STARTED the season well with five wins out of the first six games – but there was always a whiff of defensive frailty in the air – particularly during the try-fest they shared with GHA at Rubislaw in round six. And that frailty was badly exposed when they conceded 22 tries in their next three games against Chieftains, Hawick and Marr.
It was not an easy season for Ali Connor – but he addressed the twin challenges of injuries and unavailability with commendable stoicism. Their defence did improve at home though not on the road and any chance they had of making the play-offs disappeared when they were blown away by Hawick and then by Marr in their final two games.
- A comprehensive 44-22 win over Selkirk at Philiphaugh in round two despite being badly delayed by an accident on the Edinburgh by-pass was hugely encouraging – and suggested that perhaps they would travel better than dictated by perceived wisdom. But it was a mirage – whilst their home and away record was identical at 4 wins out of 9 games played, their points differential away from home was catastrophic.
- Tom Aplin intercepting the Marr scrum-half’s pass deep inside his own 22 and powering his way a full 70 metres for a defiant consolation try at Fullarton – and just to prove that it was no fluke doing something similar against Chieftains at Rubislaw.
- Nat Cole and Robin Cessford making the Scotland Club squad.
- Tom Aplin winning the TOL ‘Golden Boot’ award.
- Taking a sadly depleted side to Malleny in round sevens and being absolutely hammered (3-57).
- Ditto Marr at Fullarton in round nine (7-61).
- And Jed at Riverside in round 12 (17-52).
- Then Hawick at Mansfield in round 17 (7 -54).
- Robin Cessford – a good hard-working forward who gives it everything he’s got every time he pulls on the jersey.
- Tom Aplin is always there – a strong direct runner – and he kicks his goals.
- Matthias Schosser – the German work horse – puts himself about the park big style.
- Nathan Brown scored 9 tries in the first 6 games — but then had his season blighted by injury.
- Youngsters Fraser Sneddon, Craig Shepherd. and Scott Renfrew look good and are working hard to find their feet at Premiership level.
- “Because this is a rescheduled fixture some of our guys had booked holidays – some are going down to the NFL match in London – and some are going to a wedding – which is frustrating. We asked guys not to book things when we had games scheduled but its sod’s law that we had to use this stand-by date because the pitch was flooded last weekend” – Ali Connor before Chieftains game on 2nd November.
- “Christmas could not come quickly enough for us. We were missing a lot of players for various reasons and we were really struggling, but we feel that if we have something close to our strongest team out, we can be a match for any side in this league” – Ali Connor after beating GHA in January.
- “We had a few guys unavailable. We struggle for the away trips. There are a lot of boys who work in oil and with shift patterns that creates unavailability” – Ali O’Connor after the Hawick game at Mansfield.
- “Given our limited resources at the moment, I thought we did well. Had you offered me fifth place in this league at the start of the season, I would have been pleased, but now our season is over we will have to look at where we are going next” – club Chairman Gordon Thomson.
A frustrating season. The talent is there – but so are the obstacles.
Aberdeen along with Dundee and Highland are geographic imperatives for Scottish rugby. The governing body (and indirectly the other Premiership clubs) need to take that on board – and move further towards actively encouraging and accommodating them logistically, economically and geopolitically.