Aberdeen Rugby 44 Kelso 24
Aberdeen Grammar’s second-half flurry of six tries blew Border side Kelso away after the visitors had taken a 14-0 lead in the opening 12 minutes.
The opening exchanges had sent a ripple of apprehension through the long-suffering Grammar supporters who in the end stayed to cheer a second-half performance of quality not seen at Rubislaw in recent years.
The home side was simply unstoppable after the interval, no doubt inspired by a first appearance of cheerleaders from Aberdeen University.
Grammar forwards coach Kevin Wyness hailed his side’s return to form and said: “There were positives all over the pitch. It just shows what stand off Sam Knudson can do when presented with quality ball
“We can thank our new number nine Tommy Morrison for that, along with an inspired pack who rose to the occasion magnificently.
“Even when we trailed14-10 at the break, I sensed it was going to be a good day for us.”
The afternoon had started badly for Grammar, conceding two early tries after some poor defending, allowing first Kelso winger Iain Sim and then number eight Josh Irvine to plunder the home line, made worse by two conversions from consistent full back Craig Dods.
Slowly but surely the Rubislaw men imposed themselves on the Poynder Park side, starting with a straightforward penalty from Knudson in 18 minutes, followed seven minutes later when Grammar’s most potent attacker, winger matt Arnold, scored the first of his hat-trick of tries after a devastating dash in which he exposed the Kelso defence.
Knudson added the conversion, but despite continued home pressure the visitors held on to go into the interval 14-10 to the good.
Grammar were quickly out of the blocks, scoring under the posts within a minute on the back of a forward rush, finished off by Greig Ryan, and converted by Knudson to lead for the first time, although it was short lived as Kelso’s Dods kicked a long-range penalty to tie the scores 17-17.
But there was no stopping Grammar who now had the scent of a victory and relegated the visitors to the role of spectators for the rest of the game, although a late rally led to a last-minute try from flanker Kevin Dryden, converted by Dods.
In between that score Grammar hammered in five tries to make it a red letter day for the club, launching its season with a splendid first win.
The additional try scorers were Arnold (two), flanker Chris Jollands, full back Alex Ratcliffe and winger Grant Walker who capped his return from injury with an impressive performance.
Knudson converted two of the tries.
But the cheer of the day was reserved for home hooker Andrew Cook who ran all of 50 yards to touch down, only to be pulled back by referee Steven Turnbull for an earlier infringement.
At the end of the game the club announced £4,000 had been raised for charity in a bid to raise cash for MND in support of former Scotland Doddie Weir who nominated the Euan McDonald Centre and the Doddie Weir trust as the beneficiaries of the collection.
© Jack Nixon
Aberdeen Rugby: Alex Ratcliffe; Grant Walker, Nathan Clough, Nat Coe, Matt Arnold; Sam Knudson, Tommy Morrison; Rob Ellinson (c), Andrew Cook, Matthias Schosser; Robin Cessford, Drew Whitehead; Alec Dravitski, Chris Jollands, Greig Ryan.
Replacements: Calum Reddish, Will Alton, Aaron Robertson, Bryn Perrott, Murray Mitchell.
Kelso: Craig Dods; Iain Sim, Ross Cooke, Gregor Mein, Pierre Ebah; Andrew Skeen, Andy Tait; Sam Knarlsen, Ross Henderson, Catalin Andrei Graur; Paudie Lawlor, Heino Gaiser; Ally Johnston, Kevin Dryden, Josh Irvine.
Replacements: Blair Robertson, Kieran Cooney, Ian Wallace, Phil Hume, Greg Ponton.