Aberdeen Grammar 12
IAIN HAY @ Fullarton Park
MARR exorcised their humbling defeat by Currie in Premiership round two with a demolition job on Aberdeen Grammar sparked by an outstanding first-half display.
“I thought Marr were on fire in the first half, so congratulations to them on a well deserved victory,” Grammar coach Ali O’Connor said after the match. “I think we’ll be particularly disappointed with our defensive showing in the first half, but taking the positives out of it, there was a couple of boys who stood up and played really well.
“Second half we dominated certain areas [and showed] some real positive signs of recovery, and new combinations gelling, which is something we struggled with in pre-season. The back division coming together were pretty fresh, forwards have barely had any pre-season behind them.
“It’s a bit of a hiding on the scoreboard and not pretty to look at, but the second-half performance is something to build on. We knew it was going to be a pretty sluggish start to the season, but we’ll be looking to come good sooner rather than later.”
Marr opened their account inside the opening two minutes when Calum Inglis – in for the injured Colin Sturgeon – broke in midfield and was then on hand to collect the final pass after some interplay down the right between the Bickerstaff boys. Scrum-half Sinjin Broad was on tee duties for the afternoon and he stroked his first effort over for an early 7-0 lead.
Gordon Reid started off in the unfamiliar position of tight-head prop, and when he found himself in an even more unfamiliar position out on the wing, he picked up from the base of the ruck and dove over in a fashion old team-mates DTH van der Merwe and Tommy Seymour would be proud of.
Aberdeen looked like getting off the mark with their first spell of pressure, only for loosehead Brandon Sweet to win a turnover pen just a few feet from his line. Soon afterwards, a midfield break by Jamie Shedden – and there were plenty of those throughout the 80 minutes – took Marr towards the Grammar line again, and No 8 Ben Johnston stepped and ran it home for a superb solo score.
Shedden then produced an outstanding piece of defensive work when he managed to hunt down Craig Shepherd, who had carved his way through the Marr defensive line, and not only did Shedden haul his man down, he was then quickly on his feet to clamp onto the ball, winning a penalty in the process.
Shepherd did get the try that Aberdeen’s hard work and ten minutes of dominance had earned on the half-hour mark, only for Shedden to reply almost instantly, and then two quick-fire Scott Bickerstaff tries on the cusp of half-time, getting past Andrew Ovenstone a little too easily on both occasions, made the gap a whopping 33 points when referee Michael Todd blew his whistle for the interval.
There was no initial let-up in the second half for Aberdeen. Winger Iosefo Turaga powered his was into the left-corner after a Shedden off-load, and Scott Bickerstaff soon completed his hat-trick, after Shedden (again) and Broad had made the initial break. If there was one criticism of Broad’s performance, it’s that the sniping scrum-half sometimes chose the wrong passing option once Marr had broken through.
As both coaches alluded to in their post-match interviews, a large amount of credit has to go to O’Connor’s charges for sticking to their guns and battling on. The final quarter was spent almost exclusively in the Marr half, and the home side did well to repel wave after wave of attack, until, after frequent infringements, Shedden blotted his otherwise immaculate copy book with a yellow card.
Openside flanker Ben Inglis, and not Tom Aplin as the Fullarton Park announcer seemed to think, forced his way over the line from close range after Grammar had gone to the touchline and mauled their way onto the Marr line.
“First half I thought we played some exceptional stuff. Dropped off a bit second half but in saying that we got a bit of a work-out defensively, which is not a bad thing either!” said a smiling Marr head coach Craig Redpath.
“Delighted to bounce back from last week, and the beginning of this week was tough too, we didn’t know who was going to be fit and available. Currie played exceptional – really, really well – last week and they’re a good side, but we had one call-off and four or five who went off not injured but ill, so I wasn’t hard on them I just said:
‘Let’s get the show back on the road’ and we did pretty well today, to begin with.
“Credit to Aberdeen for sticking in. They could have fallen away with the way we were playing, but we’ll take 48-12 any day of the week.”
Marr: J Scott; S Bickerstaff, J Shedden, C Bickerstaff, I Turaga; C Inglis, S Broad; B Sweet, B Jardine, G Reid, D Andrew, H Murray, C Cunningham, M Pearce, B Johnston. Subs: W Farquhar, B Nicol, K McCulloch, S McDonald, G Ness.
Aberdeen Grammar: A Ovenstone; C Shepherd, B Renton, T Aplin, D Russell; S Knudson, T Morrison; C Reddish, G Robertson, M Schosser, CJ Buchanan, P Mulholland, M Emmison, B Inglis, N Coe. Subs: Y Ahmanache, R Larment, A Robertson, A Addy, M Somerville.
Referee: Michael Todd.
Marr: Tries: Inglis, Reid, Johnston, Shedden, S Bickerstaff 3, Turaga. Cons: Broad 4.
Aberdeen: Tries: Shepherd, Inglis. Con: Aplin.
Scoring sequence: 7-0, 12-0, 17-0, 17-5, 24-5, 31-5, 38-5, 43-5, 48-5, 48-10, 48-12.
Yellow Card –
Man of the Match: a few weeks ago, Ayrshire Bulls captain Blair Macpherson was denied the official MOTM award despite scoring a hat-trick, and unfortunately for Scott Bickerstaff – who did put in a tremendous performance – lightning is going to strike again. The youngster one position inside of him, Jamie Shedden, was superb, being involved in most of Marr’s tries, constantly causing Aberdeen strife, and for that wonderful piece of defending in the first half.
Talking Point: as well as Shedden, Calum Inglis stepped in to Colin Sturgeon’s sizable boots with aplomb, and Craig Redpath thinks there’s more to come from some of the young team. “Calum’s played well, he looked good in pre-season and he’s a great kid. We’ve got a load of good young kids coming through, Scott McDonald had a hard one last week but he’ll come along as well.” The rest of the Premiership has been warned.