Aberdeen Exiles triumph over Select XV in Boxing Day clash at Rubislaw

Former Glasgow Warriors back-row Rory McKay marshalled his side to victory

Former Glasgow Warriors back-row Rory McKay led Aberdeen Exiles to victory over an Aberdeen Select at Rubislaw on Boxing Day
Former Glasgow Warriors back-row Rory McKay led Aberdeen Exiles to victory over an Aberdeen Select at Rubislaw on Boxing Day

Aberdeen Select 18

Aberdeen Exiles 29

JACK NIXON @ Rubislaw

THE fine traditions of the annual Boxing Day extravaganza which go back to 1930 were duly honoured at Rubislaw, the home of Aberdeen Grammar, by an Aberdeen Select side who just failed to hold off the challenge of an Aberdeen Exiles, superbly marshalled by coach Rory McKay, who played for both Aberdeen Grammar and Gordoniians before turning professional with Glasgow Warriors.

McKay was delighted to play a part in continuation of the 93 year old fixture which his late father Graeme helped organise when a prominent member of the Gordonians set-up at Countesswells. ”Many of the Exiles team hadn’t played for a while, so it was to their credit they came through 29-18, repeating their 37-19 win of last year.

“Former Garioch player, Peter Jercevich, now in Hong Kong, was a great influence for us, enabling us to take control in the second half against a stuffy Select team who competed well. It was good to see young talent like Ross Birnie and Ross Brown come through,” McKay added.

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The father and son connection was also to the fore in the Select coaching team, as Eric Strachan, the current head coach at Rubislaw was teaming up with his son Ryan, bidding to give the home team a rare win in the fixture.

”It was an end-toend affair with only one score in it for much of the game. With both teams putting a lot of energy into the morning it ensured it was a good contest,” said Strachan, senior.

Jim Sugden, a former Gordonian and organiser of the fixture for the last four games, was delighted at the huge turnout, and the near perfect conditions, but most of all happy that the fine traditions of the fixture had been upheld. ”It was a cracking contest, played in the best possible spirit, and then go off to enjoy a beer or two over a meal attended by 70 people,” he said. “I like to think they were also talking about the decline of the game in the Aberdeen area where the highest represented teams are only playing in National League Twp. The North East should be aspiring to better,” said Sugden, acknowledging that much of the talent on display was in the visiting team.

So, while the day was voted a big hit by the higher than normal spectator turnout, for the more discerning, the jury is still out on whether the area can keep its place in the national framework, including Edinburgh, Glasgow and of course the Scottish Borders with its much smaller population base than the Aberdeen area.

This was a point not lost on Eric Strachan who prior to the fixture said: ”We cannot afford to fall behind these regions. An Aberdeen team is surely the answer.”

Meanwhile, select captain and current Aberdeen Grammar club captain, Jack Burnett, was more cautious but said:”Of course we need to manage our resources better, but I would insist there is wealth of talent in and around Aberdeen. We must not forget that.”

The debate will go on but in the meantime the tenacity and organising skills of Sugden have paid off, keeping the Exiles initiative alive and hopefully on track for it’s 100th anniversary in 2030, by which time there might be another saviour of the North East game in place.

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About Jack Nixon 74 Articles
Jack is a Borderer, born in Langholm, and a graduate of Moray House College of Education in Edinburgh. He was a founder member of Livingston Rugby Club in 1968 and has been rugby correspondent for the Aberdeen Press and Journal since 1997. He has been going to Murrayfield man and boy since 1954!

1 Comment

  1. A well balanced report that captures the enthusiasm of a sunny day at Rubislaw but does not shy away from the dilemma facing rugby in Aberdeen and the North-East.
    The game was strongly contested and full of honest indivudual endeavour but lacked continuity and an overall quality of play. But the large assembled crowd bought into the spirit and tradition of the fixture.
    Much gratitude is owed to Jim Sugden and his band of helpers, plus to respective coaches, Rory McKay and Eric Strachan and, of course, the players that took part. Hopefully, this type of camaraderie and spirit can be retained until the Centenary game in a few years time?
    Though, I suspect the structure of Aberdeen rugby and its clubs, will have gone through several changes by then!

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