Match Reports

  1. Aberdeen Grammar 14 Selkirk 16

    An error-strewn Aberdeen Grammar performance saw the Rubislaw side narrowly lose to Selkirk in a game for the purists.

    Despite leading for most of the game, a series of unforced errors resulted in defeat against a team also battling for a play-off spot.

    Grammar coach Ali O’Connor found it difficult to find many positives from a frustrating 80 minutes played in filthy conditions.

    He said: “The conditions made playing open rugby difficult and it was always going to be a tight game, but full credit to Selkirk and their impressive defence towards the end of the match.

    “We just need to be a little more clinical and try to close games out when the opportunity presents itself.

    “Our scrummaging was good but unfortunately wasn’t rewarded in the way we would have liked it to be.

    “However, our unforced error count killed us today and we let Selkirk back into the game far too easily.”

    The Aberdeen side had made the best possible start to the game, putting Selkirk under a huge amount of pressure as several scrums were reset near the visitors’ try line.

    Eventually Grammar’s number eight, Greig Ryan, crashed over the whitewash after holding the ball at the back of a resulting maul.

    Tom Aplin duly added the extras with a tough conversion to give the Rubislaw team the best possible start to the game.

    Leading 7-0, Grammar didn’t have to wait too long to further their lead, again scoring off the back of a strong scrummage. Tommy Morrison made a darting run, before flanker Nat Coe powered over after several phases. Aplin again added the extras as the Rubislaw side found themselves 14-0 to the good after 20 minutes.

    Momentum started to swing in Selkirk’s favour, though, as the visitors were able to find gaps in Grammar’s defence.

    On 30 minutes Josh Mackay exploited one of these gaps to steal one back for the Borderers before Callum Anderson found success with his conversion.

    The hosts were then unfortunate to lose Sean Mills to injury before half-time after he was involved in a nasty collision which saw him being replaced by Andrew Ovenstone at full-back.

    Selkirk started brightly in the second half and were awarded a kickable penalty soon after proceedings were under way again.

    Anderson added the three points before slotting over another long-range effort on 52 minutes to reduce his team’s deficit to one point.

    Grammar’s error count was piling pressure on the hosts, however, and Selkirk took the lead for the first time on the hour mark through another Anderson penalty.

    However, the Aberdeen outfit gradually started to retain more possession, finding themselves entrenched deep in Selkirk territory for large parts of the last 10 minutes but they could not make it count.

    The Borderers wouldn’t be deterred by the hosts’ valiant efforts and were able to clear their lines before winning a penalty to hand Grammar their third successive home defeat.

    © Finn Nixon

    Aberdeen Grammar: Sean Mills; Craig Shepherd, Murray Mitchell, Tom Aplin, Doug Russell; Sam Knudson, Tom Morrison; Calum Reddish, Andrew Cook, Ross Anderson; Jordan Robertson, Robin Cessford; Nat Coe, Ben Inglis, Greig Ryan.

    Replacements: Dom Wallen, Cameron Robertson, Tom Ryan, Jamie Troup, Andrew Ovenstone.

    Selkirk: Henry Bithray; Josh Welsh, Luca Berte, Ross Nixon, Ryan Cottreu; Callum Anderson, Luca Merolle; Sean Rankin, James Bett, Bruce Riddell; Peter Forrest, Andy Mackay; Josh Mackay, Scott McClymount, Ewan MacDougall.

    Replacements: Donald Nichol, Luke Pettie, Liam Cassidy, Callum McNeil, Frazer Anderson.

  2. Aberdeen Grammar 27 Glasgow Hawks 32

    Aberdeen Grammar left it too late against Glasgow Hawks, coming away from a physical game with a losing bonus point.

    The Rubislaw match was the only Premiership game of the weekend, with the four other fixtures succumbing to the icy conditions.

    Despite being left frustrated by some mistakes at key moments, Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor was able to take several positives from his team’s performance.

    He said: “Murray Mitchell was outstanding in the centre and was by a far way our man of the match, especially when he had the ball in hand.

    “I was impressed by some individual responses, but ultimately, we didn’t play the big parts of the game well.

    “We would be right in it and it would just be one error that cost us. They would come back with another score and the game would be thrown wide open again.

    “Our defence was more organised but will still need improvement before the Selkirk game next weekend.”

    After a physical start to the game, the Aberdeen side drew first blood within 15 minutes as Tom Aplin landed a penalty after an earlier missed attempt.

    The hosts crossed the whitewash first through Dom Wallen, who made an instant impact with a pick and go try after replacing the injured Ben Inglis.

    Aplin added the extras to reward a dominant Grammar forward pack with a 10-point cushion after 25 minutes.

    Hawks replied soon after as Archer took advantage while the hosts’ Robin Cessford was in the sin-bin.

    This score was followed by a Max Priestly try as they took the lead for the first time to lead 14-10 at half time.

    A Liam Brims penalty then increased the deficit to seven points around the 50-minute mark, but as it became colder at Rubislaw, the home supporters were given something to cheer about again.

    Prop Tom Ryan finished off a powerful rolling maul before Aplin converted to draw the sides level. Both teams then shared a penalty apiece before Ryan Sweeney crashed over to put the Hawks seven points up again.

    The game was not beyond Grammar and they urgently looked for a try, choosing to kick to the corner instead of aiming for the posts.

    Unfortunately, this urgency gave way to a knock-on and the attacking opportunity was gone after the type of unforced error which had plagued the team’s second half.

    The Hawks then delivered the striking blow as Priestly exploited an overlap on the left wing to score his second of the afternoon.

    However, Grammar hooker Ryan Cook ensured they finished with a flourish with a fine try and despite the result, there were some standout performances from several of O’Connor’s players.

    The final whistle was blown on proceedings after Aplin added the extras to take his personal tally to 10 for the day. [Ed: Sean Mills kicked the last conversion]. The loss has not put too much of a dent in Grammar’s hopes of reaching the play-offs at the end of season, but it is not the result they would have wanted.

    Selkirk will prove challenging opposition for them next week.

    © Finn Nixon

    Aberdeen Grammar: Sean Mills: Mungo Somerville, Murray Mitchell, Tom Aplin, Doug Russell; Sam Knudson, Tom Morrison; Calum Reddish, Andrew Cook, Tom Ryan; Jordan Robertson, Robin Cessford; Ben Inglis, Will Alton, Nat Coe.

    Replacements: Dom Wallen, Aaron Robertson, Jamie Troup, Fraser Snedden.

    Glasgow Hawks: Joseph Strain; Kerr Gossman, Erlend Oag, Callum Harrison ©, Max Priestly; Liam Brims, Harvey Bullock; Gary Strain, Tom McTeir, Ewan Rintoul; Andrew Kirkland, Lyall Archer; Rory Jackson, Fraser Christie, Ryan Sweeney.

    Replacements: Paul Cairncross, David Irvine, Matthew Stewart, Yousif Alagilly, Nathan Moffat.

  3. Edinburgh Accies 10 Aberdeen Grammar 20

    Aberdeen Grammar ended a three-game losing streak with a gutsy 20-10 victory at Edinburgh Accies. It was a welcome return to form for the Rubislaw men after suffering three losses on the spin – albeit to three of the best teams in the Premiership, including leaders Marr.

    Grammar conjured this victory in difficult conditions at Newfield, the temporary home of Accies. Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor was delighted his charges had found a way to play ugly.

    He said: “Our defence was just tremendous. They dug deep in very difficult conditions.

    “Winning ugly has never been our way, but it was exactly what was needed.

    “We have clearly learned from the experiences of the last few weeks.

    “That was winning ugly, but I will take it. I am very proud of the boys. ”

    The impressive win keeps the Rubislaw side in joint third on 28 points and, with two home games to come in the next two weeks, Grammar could well be on their way to the goal of a top-four finish and a play-off for the title at the end of the season.

    Significantly, O’Connor has stuck by his early season enterprise of bringing in centre Nat Coe to the pack, where he has played in the second row and more recently in the No. 8 position in the absence of Greig Ryan, who is on his honeymoon.

    Coe’s performance earned him the man-of-the-match award, not least for opening the score with a tap penalty which he started and finished, to the dismay of the home defence. Aplin duly added the extras to give the visitors a deserved 7-0 lead in eight minutes.

    Lifted by the inspiration of Coe, Grammar’s pack took over the game, earning further rewards through an Aplin penalty, although Jack Bruce had nipped over for Accies just before for an unconverted try.

    But the clincher came right on the stroke of half-time when Ross Anderson crashed over under the posts, giving Aplin an easy conversion to make it 17-5 and offering no realistic chance of a home comeback, given the stranglehold the Grammar pack had on the game.

    Accies rallied in the second half but, despite their best efforts, they were unable to break down the defensive wall put up by the Rubislaw men. In fact it was the visitors who pushed farther ahead, almost inevitably through Aplin with a penalty, giving him a personal tally of 10 points for the afternoon. 

    All that remained was for Accies to end with a desperate flourish in a bid to claim a losing bonus point. But they came up short. Jamie Sole did get over for a home try, but it was far too late to affect the outcome of a game in which they were outplayed and out-thought.

    Home games against Glasgow Hawks and Selkirk in successive weeks now beckon for an Aberdeen Grammar side who should have it in them to successfully push for a place in the top four – maybe even top two – before the end of the year.

    But a month is a long time in this highly competitive but unpredictable division, as Grammar supporters know to their cost.

    © Jack Nixon

  4. Marr 61 Aberdeen Grammar 7

    Aberdeen Grammar suffered a third successive defeat in the Premiership with a 61-7 reverse at Marr.

    The only consolation for the Rubislaw men was that they afterwards they had come up against the unbeaten league leaders on a day when they were at the top of their form.

    Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor said: “Full credit to Marr, they played very well and their execution was electric.

    “It was difficult to stay with them but we really stuck in after half-time.

    “We wanted to chase a try bonus point, which we didn’t get, although I am proud of our effort.

    “We’ll probably be all the better for this because Marr played the game at such high speed, it will give us the chance to learn from that.”

    O’Connor refused to use the injury crisis and non-availability of players as an excuse.

    He added: “The guys who came down are a pretty competitive team but we are probably struggling for balance, while getting used to playing with each other.

    “They stuck in well and, by and large, came away with the credit of never giving up.”

    But despite O’Connor’s brave defence of his charges, it was clear it was going to be almost impossible for Grammar to compete against the by far and away the best team in the league without the services of players of the quality of Chris Jollands, who is now in New Zealand, Robin Cessford and Nathan Brown, who were both injured, as well as their key organiser in the pack Greig Ryan, who was getting married at the weekend.

    There was, however, one moment of light relief for the Grammar bench when after conceding three early tries, centre Tom Aplin scored one of the best tries of the afternoon, rumbling all of 70 yards to score a fine individual try which he converted himself on what was an otherwise first half of one-way traffic to the Aberdeen line.

    Trailing 40-7 at the break, Grammar turned round set on closing the gap, only to find the Troon side equally determined to make their own case for more points, which they did through three more tries, all converted by their excellent stand-off Colin Sturgeon, who kicked eight of his none attempts at goal while successfully keeping his back division in the game and making life difficult for the Grammar line.

    Grammar will be on the road again on Saturday when they start the second half of the season with a game in Edinburgh whom they have already beaten 30-17 at Rubislaw in the first game of the season. The defeat means Grammar have dropped from second to fourth, only a point above a vastly improved Hawick team.

    Edinburgh Accies will go into the match with Grammar also looking to make amends after going down to a 35-17 defeat at Glasgow Hawks.

    © Jack Nixon

    Marr: Greg Montgomery; Scott Bickerstaff, Gregor Paxton, Conor Bickerstaff, Jack Scott; Colin Sturgeon, Jack Preston; William Farquhar, Oliver Rossi, Calvin Henderson; Ewan Hamilton-Bulger, Alexander Fraser; Mackenzie Pearce, Robert brown, Benedict Grant.

    Replacements: Andrew Muir, Brandon Sweet, Cody Cunningham, Gregor Ness, Kenneth Diffental.

    Aberdeen Grammar: Andrew Ovenstone; Calum Ruxton, Sean Mills, Tom Aplin, Doug Russell; Sam Knudson, Patrick Ritchie; Calum Reddish, Matthias Schosser, Ross Anderson; Nat Coe, Aaron Robertson; Dom Wallen, Jonny Spence, Will Alton.

    Replacements: Thomas Ryan, Valentine Ojogwu, Cameron Robertson, Luke Murphy, Mungo Somerville.

  5. Aberdeen Grammar 14 Hawick 31

    Aberdeen Grammar crashed to a second consecutive defeat at home to a Hawick team who produced one of their best performances of the season.

    The 31-14 success was Hawick’s first win in the Premiership since beating GHA on September 14, much to the delight of their head coach George Graham.

    “This is a massive win for us. Rubislaw is a tough place to come and win, as I have come to know in the many years I have been coming up here, although I was surprised at how little Grammar had to offer,” said Graham, a former Scotland and Gala player.

    The words of Graham may have stung, but reflected the reality of the occasion.  The home side turned in a disjointed performance that never matched the verve and the organisation of the Borderers who effectively had the game won after 30 minutes by which time they were 24 points to the good.

    Grammar forwards coach Iain Stanger acknowledged his side had been outplayed, even if they had staged a mini comeback early in the second half. He said: “This was not a good day for us. Our defending was woeful in the first half.

    “Hawick were more focused and well deserved to win, but without making excuses we had key players missing, particularly in the pack where we have lost players of the calibre of Chris Jollands who has gone to New Zealand while Greig Ryan has just got married; at least he will be back soon.

    “Jonny Spence had a stormer in our back row, as did Nat Coe in the unfamiliar role of No 8 but over the piece, we were well beaten, never recovering from our poor start.”

    The Green Machine, as the Hawick pack are known, were early into their stride, setting up their highly organised back division for runs at the hesitant home defence, leading to a try as early three minutes when flanker Jae Linton broke two tackles to plunder the home line, and with stand-off Ali Weir adding the extras, the Mansfield Park men were well and truly on their way to victory.

    Weir then added a penalty, followed by two touchdowns in the space of eight minutes, attributed to full-back Kirk Ford and centre Wiaan Griebenbow. Both were converted by the excellent Weir who was, by this time, running the show in the company of scrum-half Gareth Welsh.

    The half-time whistle could not come quickly enough for the Aberdeen side which gave Stanger, the opportunity to gee up his misfiring charges, as admitted by prop Matthias Schosser who said: “We got a real rollicking.”

    The treatment seemed to have worked as Grammar applied themselves to winning more ball at set pieces, getting their reward with tries from centre Tom Aplin and Coe, both converted by Aplin. But just when the home side looked set to overcome the fading Greens, the Border side rallied, rising to the challenge and scoring a late try, touched down by Linton and converted by Weir.

    That ended the game as a contest, posing head coach Ali O’Connor a few problems to be resolved for the next outing at Marr – the Premiership’s unbeaten league leaders.

    Aberdeen Grammar: Mungo Somerville; Nathan Brown, Sean Mills, Tom Aplin, Doug Russell; Sam Knudson, Jamie Troup; Calum Reddish, Andrew Cook, Matthias Schosser; Aaron Robertson, Robin Cessford,; Ben Inglis, Jonny Spence, Nat Coe.

    Replacements: Dom Wallen, Ross Anderson, Will Alton, Patrick Ritchie, Calum Ruxton.

    Hawick: Kirk Ford; Lewis Ferguson, Wiaan Griebenow, Andrew Mitchell, Logan Gordon-Wooley; Ali Weir, Gareth Welsh; Dale Johnstone, Matty Carryer, Ryan Toogood; Daniel Suddon, Adam Piotrowski; Jae Linton, Stuart graham, Sean Fairbairn.

    Replacements: Callum Renwick, Ruaridh Macleod, Glen Welsh, Mully Bannerman.

  6. Aberdeen Grammar 57 GHA 47

    Aberdeen Grammar made it five wins in six starts in their first season back in the Premiership since 2013 in an eight-try win in a rollicking game of rugby.

    The visitors from Glasgow managed to score seven touchdowns.

    Ali O’Connor, the Grammar head coach, was appreciative of his side’s free-running performance. But O’Connor was less impressed by the Aberdeen team’s midfield defending.

    He said: “We played some fine attacking rugby but our defending was woeful. We’ll need to improve for our away trip to play second-paced Currie at Malleny Park or else our great start to the season will count for nothing.

    “It was a great game to watch but a nightmare for defence coaches. In fairness, GHA just kept coming back at us. I thought lock Robin Cessford was our standout. He was in the thick of everything, even tackling. His two tries were a just reward for all his effort.”

    Cessford was pleased to be on the winning side, but said: “At 36-12 at half-time the idea was to deny them a score in the second half. Instead we gave away a further 35 points.

    “It’s a win, although I should have had a hat-trick of tries.

    “The referee’s decision to chalk off my third with the last play of the game for a forward pass was a bit harsh, but I’ll settle for two, although we need to address our defending for our trip to Currie.”

    GHA took the lead in three minutes when winger Jackson Baillie took advantage of an exposed right flank to score the first of his three tries, which was unconverted, only for Will Alton to nip over after fine work from his fellow forwards.

    Centre Tom Aplin kicked the first of seven out of eight successful kicks at goal to give his side the lead they never surrendered for the rest of the game. Thereafter the score came thick and fast at the rate of one every five minutes with Grammar’s centre Murray Mitchell leading the way with a hat-trick of his own, including a great run from the halfway line, selling an outrageous dummy on the way to the line.

    Not surprisingly Grammar’s prolific try scorer, winger Nathan Brown, got in the act, adding his eighth and ninth tries of the campaign to the tally.

    Although the Braidholm side got one back before the break, at 36-12 it looked to be curtains for the visitors. But with the chaotic defending continuing, the game was kept alive. Cessford got two tries but they were cancelled out by GHA full back Grant Mollinson with a brace of his own.

    With Aplin kicking like a dream, as well as GHA stand-off Jack Anderson, it was no wonder the final tally edged past the century mark in a thrilling encounter for the spectators.

    But while it was great to watch, there will need to be a different mindset in defence if Grammar are to come away with a win in Currie on Saturday.

    In the meantime, at the top of the league, Marr kept their 100% record intact after a 38-13 win at home to Selkirk. Marr remain six points ahead of the Rubislaw side.

    © Jack Nixon

    Aberdeen Grammar: Sean Mills: Nathan Brown, Murray Mitchell. Tom Aplin; Sam Knudson, Jamie Troup; Calum Reddish, Ben Inglis, Ross Anderson; Nat Coe, Robin Cessford; Chris Jollands, Will Alton, Greig Ryan.

    Replacements: Matthias Schosser, Andre Cook, Jonny Spence, Tommy Morrison, Craig Shepherd.

    GHA: Grant Mollinson; Jordan Craig, Charlie Longeran, Jack Reilly, Jackson Baillie; Jack Anderson, George Baird; Tony Brogan, Hamish Clark, Michael Fox; Adam Barnett, Adam Kerr; Milan Marinkovic, Mike Ryan, Luke McCutcheon.

    Replacements: Luis Barron, Sean Fisher, Elliot Hardie, Andrew Gillman, Andy Scott.