Premiership: Aberdeen Grammar make GHA work for win in high-scoring encounter

GHA centre pairing Max McFarlane and Charlie Lonergan play key role as hosts recover from rocky start

GHA ran out comfortable winners in the end over Aberdeen Grammar. Image: Colin Robinson
GHA ran out comfortable winners in the end over Aberdeen Grammar. Image: Colin Robinson

GHA 64

Aberdeen Grammar 27

IAIN HAY @ Braidholm

CENTRE pairing Max McFarlane and Charlie Lonergan took top-billing as the hosts ran in ten tries to push poor Aberdeen Grammar another step closer to relegation from the Tennent’s Premiership.

With Grammar once again relying on players on loan from Orkney, the match was moved to a 3pm kick-off and onto the 3G pitch which has better floodlighting to accommodate the guest players’ travel needs, but that was hospitable as GHA got.

The visitors held the lead for a short spell in the first half, before the better drilled home side eventually found some rhythm to carve through their opponents and ease to victory.


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Having seen his side slip into cruise control after a shaky opening, GHA head coach Trevor Carmichael said: “Last week was a great victory for us against Hawks, but we said to the boys if we didn’t win today last week would count for nothing.

“We have to keep the momentum going for the rest of the season. We had to be mentally up for this game with Aberdeen fighting for their lives, and if we didn’t go in with the right attitude it would be a long day for us. The first-half was a bit back and forth; we didn’t make the most of our opportunities and we were a wee bit loose in how we wanted to play the game, but at half-time we wanted to tighten up a bit and the second half certainly showed that.”

The back and forth began straight from the outset, and that includes the goalposts which were rocking in the stiff breeze brought by Storm Malik. Andrew Goudie’s kick-off for the home side was spilled, and within two minutes of the ref’s whistle, Max McFarlane had crossed the line for his first score of the day.

Grammar began to show some flashes of quality and Sam Knudson’s penalty reduced the deficit, but when they won a turnover penalty in their own 22 through Ben Inglis, that small victory quickly turned pyhrric when George Baird did superbly to keep the kick to touch in play and spark a counter-attack which led to Charlie Lonergan scoring in the left-corner.

Grammar’s Patrick Mulholland – moved into the second-row from blindside after yesterday’s initial team announcement – broke through some weak tackling to take his side into GHA territory, and was soon on hand to score from a line-out, and was involved again as Aberdeen took the lead through winger Ben Renton’s finish to cause a bit of concern among the home side’s support, who had turned out in decent number, even if you discount those who stayed in the warmth of the clubhouse when they later popped in for a pie and beverage at the break.

Having realised that Grammar may be bottom of the league but are no soft touches, McFarlane decided to take the game by the scruff of the neck. He kicked a clearance deep which Grammar allowed to bounce awkwardly on the astroturf, Scott Plumridge took the ball on, and although he couldn’t make the line, captain Jamie McCarthy’s wind-disrupted pass fell kindly for McFarlane to race onto and finish adroitly.

McFarlane and Lonergan then linked up to send Adam Scott away, and then luckless Aberdeen were dealt a cruel blow when Ross Cameron went down on halfway with what looked like a knee injury when he was eating up turf.

 

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Lonergan waltzed under the sticks after concerted GHA pressure at the beginning of the second half, only for Cameron Shepherd to reply for Grammar to keep the game contestable, but then GHA started to pull away.

Heavily tattooed, powerhouse winger, Scott Derrick, touched down, and only an excellent track-back by Shepherd stopped McFarlane completing his hat-trick, but then substitute winger Luca Bardelli grabbed himself a quick fire double to take GHA over a half century of points.

Grammar got themselves a try-scoring bonus point when Archie Falconer was adjudged to have illegally stopped their maul from going over with the hooker also being sin-binned for his aberration, but further crossings of the try-line by Plumridge and Derrick – a superb solo score from just inside Grammar’s half which showcased his strength and speed – put further gloss on proceedings.

“First off, congratulations to GHA, they were well worth their win, some of the runners and the lines they were hitting were outstanding – but first half there was a real good energy about us which we’ve not seen for a while, and things were connecting,” said the ever gracious Ali O’Connor of Grammar.

“The problem we always have is players being unavailable, unfit due to not being able to make training, unable to make training because of work, struggling with travel commitments, but that’s just been the story of our season.

“When we put things together we actually looked very dangerous and we gave them a run for their money in the first half, so we’re delighted with the first half, but then they tightened up in the second half a little bit, and their quality off the bench and their conditioning was too deep.

“We’re going down a division,” he said. “We’ll rebuild the squad, but today – for example – we had 45 guys wanting to play rugby matches, unfortunately the seconds game got cancelled, but anyone who thinks the club isn’t in good shape … I don’t know where they’re coming from. Where do I see us going? We rebuild and come back stronger.”

 

Teams –

GHA: A Scott; J Edgar, C Lonergan, M MacFarlane, S Derrick; A Goudie, G Baird; E Cavan, A Falconer, M Fox, A Kerr, J McCarthy, S Plumridge, D Ewing, J Bruce. Subs: B Boum, R Hay, W Graham, S Simpson, L Bardelli

Aberdeen Grammar: C Shepherd; R Cameron, D Russell, M New, B Renton; S Knudson, P Ritchie; L Buchan, S Randall, A Linklater, C Walker, P Mulholland, G Robertson B Inglis, C Buchan. Subs: J Burnett, C Robertson, M Baptiste, C McCall, A Ovenstone,

Referee: David Sutherland

 

Scorers –

GHA: Tries: McFarlane 2, Lonergan 2, Scott, Derrick 2, Bardelli 2, Plumridge; Cons: Scott 4, Baird 3.

Aberdeen Grammar: Tries: Mulholland, Renton, Shepherd, Penalty Try; Cons: Knudson; Pen: Knudson.

Scoring sequence (GHA first): 5-0; 5-3; 10-3; 12-3; 12-10; 12-15; 17-15; 22-15l 24-15 (h-t) 29-15; 31-15; 31-20; 36-20; 38-20; 42-20; 45-20; 50-20; 52-20; 52-25; 52-27; 57-27; 59-27; 64-27.

 

Yellow Cards –

GHA: Falconer

 

Man-of-the-Match: Grammar had some impressive individual performances from the likes of Patrick Mulholland, Ben Inglis and Cameron Shepherd, but to the victor usually go the spoils, and when you’ve scored or created at least half your team’s points, you’ve done a good shift, so it’s Max MacFarlane.

Talking Point: Let this be a lesson to anyone slagging players off for wearing trackies/leggings under their shorts on artificial turfs, because McFarlane was, and he was the stand-out. Excellent on both sides of the ball, and with likely the warmest legs on the park.


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About Iain Hay 54 Articles
New to the freelancing journalistic world as of August 2019, Iain has previously written for The Scottish Rugby Blog since 2017, covering matches for Glasgow Warriors, Scotland and opinion pieces. Can also often be heard on their podcast flapping his gums about the oval-ball (technically, it’s ellipsoidal) game and being pedantic. Is rumoured to believe that Finn Russell is The Messiah. Does the Twitter thing, but doesn’t like it.