Aberdeen Grammar 19
Stirling County 26
JACK NIXON @ Rubislaw
THE very notion that this was a meaningless fixture, given the assumption that the two protagonists might be more committed to saving themselves from relegation from National League One, drew stinging responses from both camps.
For despite losing out to their Caledonian derby rivals, Grammar club captain and flanker Jack Burnett was adamant every game was important.”We are having a difficult time in the most competitive of leagues but we are committed to trying to win every game,” he insisted. “The Scottish Cup is no different. We may have lost today but we made a game of it, and will build on it going into the closing stages of the season.”
His chairman, Gordon Thomson, was similarly committed and said:”This is the best we have played all season. Perhaps we should have brought in young players earlier in the season. It was a great contest. Our tackling was vastly improved. We can take this form into our remaining league games.”
This weekend’s other Scottish Cup results:
Craig Deacons, the County head coach, was delighted to have come through a stirring cup tie, regarding the competition as an integral part of the club season.
“We will now have the confidence to go on to save our season after being pushed all the way. We were brilliant for 20 minutes and then played ugly rugby for the remainder of the game but had enough in the tank to come back at the death and win with a late try,” said the enthusiastic Deacons, who will now apply himself to avoiding relegation, while preparing for the second round tie away to GHK.
In the event, the all Caledonian clash turned out to be a cracking contest in which both sides had clear aspirations of playing in the next stage of the competition and its was disappointing that it all happened in front of Grammar’s lowest crowd of recent seasons.
The stay at home supporters were the losers as both sides knuckled down, putting aside their relegation fears to provide the finest of fares, although that sparse home support, boosted by the small but vociferous travelling support, seemed destined to see a comfortable away win after the visitors raced into 19 point lead in 20 minutes.
Tries from No 8 Callum MacPherson, centre Mikey Heron and winger Ross Maiden, two of which were converted by their excellent playmaker stand-off Jonny Hope, looked to have done for a limited home side who appeared to not even understand the basics.
All that was to change just before the break when inspired by the efforts of captain for the day, No 8 Youssef Salem, the homesters surged back into the game, grabbing the initiative through their highly effective scrum-half Donald Kennedy, who raced over after a tap penalty, with the conversion added by stand off Paul Paxton.
Playing with a stiff, cold wind, Grammar were a different proposition after the break and it was no surprise when they drew level through tries from flanker Mark Galloway and another from Kennedy, one of which was converted by the excellent Paxton.
County then asserted themselves to take control of the game but were unable to break the deadlock thanks to some determined home defending.
Then, with extra time beckoning, centre Liam Carroll finally found space out wide to break home hearts, and with Hope adding the extras, it was game over and time to return to all things relegation for both sides.
At least, County can look forward to the distraction of another Scottish Cup tie, not that Deacons will be taking it lightly. “It’s another opportunity to boost our confidence, and who knows another chance to progress in the competition,” he said.
Aberdeen Grammar: S Rutledge; B Renton, C Shepherd, S Ryan, C Hunter; P Paxton, D Kennedy; Y Ahmanache, L Buchan, M Galloway, B Garwood, J Gamba, G Robertson, J Burnett, Y Salem. Subs: S Mcdonald, P Gaston, A Fitzgerald, S Ryan, O Finlayson.
Stirling County: D Tomanek; B Yarrow, M Heron, L Carroll, R Maiden; J Hope, D Scott; L Quarm, C Richardson, C Murphy, E Cairns, J Brough, R Sangster, S MacDonald, C MacPherson. Subs: C Hudeon, K Crainey, A Budde, L Jamieson, A Crozier.
Referee: George Pounder
Aberdeen Grammar: Tries: Kennedy 2, Galloway; Cons: Paxton 2.
Stirling County: Tries: MacPherson Heron, Maiden, Carroll: Cons: Hope 3.
Scoring sequence (Aberdeen Grammar first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 0-19l 5-19; 7-19 (h-t) 12-19; 14-19; 19-19; 19-24; 19-26.
Man-of-the-Match: There were a number of candidates in this home side, including captain Youssef Salem, and their industrious scrum-half Donald Kennedy, while County were well served by Jonny Hope but it was centre Mikey Heron who caught the eye most with his searing breaks and astute overall play
Talking point: On a day when Scotland were playing their biggest game of the year away to England, why were clubs being asked to play games which would not attract the normal quota of spectators?