduced to 14 men just before the half-time whistle for a no arms tackle on centre Fergus Robertson who had to leave the field and may be out for some weeks with a damaged shoulder.

West brought on Fraser Brand who moved to the wing with Mark Sim taking over at centre.

Almost straight from restart Orkney increased their lead when Graham Poke broke through to touch down. The conversion was missed.

Within five minutes West had reduced the deficit when Brand got on the end of a Nicholson pass to touch down out wide for an unconverted try.

West thought they were right back in it but Orkney seized the initiative and by the hour mark had scored a further two tries, both converted, which gave them a 31-15 lead.

Back came West though and Mark Sim jinked his way through the Orkney defence and touched down, Dru Nicholson adding the two points.

Within eight minutes a penalty stretched Orkney’s advantage to 34-22 and some West thoughts turned to a four-try bonus point with the extra losing bonus point added in.

But sensing tiredness creeping into the Orkney team, West launched attack after attack and with three minutes remaining Sim found a gap and managed to get the ball over the line, Nicholson’s conversion bringing the score to 34-29.

The final two minutes saw West camped on the Orkney five metre line driving forward but being thwarted illegally by an Orkney side trying to hold on to their lead. The referee penalised Orkney six times, West opted for the scrum each time and with seconds remaining worked the ball from the scrum out wide to Sim who completed his hat-trick and levelled the game.

Only the conversion remained and showing nerves of steel Nicholson made it to spark jubilation amongst the West players and heartbreak for Orkney after a great advert for club rugby which was a credit to both teams.