Moray’s rugby players have been celebrating this week after the first team were confirmed as the winners of Caledonia One’s North Conference on Saturday.
The Elgin outfit’s 39-7 bonus point home win over Ellon at the weekend means that they are on 56 points following 11 wins and two defeats from 13 games.
Moray still have one more conference match left, but they cannot now be caught at the summit because Aberdeenshire are second on 50 points and, with one game left themselves, the most they can get to is 55.
Against Ellon the tries came from Ben Taylor, Lewis Hay, David Clarke, Marc Higgins and Lewis Scott with Rory Millar kicking the rest of the points.
After the first phase of the season is completed, the top three from the Conference – which will be Moray and Aberdeenshire and one other – will then play fixtures against the top three from the Midlands Conference to see who finishes overall top and takes the Caledonia One title.
That is for another day though and, for now, Moray are just happy to have topped the standings in the eight-team local conference.
Head coach Cameron Hughes, who previously played for Moray until under-18 level before a spell in Wales studying and then time playing for GHK, said: “I moved back up to the area towards the end of the pandemic times and was keen to get back involved with Moray and I am so glad I did.
“Over the last couple of years there has been a really good feeling and a really good vibe about the club and everyone enjoys training and playing together and that is the main thing at this level of rugby.
“People have to enjoy it because it is a big time commitment, but over the last couple of years things have been good and it meant that we headed into this season in a good spot.
“We managed to keep most of the players from last season and that continuity has really helped us getting over the line in our tighter matches.”
Highland wins were key
Moray won their opening two matches and then secured a hard fought 27-24 win over Highland’s second team in week three in September.
“The matches between Moray and Highland are always close ones, so to get that win early on in the campaign and then go to Inverness and beat them there 25-19 in November were two of the most import results of our run so far this campaign,” Hughes, who as well as coaching the team plays for them too, explained.
“We have had some really competitive games this season and that can only be good for rugby in this part of the country.
“It has been a good few months, but there is still plenty more for us to focus on when we take on the teams from the Midlands Conference down the line while, at the end of January, we start our National Shield campaign away to Aberdeen Wanderers.
“We will just try and keep up the momentum, keep training hard and see where it takes us in the coming months.”
Captain Lewis Scott added: “The success of this season is down to having Cameron at the helm, but it’s also down the lads’ training week in and week out buying into this new style of ‘Moray rugby’.
“If you had said back in 2019 when we were fighting to stay in Caledonia North Two that, in 2023-24, Moray would be sitting where we are now no one would have believed you.
“Full credit to Cameron and the team, both on the pitch and behind the scenes, we are now top of this conference and going into the play-offs in a good position.
“When we had the two setbacks in the conference against Aberdeenshire and Ellon, it was amazing to see the heads didn’t drop in the team, in fact the losses only added more of a drive to our play going forward.
“The commitment levels have been astonishing from all the team and there’s been a great buzz at the club and at training with people lacing the boots back up again or starting something new – it’s been great to witness and be a part of.”
Moray, weather permitting, will complete their fixtures in the conference this Saturday when they make the trip to Thurso to play Caithness.