GHA v Aberdeen Grammar: discipline and defence clinch away win

The men from the north of Scotland climb back into the play-off places with a hard-fought win on the road

GHA Captain Jamie McCarthy, drives forward during his team's defeat to Aberdeen Grammar. Image: Joyce Robinson
GHA Captain Jamie McCarthy, drives forward during his team's defeat to Aberdeen Grammar. Image: Joyce Robinson

GHA 19

Aberdeen Grammar 21


A SUPERBLY disciplined second-half performance, in which they denied their hosts any points, carried the visitors to victory in a game which, if it lacked flowing rugby, more than made amends in terms of effort and commitment.

The win puts Aberdeen back into the top four in the table and head coach Ali O’Connor says that the target this year now has to be to make the play-offs. “Christmas couldn’t come quickly for us, we were missing a lot of players for various reasons and we were really struggling, but we feel that we have something close to our strongest team out we can be a match for any side in this league,” he said. “This is the first of five games we have after Christmas and if we can keep playing well we will be there or thereabouts.

“It is the first time in a long time we have done the double over GHA, who are a really dangerous side, so we’re delighted with the result. Our defence and physicality was outstanding, especially in the second half, so we just need to make sure that we keep building on that and don’t let our standards drop.”

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Aberdeen took an early lead when, off a penalty line-out, and with a second advantage in hand, Murray Mitchell ran a superb line for a try, connverted by Tom Aplin.

That was in three minutes, but, two minutes later, in their first incursion to the Aberdeen 22, GHA levelled. Great counter-rucking created the chance for Jordan Craig to burst through and touch down, George Baird converting.

In ten minutes, the home team went in front with a very similar score. Mike Ryan got behind the defence, Craig again came on the burst and when tackled near the line, he off-loaded for Erik Cavan to burst over for a try which referee Michael Todd awarded after consulting his touch judge.

GHA, however, had fallen foul of Mr Todd in the opening quarter, conceding eight penalties, with Aberdeen turning the screw through a series of scrums, before switching the play wide on the left for Doug Russell to go over. Aplin again converted and, to add insult to injury, GHA had Mike Ryan yellow-carded for an offence in the build-up.

The game then settled down somewhat, and, in 31 minutes, GHA worked a great move off a five-metre penalty line-out and Adam Barnett touched down, with Baird’s conversion putting the hosts ahead 19-14.

They thought they had increased their lead in the final minute, after another spell of pressure saw skipper Jamie McCarthy clean over, only to be recalled by referee Todd – who awarded them a penalty. Apparently, Mr Todd thought he had inadvertently obstructed an Aberdeen defender.

In a second half which was a case of GHA attack versus superb Aberdeen defence, the home side squandered chances galore. They got over three times, but could not touch down; they refused to take what seemed like relatively easy penalties as they went for tries and, in one of their few attacks, in 58 minutes, Aberdeen scored the decisive try.

Their first maul was halted, but, they tried again and this time, prop Mathias Schosser got the crucial touch-down, with Aplin converting to put them ahead.

Aberdeen lost replacement Peter Ritchie to a yellow-card, but, while he was on the naughty step, GHA repeatedly, for all their pressure, failed to score. They eschewed a kickable penalty, then, in the act of scoring, one of their players knocked on, and Aberdeen survived to take the points, with GHA having to settle for a losing bonus.

Home head coach Trevor Carmichael conceded afterwards that the play-offs were probably out of reach now. “It was a tough day at the office,” he reflected. “I though we played quite well in the first half and had a lot of ball and looked dangerous, but we let ourselves down a bit after the break, with lots of silly errors and poor game management decisions.

“I think we have to accept that the top four is out of reach now, so it is about taking one game at a time and making sure that we secure Premiership status for next season because it is very tight between the middle and the bottom of the league.”

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Teams –

GHA: J Edgar, J Craig, G Mollison, A Hughes, A Purewal, C King, G Baird; E Cavan, H Clark, M Fox, A Barnett, J McCarthy, A Kerr, M Marinkovic, M Ryan. Substitutes: S Carson, S Fisher, L McCutcvheon, A Lamb, S Simpson.

Aberdeen Grammar: S Mills, N Brown, 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. Substitutes: J Spence, R Anderson, A Robertson, F Sneddon, P Ritchie.

Referee: M Todd.



Scorers –

GHA: Tries: Craig, Cavan, Barnett ; Con: Baird 2.

Aberdeen Grammar: Tries: Mitchell, Russell, Schosser; Con: Aplin 3.

Scoring sequence (GHA first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 12-7; 12-12; 12-14; 17-14; 19-14 (h-t) 19-19; 19-21.


Yellow cards –

GHA: M Ryan.

Aberdeen Grammar: P Ritchie.


Man-of-the-Match: For his try and general work rate, the call goes to GHA lock Andrew Barnett.

Talking point: Referee Todd had a shocker. In the first half, he gave Aberdeen everything, in the second, all the calls went GHA’s way. He was inconsistent, didn’t appear to have a clue about offside and, at this level, such a performance is unacceptable.

Musselburgh v Jed-Forest: rampant hosts reignite survival quest


About Matt Vallance 38 Articles
Matt is a former member of Cumnock Rugby Club's 'Mean Machine' - motto: "Well, we won the fight". He has written about some 60 sports in a long career, mainly spent freelancing for, amongst others: The Herald, The Scotsman, The Sunday Times, Scotland on Sunday, the late-lamented Sunday Standard and just about every national paper. He survived a spell at the Paisley Daily Express, covering St Mirren and the Paisley Pirates every week. He now writes a lot of sporting obituaries, since he saw many of his subjects play. Opinionated, passionate and, as one Bill McMurtire once said: "The only Cumnock member (other than Mark Bennett) who can be let out without an escort". In his 70th year, Matt, known to many as: 'Snuff', still has a few noses to get up. Unfulfilled ambition - to live long enough to see Scotland beat the All Blacks.