Match Report v Aberdeen Grammar RFC Saturday 27 January 2018
It was a fine day at Rubislaw with no fear of darkening skies enforcing an earlier kick-off; there was, however, as there frequently is, a strong wind from the west – or perhaps, to be more accurate, the south west. Stew Mel won the toss and opted to play with the wind behind them. In my view a good decision on the basis that they would try to rack up a reasonable score before half time, and, depending on the tactics adopted by the opposition, weather the storm in the second half.
Whilst a squad of 20 was posted, positions were not known until kick-off, although the starting line-up was pretty much as predicted, with Happy back once more from exile and intact.
Aberdeen kicked-off into the wind, and, with a somewhat difficult ball to secure, Stew Mel knocked on with the resultant scrum at around the 10m mark. Mistakes like this at the beginning of a game don’t really matter and can, maybe, be a wake-up call to minimise such errors as play progresses. It wasn’t long before Aberdeen spilled the ball out wide, giving Stew Mel the opportunity to scrummage and kick far into Aberdeen’s half – although, on this occasion, a little bit too far. The Stew Mel forwards were beginning to settle well, although both teams were finding lineouts particularly difficult. More pressure from Stew Mel and a good lineout 5m out lead to some excellent forward play and a drive over at about the 15 minute mark, the scorer Fraser Morrison. Despite the strong wind the conversion was good. Aberdeen 0 – Stew Mel 7.
Aberdeen, at this stage, were struggling to get out of their half and Stew Mel exploited the conditions. After some basic errors and skewed lineouts, more pressure was applied by the Stew Mel pack, and, at around 25 minutes, the back line showed what they could do. A long floated pass found the ever eager James Ferguson out wide, who did well to stay in touch and power his way over the line. Aberdeen 0 – Stew Mel 12.
With equal amounts of possession, it wasn’t long before Aberdeen managed to find space on the left hand side and their number 7, Will Alton, a former ‘Shire player, touched down to make it Aberdeen 5 – Stew Mel 12. With about 5 minutes to play until half time, Stew Mel again took up where they had left off in Aberdeen’s half and, again, some good forward play resulted in Josh Scott claiming the try. Half time Aberdeen 5 – Stew Mel 17.
The wind had not abated in the second half and it was really down to how Aberdeen would utilise the conditions and how Stew Mel would handle them. From the kick-off Aberdeen collected well, however a knock on resulted in a Stew Mel scrum just over the halfway line. A quick put in allowed Gregor to consider his options; he noted space on the blind side and punted the ball through for Sean to chase, which he did, controlling the ball with his right foot and diving over the line. His days at Cowdenbeath had clearly not been wasted. 41 minutes and it was Aberdeen 5 – Stew Mel 22. Four tries and a bonus point!
There were strong phases from both sides, backs and forwards, and the game seemed to have reached a bit of an equilibrium in terms of possession, although Aberdeen were edging their way back territorially, and, after a good lineout, worked the ball wide for Grant Walker to score. Aberdeen 10 – Stew Mel 22, 50 minutes played. Aberdeen thereafter succumbed to a yellow card at around the 55 minute mark, although, during that period, Stew Mel could not take advantage and get points on the board. The penalty count against them was starting to escalate. A kick right in front of the post at just over 60 minutes took the score to Aberdeen 13 – Stew Mel 22.
Aberdeen clearly knew they were still in the game and managed to score another try at around the 70 minute mark by Nathan Clough on his return from the bin. Another yellow card for Aberdeen in the 74th minute gave us a bit of breathing space, and, with some good handling and retaining possession, we finished the game. Final score Aberdeen 18 – Stew Mel 22. Aberdeen Tweeted magnanimously: ‘Stew Mel win it deservedly’.
It was an exciting game of rugby, and, in the closing stages Wild Horses couldn’t have dragged any of the Stew Mel faithful away, although there was an underlying belief that we were heading south victorious.
What was the difference in this performance? Simple answer: the players. The 15 men on that pitch, regardless of whether forwards or backs, played for each other, and, when the forwards decided to pick and go, they did it to real effect. If something is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing! This worked well for significant periods of the game, giving the back line a platform to work from. The kicking game, for once, was sensibly executed, and all credit to Euan Bowen in this regard. He also gave his back line the opportunity to attack and was not fearful of trying the occasional break to get over the gain line. The ‘enforcer’, Momo, inspired the pack, which performed extremely well as a unit. The back three coped well playing into the wind and the overall defence was exemplary for the most part.
It was great to get a result on the road and the bonus point. It is interesting to analyse where the scores came from and refreshing to see that the spoils were shared in terms of two from the forwards and two from the backs, with Aberdeen having been the same except for one less from their forwards. This shows a willingness from both teams to play running rugby regardless of the conditions and that has to be commended.
The players must have felt a great deal of satisfaction as the final whistle blew – as did the Stew Mel supporters alike. I wouldn’t normally embrace the President, but, in hindsight, this was only indicative of how everybody must have felt. It’s been a long time coming. I like Aberdeen, I like the Doric and butteries, I loved my student days and playing for Aberdeenshire, and, in particular, one memorable match when ‘Shire ‘humped’ Aberdeen Grammar 4-3 (way back when). The headline in the P&J the following Monday, eloquently written by Peter Mitchell, was ‘Never has a team since the days of Ken Scotland risen to the occasion …’ But none of the aforementioned can surpass Saturday’s performance and the elation felt thereafter.
But let’s not get carried away, keep the feet solid on the ground and enjoy next Saturday’s rescheduled game against Edinburgh Accies away!
You never know. Maybe there may be a similar headline (or perhaps Tweet) along the lines of ‘Never since the days of Finlay Calder .!’