Match Reports

  1. Aberdeen Grammar 17 Marr 52

    Aberdeen Grammar’s season, which started so brightly back in September when the Rubislaw side won five of their first six games, ended with a crushing 52-17 defeat at the hands of league leaders Marr at Rubislaw.

    For 40 minutes the home support harboured the faint hope of a shock result, only to see the Ayrshire side build on their slim 19-17 lead after a stern talk from their coaching team resulted in five unanswered tries for the visitors.

    It was a third defeat in a row for Grammar, albeit in games against the division’s top three, and the points against tally of 131 made for uncomfortable reading for club chairman Gordon Thomson.

    He said: “We were well in contention in the first half against the top team in the Premiership, which was no mean feat, but we were badly hampered by an early injury to prop Ross Anderson and then blown away by the sin-binning of lock Robin Cessford, during which they scored three tries.

    “Our limited resources were best demonstrated by the fact we had to list head coach Ali O’Connor as one of our replacements.

    “We have done well to end up in fifth place, but will now go away and plan for the 20-21 season.”

    Despite total second-half domination enjoyed by the Fullarton Park side, Grammar can take heart from the performances of three youngsters in the team.

    Full-back Fraser Sneddon, winger Craig Shepherd and lock Scott Renfrew all had games to be proud of, while veteran number eight Greig Ryan worked his socks off.

    Captain Sam Knudson had a sound game at stand-off and Tom Aplin has become one of the most reliable place kickers in the league.

    This all gives the club something to build on, although much depends on how committed and available senior players are in keeping the team at the forefront of top-class amateur rugby in Scotland.

    Grammar took a second-minute lead through an Aplin penalty, but were soon on the back foot thanks to two well-taken tries from winger Richard Dalgleish, one of which was converted by stand-off Colin Sturgeon.

    Grammar then enjoyed a golden patch, first through a forwards effort, finished off by flanker Jonny Spence, followed by a splendid run from Shepherd, both converted by Aplin. Marr managed one of their own scored by winger Tom Steven, making it 19-17 at the break.

    The second half belonged to the league leaders who ran in five tries, touched down by Benedict Grant (3), captain Conor Bickerstaff and Will Farquhar, four of them converted by Gregor Paxton.

    © Jack Nixon

    Aberdeen Grammar: Fraser Sneddon; Nathan Brown, Nat Coe, Tom Aplin, Craig Shepherd; Sam Knudson, Tommy Morrison; Jordan Robertson, Andrew Cook, Ross Anderson; Robin Cessford, Scott Renfrew; Dom Wallen, Jonny Spence, Greig Ryan.

    Replacements: Yasseen Ahmanache, Aaron Robertson, Ali O’Connor, Matt Running, Calum Ruxton.

    Marr: Greg Montgomery; Richard Dalgleish, Gregor Paxton, Conor Bickerstaff, Tom Steven; Colin Sturgeon, Jack Preston; Will Farquhar, Ollie Rossi, Calvin Henderson; Ewan Hamilton-Bulger, Fraser Grant; Mackenzie Pearce, Robert Brown, Benedict Grant.

    Replacements: Jamie Drummond, Brandon Sweet, Josh Harvey, Gregor Ness, Jack Scott.

  2. Aberdeen Grammar 16 Currie 27

    Aberdeen Grammar’s chances of reaching the Premiership play-offs next month were dealt a major blow as they suffered a 26-17 home defeat against Currie Chieftains.

    The visitors took advantage of the Rubislaw side’s defence frailties to take the game away in a devastating six-minute spell just after half-time, during which the Edinburgh side scored two tries.

    The home side battled back from being 26-10 down to come within a whisker of grabbing a valuable losing bonus point, only to fail to take the try-scoring opportunities which came their way.

    It was a situation not lost on head coach Ali O’Connor, who said: “The difference between the two sides was Currie took their chances, while we squandered a number of good ones. We deserved at least a bonus point but once again came up short.

    “Overall there were some outstanding performances, including those guys who came on as replacements. Craig Shepherd and Ross Anderson were very good in very difficult conditions.

    “We are not out of it yet, but with Selkirk picking up two points for their draw at Musselburgh, it means we are now out of the top four and must beat Hawick away and Marr at home.”

    After some early probing, Grammar took an early lead with a penalty in five minutes from centre Tom Aplin, giving the home side the confidence and momentum to build up pressure on the Currie try line. It paid off in 15 minutes when prop Matthias Schosser bulldozed over and, with Aplin adding the extras, a shock result looked a possibility.

    But the Malleny Park side are not in second place for nothing, although it took a defensive mix-up for them to close the gap when centre Ryan Southern was given a free run at the Grammar line for a touchdown converted by stand-off Adam Hall, who then went on to add a try of his own on the half-hour mark. His conversion made it 14-10 at the break.

    The start of the second half was nothing less than disastrous for the hosts as, in the space of six minutes, they all but surrendered the game, shipping two soft tries, attributed to scrum-half Gregor Christie and replacement prop Reece Patterson, one of which was converted by Hall, giving Grammar a mountain to climb at 26-10 down.

    The try bonus point gained, Currie visibly relaxed, giving the Rubislaw side the opportunity to come back into the game. This they did in some style in 61 minutes when Aplin ran all of 70 yards to score a magnificent try and then had the breath to add the conversion, taking the score to 26-17, where it remained until the final whistle.

    The atrocious conditions took nothing away from a hard-fought game, especially up front, as acknowledged by Grammar’s forwards coach Iain Stanger, who said: “It was a good old-fashioned game of rugby with the two packs giving their all.

    “It was a close-run thing but Currie deservedly shaded it. They took the chances which came their way.”

    Selkirk are now favourites to claim the fourth play-off place, given they are a point clear and have an easier run-in than Grammar against bottom-side Edinburgh Accies and GHA.

    © Jack Nixon

    Aberdeen Grammar: Fraser Sneddon; Nathan Brown, Murray Mitchell, Tom Aplin, Doug Russell; Sam Knudson, Jamie Troup; Calum Reddish, Andrew Cook, Matthias Schosser; Nat Coe, Jordan Robertson; Dominic Wallen, Ben Inglis, Grieg Ryan.

    Replacements: Scott Renfrew, Ross Anderson, Aaron Robertson, Ali Addy, Craig Shepherd.

    Currie Chieftains: Fraser Sayers; Cameron Meager, Steven Hamilton, Ryan Southern, James McCaig; Adam Hall, Gregor Christie; Graeme Carson, Fergus Scott, Matias Sonzongni Argiro, Matt Poole, Sam Edwards, Mike Vernel, Wallace Nelson, Rhys Davies.

    Replacements: Reece Patterson, Grant Williamson, Josh O’Brien, Hamish Ferguson, Fraser McKay.

  3. GHA 19 Aberdeen Grammar 21

    Aberdeen Grammar kept their play-off hopes alive with a narrow 21-19 victory against GHA in Glasgow.

    The victory takes Grammar into fourth place and, with only three games to play, albeit against the three top sides Marr, Currie and Hawick, head coach Ali O’Connor reckons anything is possible – especially as two of the games are at Rubislaw.

    He said: “We have discovered how to win again after a poor run, and if we can maintain this form we will be there or thereabouts.

    “It’s the first time we have done the double over GHA for a long time, but we deserved it. Our defence and physicality were outstanding, especially in the second half when we didn’t concede a point.”

    Grammar started strongly taking the lead in only three minutes when, from a penalty lineout, centre Murray Mitchell ran in a fine try, which was converted by fellow centre Tom Aplin, confirming that the back is fast becoming the most reliable place-kicker in the league.

    The Braidholm side hit back immediately with a great counter attack, enabling winger Jordan Craig to touch down for a try converted by scrum half George Baird.

    In 15 minutes, the home side repeated the move to go 12-7 ahead. The scorer was prop Erik Cavan, although Baird missed the kick at goal, but only awarded after referee Michael Todd had consulted a touch judge.

    Grammar bounced back to push ahead after spreading the play wide, giving the ultra-speedy Doug Russell a free run from the wing. Aplin added the extras in what had been a frantic, but entertaining, opening 20 minutes.

    After a quiet spell, the Glasgow side upped the pace of the game, getting their reward just after the half-hour mark when lock Adam Burnett charged over from a lineout. With Baird successfully making the kick, GHA were able to go into the break 19-14 to the good.

    The second half was dominated by the hosts but, thanks to some superb Grammar defending, they were unable to add to their tally.

    Instead it was the visitors who, in a rare visit into the GHA half in 58 minutes, scored what proved to be the winning score, touched down by lock Robin Cessford, and converted by the reliable Aplin.

    Grammar survived a torrid last 20 minutes in which every player put their body on the line, but helped by some poor finishing from the home side.

    Selkirk’s home 26-14 defeat against Marr was greeted with joy by players, officials and the small but vociferous Grammar support, resulting in Grammar moving into that precious fourth place, although they will have to wait until February 15 for the next round of games when they host second-placed Currie Chieftains.

    © Jack Nixon



    Aberdeen Grammar: Sean Mills; Nathan Brown, Murray Mitchell, Tom Aplin, Doug Russell; Sam Knudson, Tommy Morrison; Calum Reddish, Andrew Cook, Matthias Schosser; Robin Cessford, Jordan Robertson; Nat Cole, Ben Inglis, Greig Ryan.

    Replacements: Jonny Spence, Ross Anderson, Aaron Robertson, Patrick Ritchie, Fraser Sneddon.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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