Match Report v Aberdeen Grammar RFC Saturday 12 March 2016
Aberdeen Grammar 25 vs 14 Stewart’s Melville
Rubislaw has been a pretty happy hunting ground for us in recent years, but, on this occasion, we were unable to overcome a Grammar side who were just that bit more hungry for the win than us.
Going into the game, there had certainly been a couple of warning signs. Grammar were bottom of the league, having only won four games so far, and were therefore desperate for points to prevent them dropping even further behind 11th placed Peebles. And Grammar had also recently parted company with head coach Stuart Corsar – would the players respond positively to the appointment of Ali O’Connor?
Based on the first 40 minutes of the game, it looked like the answer to that last question would be a resounding ‘No!’ Playing towards the changing room end of the ground, we enjoyed almost total dominance in the set piece, pinching lineout ball on Grammar’s throw and causing them to concede penalty after penalty at scrum time.
Mike Hanning also kicked well, despite us playing into the wind, to keep Grammar pinned in their own half.
This stranglehold on possession earned us a fairly simple try on 17 minutes. After we’d softened up the Grammar defence with a series of solid forward onslaughts; the ball was then moved through the hands to the right and full back Ciaran Whyte cantered over. Mike’s conversion made it 7-0 in our favour.
Grammar, to their credit, struck back almost immediately, flanker Alasdair Mackie touching down just to the right of the posts. Alex Hagart’s conversion levelled the scores.
That was all the scoring in the first half, though we’d also been held up over the Grammar line a couple of times during that period of set piece dominance. Grammar, by their own admission, had also been very lucky not to lose a couple of players to the bin during the opening period as the penalty count against them moved into double figures.
We would likely have troubled the scoreboard more than we did if Grammar had lost men to the bin, but let’s leave that scenario to the ref’s assessor!
We began the second half much the same way as we had begun the first, with the pack rumbling over to the left of the posts with barely 5 minutes on the clock. Adam Howie claimed the try and Mike added the extras.
It was at this point that Grammar, to their credit, rolled up their collective sleeves and decided to show their new coach what they were made of. Their tackling became more effective and they took better care of the ball.
A penalty from Hagart on 53 minutes took the score to 14-10, then full back Knudson scored in the left hand corner after some good recycling by the Grammar pack. That made it 15-14 to Grammar after 59 minutes, then another Hagart penalty stretched their lead to four points after 67 minutes.
It was Grammar’s redoubtable Fijian centre, Peceli Nacamavuto, who finished the scoring after 73 minutes. ‘Naca’ may not be quite the speedster he once was, but he still knows how to run a good line, as he demonstrated when he slalomed his way through our stretched defence from close range. Hagart’s conversion from in front of the posts made it 25-14 to Grammar.
And what of us in the second period? Truth be told, we didn’t do much to trouble the Grammar line after Adam’s touchdown early on, despite the introduction of Ross McCann to the midfield at the interval. Ross did manage to spark a couple of decent backs moves with his quick hands, but, on both occasions, the final pass was overcooked and went to ground.
Apart from that, we huffed and puffed but seemed to lose the focus we’d displayed in the first half, with handling errors and missed tackles creeping into our play as the second period wore on. The heavy pitch also seemed to offset our forward dominance, with Grammar adopting a more open game to prevent us from settling into any kind of rhythm.
Our coaches emptied the bench over the course of the half, and the players certainly fought hard to steady the ship – but, ultimately, our perspiration wasn’t enough to overcome the inspiration that Grammar somehow managed to summon up as the match went on.
At the end of the day, our hosts needed the win to have any chance of staying up, whereas we’ve managed to find ourselves in something of a mid table comfort zone care of those hard fought wins over Musselburgh, GHA and Peebles.
Our stop-start season resumes on 26th March when we welcome Kelso to Inverleith – I think it’s fair to say that the Grammar players and committee would love us to return to winning ways in that match!