Dunfermline 5 Orkney 27, Tennent's Caledonia Division One

DUNFERMLINE'S winning start to the season came to an end as leaders Orkney emerged victorious in Saturday's top-of-the-table clash at McKane Park.

On a tough day for the hosts, who trailed 19-0 at the interval and had Danny Clarke red-carded in the second half, they fell 11 points behind their opponents, who racked up their sixth bonus-point win from as many matches.

The game, which kicked off at 11am to accommodate the visitors' travel arrangements, arrived on the back of a 39-8 victory over Grangemouth Stags for Dunfie in the Caledonia Regional Shield.

That set up a final with Orkney, which will be played a week on Saturday, for a place in the last four of the National Shield that would see the victors just 80 minutes away from a place in the showpiece match at Murrayfield.

But it is the islanders' who will go into that match with a psychological boost after a victory that home skipper Clarke Smith felt was built on a quick-fire start from their opponents that his team couldn't recover from.

With less than 10 minutes on the clock, Jon Tait went over for a converted score for Orkney, which was soon added to by Alan Brown, with James Linklater again adding the extras.

Matt Jackson scored the away team's third try of the first half and, although the hosts went over for an unconverted score through Stuart Roy, their hopes of staging a comeback were dented when the referee deemed a tackle by Clarke to be high and worthy of a red card.

Orkney took advantage, with a Linklater penalty and William Thomson score sealing their victory, and Smith said: "I think we were on a bit of a high after the Grangemouth game, but Orkney came out the blocks extremely well, and scored two tries in 10 minutes that rocked us.

"We didn't execute our gameplan as well as we could have, and didn't really have an answer. I don't think a lot of us played as we could have, but it has been a testing few weeks for the guys.

"Our set piece didn't function as well as it could have. With the red card, there was no malice in it and Danny didn't mean it, but it consequently put us under the pump.

"At one point we were 19-5 down, and putting pressure on the try line, but we couldn't convert.

"Credit to Orkney; they were at full strength, which is a massive respect to us, and showed how important they viewed the game."

Despite the defeat, Smith believes his side are capable of turning the tables when they head north a week on Saturday, and that the league title remains up for grabs.

"We've got another two cracks of the whip, in the Caledonia Shield final for a place in the national semis, and in February in the league," he continued.

"There's a lot of rugby to play. Our backline had an average age of 22, and in the forwards there weren't many over 27, so we have an extremely young team and the making of something good.

"A lot of the boys were hurt – the changing room was a quiet place for a bit after the game – but we've got to get back on the horse. We're not even halfway through the league.

"We can only look at ourselves, that's the most important thing. These have been invaluable tests for the guys, and sometimes you learn more when you lose than when you win.

"We have to put in an exceptional performance against Blairgowrie and get that confidence back. You can't win all the time, but I'm pretty confident Orkney won't win all the time either.

"I don't think the score completely reflected the game, but they deserved to win."

Dunfermline's first XV return to action at Blairgowrie on Saturday, with kick-off at 2pm.