Aberdeen Grammar 34
JACK NIXON @ Rubislaw
THIS dead-rubber may not have much box office appeal for the connoisseurs but in the event it provided pretty good fare, which will hopefully be sufficient to bring back the supporters of the two teams next season.
For the Grammar faithful, it will mean a journey into the unknown in National League One, while Musselburgh will be keen to attempt to make improvements in their status in the top amateur league.
Whether the Rubislaw side will be good enough to make a quick return to the top flight is still open to question, although on this form you would imagine they would certainly be challenging for the honours, while the Stoneyhill outfit on the strength of this performance will be looking for better things next term.
In the event it was Grammar who had the most to be pleased about, surging to a five try win, once they had put their early handling errors to bed, taking them to a third win of the season, while making it two wins in a row at Rubislaw.
The game took its time to come to life with Musselburgh looking the more likely in the early stages but unable to make an impact on the stuffy well organised home defence.
Indeed, despite their dominance in the first 20 minutes it was Grammar who surprisingly opened the scoring when winger Euan Sinclair kicked ahead before releasing flanker Patrick Mullholland under the posts. Centre and captain Tom Aplin kcked the conversion on his first game in six weeks.
Stunned into action, the East Lothian side hit back almost immediately with an unconverted try of their own, attributed to flanker Jordan Lister, followed just before half time with a penalty from Danny Owenson to give the visitors an 8-7 lead their pressure just about merited.
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All that changed in the second period as passes started to stick in Grammar hands and nowhere more so than with No 8 Corey Buchan, whose rampaging runs proved too much for Musselburgh, who conceded four second half tries. They managed two of their own but those were never likely to bring victory over a resurgent Grammar side who were clearly enjoying themselves in their farewell game to the Premiership.
The Grammar touchdowns were attributed to flanker Carwyn Walker, centre Doug Russell, scrum-half Craig Shepherd (who is rapidly becoming a valuable utility back having played in five different positions this season) and stand off Sam Knudson, the home side’s key playmaker. Aplin added two conversions and a penalty.
For Musselburgh, the points came from centre Rory Watt and replacement prop Duncan Hodge, while Owenson kicked a lone conversion.
The home side should have added to their tally, but were obviously happy to have scored 34 points in an otherwise dismal season, made much better by these two late victories.
Club captain Russell was delighted to sign off on a high. “We will go away and take on board some of the things that went wrong this season, while building on the positives of today, and the game against Selkirk,” he said. “Perhaps going down will not prove to be a disaster. We can learn from out mistakes and come back stronger.”
Graeme Paterson, the retiring Musselburgh head coach, was not given the send off his contribution over the years deserved. “We failed to execute our first half chances and paid the penalty,” he said. “I will now have a decent break before deciding what next.”
Aberdeen Grammar: C Hunter; E Sinclair, D Russell, T Aplin, B Renton; S Knudson, C Shepherd; L Buchan, G Robertson, Y Ahmanache, A Robertson, C Robertson, C Walker, P Mullholland, C Buchan. Subs used: A Glen, J Burnett, A Fitzgerald, A McFarlane.
Musselburgh: J Ferguson; S Watt, R Watt, M Cimprich, G Tait; D Owenson, L Kotze; R Handing, J Crain, C Arthur, W Fleming, J Haynes, J Lister, C Pryde, C Champion. Subs used: D Hodge, R Stott, P Brown, R Smith, T Foley.
Referee: Ian Kenny
Aberdeen Grammar: Tries: Mullholland, Walker, Russell, Knudson, Shepherd; Cons: Aplin 3; Pen: Aplin.
Musselburgh: Tries: Lister, Watt, Hodge; Con: Owenson; Pen: Owenson.
Scoring sequence (Aberdeen first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-8 (h-t) 12-5; 14-5; 14-8; 14-13; 17-13; 22-§13; 27-13; 29-13; 29-18; 29-20; 34-20.
Man-of-the-Match: There were a number of contenders, including Craig Shepherd, Patrick Mullholland and Sam Knudson all from Grammar, while the visitors were best served by full-back James Ferguson and winger Gregor Tait.
But it was the all round excellence of Corey Buchan who carried the day.
Talking point: The game of rugby was put in perspective by the thoughts the crowd had for the people of Ukraine, demonstrated by all the match proceeds going to the Disaster Fund.