Aberdeen Grammar 5
Currie Chieftains 85
JACK NIXON @ Rubislaw
THE gap was there for all to see as Currie Chieftains cruised to a comfortable win, leaving them 60 points above a beleaguered, injury- and Covid-stricken Aberdeen Grammar who are now all but relegated with only four games remaining in their season of misery, which has to date yielded only one win.
Currie, in stark contrast, have lost only one game, which was at Hawick in the opening game of the campaign. Since then they have played 14 unbeaten games. The Malleny Park side are now on target to end up well clear at the top of Scotland’s top club league as the leading four head into the play-offs next month.
In the event, it was not so much the result of this hopelessly one-sided affair which mattered but the implications for the top-of-the-table side and the team at the foot of the division. In the case of Currie, the chief concern now is failing to win the play-offs after dominating the Premiership since week two of the campaign. For the Rubislaw side it is more of a concern about whether the club established in 1893 will still be in existence even two or three years down the line.
The Currie dilemma, if indeed there is one, was firmly addressed by captain for the day, prop Graeme Carson, who said: ”We need to keep up the challenge in every game we play until we reach the play-offs. We have set a standard which we intend to maintain. Our head coach, Mark Cairns, has continually reminded us of keeping our form. I thought we did that quite well today, running in 13 tries in the process.”
Ironically, the 32-year-old is a former Aberdeen Grammar player who moved south some years ago, although he was born in Currie.
The Grammar response came from an unlikely source but perhaps reflected the way forward for the beleaguered northerners. Replacement tight-head prop Ali Linklater joined the action after only 20 minutes, by which time the home side had shipped three tries to trail 19-0. Not exactly the time to make your debut for the club.
But the Orcadians are made of sterner stuff, and having caught the overnight ferry into Aberdeen on Friday, the youngster was set to catch the ferry home within two hours of the match ending.
Not surprisingly, Linklater did not set the heather on fire, but almost certainly paved the way for Grammar to embark on a recruitment drive to involve other clubs in the Caledonian area, something they have not been particularly committed to in recent years, now that relegation stares them in the face.
“I like to think I could be part of their set-up next season,” said Linklater, who was given a ringing endorsement from Grammar forwards coach Iain Stanger, a stalwart of the highflying Rubislaw side who came within an ace of winning the Premiership 20 years ago. “I thoroughly enjoyed my game, but it was much faster than what I am used to in Caley Division One. It’s been a great learning experience for me.”
“Graeme aquitted himself well considering we had struggled to raise a team for this game due to ongoing injury issues and Covid,” said Stanger. “Having to play such a good side of the quality of Currie made for a difficult afternoon. They are a class outfit.”
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The class was in evidence right from the seventh minute when full-back Charlie Brett rounded off a slick bout of handling from his fellow backs. The touchdown was converted by fly-half Gregor Hunter, who then romped over for his side’s second try and kicked the extras, before going off injured which led to winger Jamie Forbes taking on stand-off duties which included eight successful conversions..
Currie were out of sight by half time, running in seven tries, six of which were converted, before continuing the rout in the second half with six more of the best.
There was braces for No 8 Rhys Davies, flanker Wallace Nelson, replacement prop Cairn Ramsay and centre Ryan Southern, while Brett, Hunter, winger Adam Hall, hooker Ryan Stewart and second-row Hamish Ferguson all waged in with one apiece.
The lone home touchdown came late in the second half when winger Ben Renton got on the end of a cross-kick to give a brave Grammar some kind of consolation.
But the day belonged to the Edinburgh side who, if there is any kind of justice, will go on to lift the title in the play-offs, not that they will be taking anything for granted.
Aberdeen Grammar: S Knudson; C Shepherd, A McFarlane, S Ryan, B Renton; A Addy, P Ritchie. R Walker, L Buchan, T McLoughlin, N Coe, C Walker, P Mullholland, B Inglis, G Ryan. Subs: G Robertson, A Linklater, S Renfrew, F McNeil.
Currie Chieftains: C Brett; J Forbes, R Southern, D Innes, A Hall; G Hunter, P Boyer; G Carson, R Stewart, A McWilliam, H Ferguson, E Stewart, W Nelson, G Nelson, R Davies. Subs used: S Fisher, C Ramsay, C Roman, C McGregor, C Lessels,
Referee: Sam O’Neil
Aberdeen Grammar: Try: Renton.
Currie Chieftains: Tries: Brett, Hunter, Hall, Davies 2, W Nelson 2, Ramsay 2, Southern 2, R Stewart, Ferguson; Cons: Hunter 2, Forbes 7, Brett.
Scoring sequence (Aberdeen Grammar first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 0-19; 0-24; 0-26; 0-31; 0-33; 0-38; 0-40; 0-45; 0-47 (h-t) 5-47; 5-52; 5-57; 5-59; 5-64; 5-66; 5-71; 5-73; 5-78; 5-80, 5-85.
Man-of-the-Match: It could have been anyone of this seriously good Currie side but Rhys Davies gets the nod after a rousing performance, capped by his well taken tries.
Talking point: The future of Aberdeen Grammar which must be of great concern for all those who care about rugby in the North-East.
STATEMENT FROM ABERDEEN GRAMMAR:
A statement from Grammar chairman Gordon Thomson said:
I refer to the article in the Offside Line website, containing a match report of the Aberdeen Grammar Rugby v Currie Chieftains on 22 January 2022.
As reported, a weakened Aberdeen team suffered a heavy defeat to the Premier League leaders Currie Chieftains. As reported, a large number of Aberdeen players were absent through injury and covid positive tests or isolation as per Scottish Government restrictions. By Thursday 20 January 2022 we had 13 players unavailable due to covid. A decision was made to fulfil our two fixtures and we thank Orkney, Kinloss Eagles, Aberdeen University and Stewarts Melville rugby clubs for allowing players to turn out for Aberdeen Grammar over the weekend.
We refute any suggestion that our club may not exist in two-three years’ time. Pre-Covid we were the highest placed totally amateur side in Scottish Club Rugby. Due to the club deciding four years ago to stop contracting paid players (as we are entitled to) we have channeled money and resources into local schools and Aberdeen University. These projects will assist in growing the playing numbers in the North and rebuild our midi section, which is thriving. We have over 250 mini and youth players at the club and with its increased growth the club will have viable numbers for many years to come.
Players at the club are recompensed for expenses as per HMRC guidelines, where travel and accommodation/food costs are incurred. No player is paid a match fee at the club, as has been recently suggested by some ill-informed individuals.
The club is in a strong financial position and with the support of all our members, supporters, parents and players the club will remain viable and fully resourced.
Ongoing facilities improvement remains a priority, with the ambition to establish a regional centre for Rugby Union, which could be used for youth development and joint use with other clubs.
The return to rugby post covid lockdown has been difficult for many clubs and we have endeavoured to fulfil our obligations in a safe and practical manner, even when seriously impacted by injuries and covid infections.
The club is a group of people who love the game of Rugby Union and with younger members coming onto the committee the club will be in safe hands for decades to come