Aberdeen Grammar 40
JACK NIXON @ Rubislaw
THE home team’s desire to claim a place in the top half of the Premiership, allied to their enthusiastic application, proved too much for relegation-battlers Musselburgh after a thrilling nine try encounter at Rubislaw to which the visitors made a three try contribution.
The damage to the Stoneyhill cause was done in the first half when despite some sharp, energetic play from their back division, their pack failed to rise to the occasion, enabling the homesters to score four tries, three of which were converted by centre Tom Aplin who opened the home scoring in 11 minutes after being set-up by stand-off and captain Sam Knudson.
The other touchdowns came from a brace by No 8 Greig Ryan, who marked his return after an absence of five weeks with another stunning, all action performance proving just how useful he is to the northerners, and hooker Andrew Cook running at a angle to deceive the Musselburgh cover defence on the half hour mark.
The home dominance owed much to the work rate of Ryan, Cook and locks Robin Cessford and Jordan Robertson, the latter turning a fine showing, indicating just how much he has learned at the knee of the industrious Cessford.
Musselburgh’s only answer was two excellently struck penalties from the boot of scrum-half Danny Owenson, who was a stand out for the visitors, probing the Grammar defence when able, but ultimately failing to rouse his pack, as the occasion demanded.
At 26-6 to the good at the break, Grammar went on to make the game safe in the second half with a try attributed to the classy Knudson who sliced through under the posts, giving Aplin the easiest of kicks and a 33-6 lead just before the hour mark.
Musselburgh struck back with a try from who else other Owenson, but when winger Doug Russell dashed over for his team’s sixth try, converted by Aplin in 64 minutes, a rout looked on the cards. However, Musselburgh managed to compose themselves and add two late scores from replacement Sandy Watt and former Grammar captain and favourite Callum Champion, to give the scoreline a more respectable look.
With those late scores were converted by Owenson, giving the busy scrum-half a personal haul of 17 with his three conversions, two penalties, and a try.
In fairness to Grammar, the late flurry of action caught them at a time when they had just lost the services of flanker Will Alton who dislocated his elbow in the 70th minute.
The game may have ended on a subdued note for Aberdeen, but took nothing away from an otherwise good win for the Rubislaw men who had fallen into a three-match slump before Christmas. The win leaves them in fifth place, just off the pace of the play offs,.
“We are on course for my target of a top six place,” said club chairman Gordon Thomson. “There are still tough games to come at Hawick and GHA, and equally difficult ones at home to Currie Chieftains and Marr.”
Head coach Ali O’Connor was delighted with the win. ”It brings to a conclusion a very good week in which we have trained well, and delivered at the end of it,” he said. “We brought an intensity and focus to the game, and were generally accurate in all we did.”
Not surprisingly, his opposite number Graeme Paterson was disappointed. ”We are not down yet, but have lacked consistency all season,” he reflected. :We were good in patches, but missed some vital tackles. We have Jed next week, and will be bidding to close the gap on them. It has been a learning experience for all the team.”
Aberdeen Grammar: S Mills; A Ovenstone, M Mitchell, T Aplin, D Russell; S Knudson, T Morrison; C Reddish, A Cook, M Schosser, R Cessford, J Robertson, N Coe, B Inglis, G Ryan. Subs: W Alton, R Anderson, A Robertson, S Sneddon.
Musselburgh: J Doig; J Ferguson, R Smith, R Watt, G Tait; P Cunningham, D Owenson; C Owenson, J Crain, C Arthur, W Fleming, C Champion, M Maltman, C Pryde, P Brown. Subs: E Bonthron, C Hutson, R Young, S Watt.
Referee: Ian Kenny
Aberdeen: Tries Aplin, Ryan 2, Cook, Knudson, Russell; Cons: Aplin 5.
Musselburgh: Tries: Owenson, Watt, Champion; Cons: Owenson 3; Pens: Owenson 2.
Scoring sequence (Aberdeen first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 7-6; 12-6; 17-6; 19-6; 24-6; 26-6 (h-t) 31-6; 33-6; 33-11; 33-13; 38-13; 40-13; 40-18; 40-20; 40-25; 40-27.
Man-of-the-Match: There were a number of strong candidates, mainly from the home side, including captain Sam Knudson with his deft touches and quiet authority in the midfield, lock Jordan Robertson for his all round skills and application, but it was No 8 Greg Ryan who once again showed his is the man for the big occasion. He was, however, pushed all the way for the honour by Musselburgh’s Danny Owenson who did not deserve to be on the losing side.
Talking point: Had to be the fact that despite the intensity of the contest, referee Ian Kenny did not feel the need to show a card of any colour. A tribute to him and the two teams.