Despite suffering from injuries and unavailability, the Linden had a squad of 16 selected, which they still felt was strong enough to get a result at Cavalry Park, having gained a bonus point win over Portobello at the Volunteer earlier in the season.
However their plans were turned upside down when three players with whom arrangements had been made to be picked up en route did not show. All efforts to make contact proved fruitless and, even with coach Lee Stewart forced into action, the visitors were left with only 14 players.
Before the kick-off a minute’s applause took place in recognition of Alastair Cuthbertson, an esteemed school coach and of the Portobello club in its glory days.
The home side’s tight-head prop crashed over for a converted try after only two minutes. The Linden hit back quickly with a Kirk Ford penalty goal but Portobello responded immediately. A quick tap penalty followed by some poor Linden tackling saw the Portobello hooker storm over. The try was converted, as was the next touchdown when the Royal Blues were pushed off their own scrum.
The home team scored another three tries, two converted, to stretch their lead to 40-3 after only 29 minutes. The visitors’ chaotic preparations had clearly had an adverse effect, and it took some players who were out of position time to settle into their new roles. However, from this point forward the Linden were immense.
Seven minutes into the second half, a lovely wide pass by stand-off Ford created the space for Greg Cunningham, playing on the wing, and he linked with Conor Gracie, who gave the scoring pass to Graeme Anderson for a fine try. Ford converted. Then Cunningham was forced to retire with a shoulder injury after 15 minutes of the second period to leave the visitors with just 13 players.
The Linden spirit was typified when they turned over a Portobello five-metre scrum, then won their own scrum ball which had been under severe pressure throughout the game, and ultimately cleared their lines.
It took until the 71st minute for the home team to score, followed by a converted try with five minutes remaining and the Linden down to 12 following another retiral.
No Linden player should be singled out for acclaim as the commitment of all those who pulled on the blue jersey was absolutely immense. Questions however remain over those who failed their club and team-mates in not appearing for duty.