1st XV vs Aberdeen Grammar: Match Report
‘Sitzkrieg, nicht Blitzkrieg’, was said of the period between September 1939 and April 1940 – the calm before the storm. Starting on 10 May 1940, with speed unseen since Genghis Khan and with surprise unknown since Hannibal, German Army Groups A and B carried out the largest encirclement in military history: 200 km in length and 140 km in breadth. Inside that perfect pincer were 1.7 million Allied soldiers, including the entire Dutch and Belgian armies, the whole British Expeditionary Force and the flower of the French army. The Germans took 1.2 million of these men prisoner. That’s tactics!
With friendlies, cup games and recruitment making up our Sitzkreig, the preparation starts earlier each season. The Blitzkrieg started on Saturday 6th September with the visit of the men from the Granite City, and, if Angus Rennie’s last minute pass to Matt Morrell had not been deemed forward, the result of our Blitzkrieg would have been similar to that of the German offensive. Angus, on his league debut, looks like taking a bit of stopping, and, with a good supply of ball, a definite prospect.
As it was, a draw was probably a fair result, and there were enough glimpses of potential to excite the normally douce Stewart’s Melville faithful and make them dare to hope for a season similar to last.
To badly paraphrase Samuel Johnson: ‘If you are tired of Inverleith (London), you are tired of life’. The sun and the smart new kit all conspired to set the scene, and the ‘Old Lady’ certainly scrubbed up well to herald the start of the 2014/15 league campaign.
Nick McCashin edged us in front only for Alex Hagart, on his return to his Alma Mater, to level matters almost immediately. The dangerous Nacamavuto punched an ominous hole in our midfield defence to stretch the lead and Hagart, with a 100% return from his goal kicking duties, landed another penalty. It has to be said ‘Naca’ was bottled up pretty well by Stewart’s Melville after this break – one tackle from Hanning being particularly worthy of mention. McCashin popped over a penalty, and, with the last play of the half, Ciaran Whyte, with work to do, finished a move started by McCashin.
Watching Nick is like watching Andy Murray: flashes of brilliance, but, after every play, he emerges clutching a different part of his anatomy, which makes one wonder if he is going to hobble off – only to witness a super tackle or a fifty yard touch finder. We are indeed lucky to have him involved with our club.
Half time then: 13-11 for Grammar.
Communication problems in the back row and the presence of Morgan Ward – Aberdeen’s Number 9 – had meant we had been unable to take advantage of several good shunts, but this is something that will surely be ironed out in the coming weeks. Callum Hunter Hill’s aerial ability should ‘give us plenty pill’ in the lineouts, and he already looks the part on his league debut.
A seemingly innocuous move from Grammar let Ratcliffe squeeze in at the corner beside Willie’s house, but Ben Wilson knows what to do near the opposition line on the back of a rolling maul and he narrowed the gap.
Gregor Townsend says a try only counts when the restart is secured, and this basic tenet was ignored as Aberdeen converted an offside award after a knock on from the restart. Grammar were then reduced to 14 as Neilson, the replacement prop, was given ten minutes in the bin on the intervention of the assistant referee.
Rhys Morgan then barrelled over in the north east corner following good scrum play – but too far out for Nick to give Stewart’s Melville the lead. Rhys and Willie are two outstanding props and much of our success last year was built round them.
McCashin and Hagart then exchanged penalties as Stewart’s Melville unquestionably finished the stronger, only being ultimately denied by the forward pass described earlier in the game’s last play.
What of the other newbies? All thrust into National League duty and all looked promising. Ciaran Whyte, from Wanderers, a big lad who will develop into a player; Andrew Manson, obviously a talented footballer; Ruaridh Mitchell, from Dunbar, a solid citizen in the front row; and Ryan Lambert, an intelligent link player who could revel in Inverleith’s wide open spaces.
Once the first skirmishes in the campaign were over, and despite the initial impact of the German Blitzkreig, it was the Allies who prevailed in the end. There will be ups and down along the way in our league campaign as injuries inevitably take their toll.
Next week we head west to meet last week’s ‘coupon busters’ GHA with something very concrete to build on.