JACK NIXON @ Rubislaw
FOR all of seven minutes Aberdeen Grammar of National League One enjoyed parity with Premiership highflyers Ayr at Rubislaw before the slick, organised west coasters cut loose, scoring six unanswered tries to build up an unassailable 32 point lead by half-time in this third round Scottish Cup tie.
In fairness to the relegation haunted Aberdeen side, they hit back in the second half to end up with a respectable 51 – 12 score-line, restricting Ayr to three second half tries, while scoring two of their own.
“We were surprised by the Grammar fight back. They played well, scoring two excellent tries. We were impressive in the first half, and we are through to the fourth round, keeping us in with a shout of a Murrayfield final, but that’s a long way off,” said Calum Forrester, the Ayr head coach.
Grammar’s own supremo, Ali O’Connor ,was delighted with his side’s spirited response.
“We didn’t cope with Ayr’s first half physicality. In the second half we adjusted pretty well and gave ourselves a boost in our on-going battle against relegation, but first we have a week’s break. We had so many players who stepped up to the mark, including lock Robin Cessford and number eight Chris Jollands, and first timer Craig Shepherd. Ayr have, in fact, done us a big favour, enabling us to gain some self belief, which will hopefully see us through at the end of the season. In the meantime I wish them good luck. They are a good, organised side.”
Once Ayr had survived the early Grammar defiance it was quite clear the visitors had pace and skill in abundance, ably demonstrated by centre Fraser Climo who cruised past the home defence to open the scoring in eight minutes for a try that stand-off Paddy Dewhirst was unable to convert.
More punishment was to come for the Rubislaw side who then conceded tries to winger Jamie Bova, prop Adam Prentice, winger Richard Dalgliesh and then two from captain Pete McCallum, only one of which was converted by Dewhirst, making it 32 – 0 at the break.
Whatever was in the Aberdeen side’s half-time drinks clearly worked, as thay applied themselves with greater energy, leading to centre Matthew Arnold going under the posts for a try converted by stand Tom Aplin before the Millbrae side pulled further ahead with tries from hooker Steven Longwell and centre Danny McLuskey, converted by Dewhirst and Climo.
Grammar were not done and stormed back with an interception try from Arnold which was unconverted, but it was the Premiership side who had the last word when replacement Gregor Henry surged over for his sides ninth try, making the final score 51 – 12 and honour satisfied in both camps, which is a far cry from the halcyon days of a Grammar side who once threatened to win the top Scottish league in the early part of the century.
Aberdeen Grammar: D Russell; M Arnold, A Ratcliffe, T Aplin, C Ruxton; S Knudson, J Gray; R Anderson, F McKenzie, C Neilson, A Robertson, R Cessford, C Brew, C Howard, C Jollands. Subs: S Clark, M McCall, L Tallett, D Wallen, J Robertson.
Ayr: G Anderson; R Dalgliesh, D McCluskey, F Climo, J Bova; P Dewhirst, H Warr; G Hunter, R Smith, A Prentice, C Stevenson, R McAlipne, B MacPherson, L Anderson, P McCallum©. Subs: D Young, S Longwell, G Henry, G Hunter, R Curle.
Aberdeen Grammar: Try: Arnold 2; Con: Alpin.
Ayr: Tries: Climo, Bova, Prentice, Dalgleish, McCallum 2, Longwell, McCluskey, Henry; Cons: Dewhirst 3.
Scoring Sequence (Grammar first): 0-5; 0-10; 0-15; 0-17; 0-22; 0-27; 0-32 (h-t) 5-32; 7-32; 7-37; 7-39; 7-44; 7-46; 12-51.
Man-of-the-Match: Ayr captain Pete McCallum led from the front as usual.
Talking Point: Does Scottish rugby suffer from not having a team based further north than Stirling in the top flight of the club game?
Image courtesy: Howard Moles