RONALD ROSS hit a deadly second half double to end Bute’s hopes of a Camanachd Cup giant-killing at the Meadows on Saturday.
But the island club could be justly pleased with their performance on a day which offered further confirmation that Bute can still mix it with the sport’s elite, despite their (hopefully brief) absence from the top flight.
Ross’s two goals added to an opener just before the break from team-mate Kevin Thain to keep alive the Badenoch side’s hopes of a first Camanachd Cup triumph since 2006 - though a late second goal from the man dubbed ‘the Ronaldo of the Glens’ gave the final score a sheen which was rather harsh on the home side.
Without regular captain John McCallum due to a pre-arranged holiday, Bute had Iain MacDonald in temporary charge on the field - and though the hosts found themselves under pressure almost straight from the throw-up, some stout defending and no-nonsense clearances ensured keeper Kevin Queen wasn’t seriously troubled in the early stages.
Fraser Munro had the first serious attempt on goal in the fourth minute after a nice one-touch exchange with Paul Gow, but his shot was a couple of feet wide of the target.
Bute’s first foray upfield saw Robert Walker win a free hit after putting Ali MacLeod under pressure, and though the hosts won a corner from the resulting set-piece, Kingussie eventually cleared the ball out of danger.
Queen had to wait until the 19th minute for his first save of the afternoon, but when a free hit broke to Ross 20 yards from goal the Bute keeper kept his eye on the shot all the way and blocked it with his feet.
Bute countered with their best attack of the game so far when James Craig sent Walker scampering away down the right, and his cutback was drilled just wide from a tight angle by Roberto Zavaroni.
Zavaroni came even closer from a Graham Fisher cross on 28 minutes as play swung from end to end, while Thain saw a powerful shot deflected wide for a corner off MacDonald.
Craig made way for David MacDonald after half an hour, but the change didn’t disrupt Bute’s rhythm too much, and Walker lifted a shot just over Kingussie keeper Andrew Borthwick’s crossbar as the hosts pressed forward in search of the opening goal.
But Kingussie stood firm in the face of Bute’s best efforts, and Thain came close five minutes before the break with a low shot from a Ross knock-down which flew just wide of Queen’s left hand post.
And three minutes before the break, the hosts’ hopes of getting to half time on level terms were dashed when a quick free hit from Barrie Dallas, awarded for a foul, found Thain with just enough time and space to turn and drill a low shot into the corner of the net.
Visiting keeper Borthwick palmed away a dangerous ball from David Whitelaw right at the end of the first half, but despite trailing 1-0 at the break Bute knew when they went into their half-time huddle that they were far from out of the game.
Borthwick blocked a low drive from David MacDonald two minutes after the restart, but Bute’s hopes suffered a hammer blow when the visitors went 2-0 up after 55 minutes, Ross forcing his marker Hector Whitelaw into his first mistake of the day before seizing possession to slip a low shot past Queen.
A very similar situation only moments after the restart saw the danger averted only at the expense of a free hit to the visitors, although the danger was soon cleared.
At the other end Bute mounted a quick counter-attack which ended with a Walker cutback finding MacDonald, whose low shot was deflected wide of the target.
The pace began to slow as the clock ticked into the game’s final quarter, but Bute kept plugging away, and Borthwick had to look smart to turn a Gordon McMillan effort around the post.
Hector Whitelaw, pushed up into attack for the last 20 minutes, was next to be denied by Borthwick, but the best chance of the game for Bute came with quarter of an hour to play, when Whitelaw flicked on a tempting cross to Walker, who had space at the back post but blazed his shot high over the crossbar.
If anything it was Bute who finished the match the stronger, but by then Kingussie knew all they had to do was to see out time to secure their semi-final place.
But there was still time, in the 90th minute, for a moment of individual brilliance from Ross, who broke free of the shackles placed on him by the Bute defence for the briefest of moments before, with only the slightest swing of his stick, lifting a shot high past Queen and into the net to complete the visitors’ victory.
The Camanachd Cup semi-finals will be played on August 13, with Kingussie facing Kilmallie and Inveraray taking on Newtonmore.
The Camanachd Association hopes to play the ties as a double-header, at a venue yet to be decided.
* Bute’s first team have no game this Saturday, July 9.
* The Bute second team were idle last Saturday after the postponement of their South Division Two fixture away to Inveraray.
The club’s second team are due to be back in action this Saturday, July 9, with a home league fixture against Strachur.
Throw-up is at 3pm, and players are asked to meet no later than 1.30pm. Anyone not available on Saturday is asked to contact David Kilpatrick ASAP.