Aberdeen Grammar 14
DAVID BARNES @ Rubislaw
A DISAPPOINTING middle third to this match – and particularly the ten minute spell immediately after half-time – saw Aberdeen Grammar surrender the 14-0 lead they had built through their powerful pack, and although they recovered enough to spend several minutes bombarding the Selkirk line towards the end, they struggled to keep control of the ball against a fierce defence and in fairly diabolical conditions.
“We let them back into it way too easily, unfortunately, but I’ve got to say full credit to Selkirk because the goal-line stand at the end was excellent. They just kept putting in the hits and eventually forced the error from us, so they were good value for the win,” conceded Ali O’Connor, the magnanimous Aberdeen Grammar coach, after watching his team lose at home for the second consecutive week, meaning they have now dropped out of the play-off placing in the Premiership table.
“In the last two games, we feel like we’ve let seven or eight valuable league points slip by us – we’ve been in a position to win both games but haven’t seen it out – so that is disappointing,” added O’Connor. “The way we played after half-time today really cost us. We made four handling errors and gave away a lot of penalties to let Selkirk back into it way too easily, and it was not the weather to be chasing the game,”
Aberdeen fired out the blocks and snatched an early lead when their dominant scrum squeezed two penalties out of Selkirk on their own line – with a penalty-try and/or a yellow-card beginning to look inevitable – before No 8 Greig Ryan picked up at the base of a third set-piece and flopped over.
Tom Aplin slotted the tricky conversion from the right and, with Ryan making his presence felt in the loose through a couple thunderous tackles, Aberdeen moved to 14-0 ahead when Nat Coe blasted his way over after a long onslaught on the opposition line by the home pack .
Selkirk got a foothold in the match when Josh Mackay spotted a gap in Aberdeen’s wall and nipped over, but the home team were still very much in control with a 14-7 advantage at half-time.
The break did the Rubislaw men absolutely no good. They were dozy and ill-disciplined after the break, conceding four kickable penalties in quick succession, with Selkirk stand-off Callum Anderson successful with three of this shots at goal (to go with his earlier conversion), which edged the Borderers into a narrow lead that they then dug deep to protect as if their lives depended on it.
An excellent burst up the middle of the park by Aplin put Aberdeen on the front foot with about quarter of an hour to go, but they couldn’t capitalise on that opportunity, despite spending most of the next ten minutes camped on the Selkirk line.
O’Connor was asked at the end if there was any bright spots he could draw from this dreich afternoon in the north-east. “Our scrum was fantastic today, especially on the first half, and we don’t feel that was rewarded in the way we would expect it to be,” he replied rather half-heartedly.
Aberdeen Grammar: S Mills; C Shepherd, M Mitchell, T Aplin, D Russell; S Knudson©, T Morrison; C Reddish, A Cook, R Anderson, J Robertson, R Cessford, N Coe, B Inglis, G Ryan. Subs: T Ryan, C Robertson, D Wallen, J Troup, A Ovenstone.
Selkirk: H Bithray; J Welsh, L Berte, R Nixon, R Cottrell; C Anderson, L Merolle; S Rankin, J Bett, B Riddell, P Forrest, A Mackay, J Mackay, S McClymont, E MacDougall. Subs: D Nichol, L Pettie, L Cassidy, C McNeil, F Anderson.
Referee: Ruairidh Campbell
Aberdeen Grammar: Tries: Ryan, Coe; Cons: Aplin 2.
Selkirk: Try: Mackay; Con: Anderson; Pens: Anderson 3.
Scoring sequence (Aberdeen Grammar first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 14-5; 14-7 (h-t) 14-10; 14-13; 14-17.
Man-of-the-Match: Aberdeen’s scrum was totally dominant and setting the tone for the whole match until the arrival on the pitch of Luke Pettie towards the end of the first half, and although some members of the home front-row were clearly exasperated with how he went around neutralising their threat in that area, his influence was key to turning the momentum of the game.
Talking point: Two home losses on the bounce has not helped Aberdeen push for a play-off finish but they are only two points off the pace with seven games to go, so their destiny is still very much in their own hands as long as they rediscover the winning habit soon.