Match Reports

  1. Aberdeen Rugby 26 Highland 10

    Aberdeen Grammar prevailed in the all Caley encounter in the final of the National League Cup at Bridgehaugh where they had to come back from being 10 points down after 20 minutes to Highland in a full-on game in the blistering heat of Stirling.

    The game was never a classic, but did not lack for excitement and endeavour, spoiled only by a limited performance from referee John Shaw who never demonstrated the authority the highly competitive occasion demanded.

    Even the players were error-prone in the early stages, as both sides battled to end their campaigns with silverware to sit nicely with the promotions gained from in Grammar’s case National League 1 and in Highland’s National League 2

    In the end it was the more experienced and physical Aberdeen side who came through, with centre Tom Aplin proving to be a tour de force in defence and attack, and finally breaking Highland hearts with his side’s fourth and final try in the 65th minute of the game.

    The tone of the afternoon was set in the first minute when Highland’s veteran hooker Kevin Brown was involved in a touchline spat with the Rubislaw pack, but carried on to play a major part in the feisty start made by the Canal Park side.

    Highland were quickly into their stride, cashing in on the many errors made by a hesitant Grammar side who were also giving away a stream of penalties, so it was no surprise when stand off Rory Carson, who was involved in all things good for the Highlanders, stroked over a 26 yard penalty to take the lead in seven minutes.

    Lifted by this early score, the National League 2 side continued to dominate, increasing their lead to 10-0 when full back Rupeni Rokoduguni released flanker Callum Carson under the posts for a try, converted by Rory Carson. Grammar were spurred into action, scoring two tries in the space of three minutes, first when captain and stand off Sam Knudson put his half back partner Tom Morrison over the line, and then full back Bryn Perrott raced over after fine work by his fellow backs.

    With Perrott converting both touchdowns it was 14-10 with only 25 minutes on the clock after as hectic a start as you will see in any game.

    Not surprisingly, the pace of the game dropped, but there was still time before the break for Grammar’s Robin Cessford and Calum MacPherson of Highland to earn yellow cards for falling foul of referee Shaw, making all it to play for going into the second half.

    Grammar took control in the second half, denying their opponents ball, while scoring a penalty try on the back of incessant pressure, and then finally Aplin’s unconverted try, making it a relatively comfortable win, given the early heroics of Highland.

    Highland refused to give up, and in a late flurry were unlucky not to score, but the day and the cup belonged to Grammar.

    Head coach, Ali O’Connor was delighted to have landed the club’s first cup since winning the Integrated Trophy in 2003, but said: “We are really happy to have finished in such dominant style after Highland’s storming first 20 minutes.” Carson was disappointed, but bullish about his side’s performance and said: ”We did National League 2 proud today. It was a fast, but brutal game. In the end we couldn’t get enough ball. We’ve now got to lift the guys for our final league game away to Stewarts Melville.”

    And finally, an enthusiastic, even raucous, crowd made for a great atmosphere on a day which Caley’s best put on a show to be proud of.

    © Jack Nixon

  2. Aberdeen Rugby 50 Dundee High Rugby 25

    Aberdeen Grammar ended their National League 1 campaign in style with a 50-25 victory against rivals Dundee to guarantee a fourth-place finish and promotion to the newly constructed Premiership.

    There were smiles all round at Rubislaw, as players, coaches and supporters reflected on a season which could yet end with the club picking up silverware on April 20 when the club take on northern neighbours Highland in the final of the National League Cup in Stirling.

    Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor said: “When we have been good, we have been very good, as best reflected in the 17 try bonus points we have picked up from 22 starts.

    “This team has worked hard to get here, doing all that is required of them.

    The cup gives them the chance to gain a tangible reward, although today we were able to retain the Dallas Allardice Cup which we play for when we meet Dundee High.

    Once again our forwards were the basis for our success, and a credit to forwards coach Iain Stanger.”

    Captain and stand-off Sam Knudson looked to the future when he said: “There is so much potential in this squad. “We will do well in the new set-up, especially as I believe we are well capable of beating all the other five who are going up with us.

    It was good to finish on a high. We can now look forward to and enjoy the cup final.”

    Dundee High proved to be no slouches, coming off the back of three wins which effectively took them out of the bottom three, and looked to be in search of a fourth consecutive win when they took a sixth minute lead when lock Angus Thomson barged over from a ruck for a try which was converted by full back Fraser Mackay.

    Stung into action, Grammar hit back with two tries in three minutes attributed to hooker Ben Ingles and flanker Chris Jollands, one of which was converted by full back Bryn Perrott who hit the post with the other.

    Dundee High refused to roll over, hitting back with a well-struck penalty from Mackay in 25 minutes to make it 12-10.Grammar then raised the bar with their passion and pace to take the game away from the Mayfield men, scoring two more tries before the break through centre Tom Aplin and lock Robin Cessford, both converted by Perrott.

    Mackay did, however, manage to kick another penalty for the visitors, making it 26-13 at half-time.

    The second half belonged to the Rubislaw side who added a further four tries to take their tally to eight for the afternoon, scored by prop Calum Reddish, centres Murray Mitchell (2), and Sean Mills, two of which were converted by the excellent Perrott.

    High had the consolation of late efforts of their own, falling to front row men Jack Newth and Craig Mackenzie, to which Mackay added a conversion.

    But there was no stopping Grammar’s progress, best summed up by lock Ewan Stewart who was playing his last league game before heading south, who said: “This is a good Grammar side who have grown in strength and character over the season. They can build on it next season.”

    © Jack Nixon

     Photos are in the gallery: 

    Many more excellent photos from Jim McNair: 


  3. Kelso 13 Aberdeen Rugby 34

    Aberdeen Grammar have an exciting run-in. They eased into the final of the National League Cup, beating Kelso for the third time this season, while having one game at home to clinch a top-six in National League 1 on Saturday.

    Head coach Ali O’Connor was delighted with his side’s win at Poynder Park which now throws together the best of the north-east and Highland, the top club in the north, when the two meet in the final, scheduled to be played at Lasswade on Saturday April 20, although it is likely there will now be the possibility of a change in venue.

    He said: “We will have no problem about where we asked to play Highland, I am just pleased to be in with a chance of winning silverware with this fine squad. We are also in with an opportunity to grab fourth place in the league which would make for a great season. Today we played well against a Kelso team who had improved dramatically since we last put 119 points past them in the last two times we met in the league, but we did the business, taking all of the try scoring chances which came our way. There were some outstanding performances, not least from Ben Inglis in the front row, and Greig Ryan in the back row. Once again our pack was tremendous, as they have been all season.”

    The Rubislaw side fell behind to an early home penalty, but quickly shrugged off the reverse through their on-fire hooker Inglis who plundered the home line for a try converted by full back Bryn Perrott, followed up by one from Greig Ryan, making it 12-3 for the visitors before Kelso closed the gap with a second penalty, only for Ryan to score his second to make it 17-6. But it was the Border side who had the last word in the half with a fine solo effort converted touchdown from winger John Ewing, making it 17-13 and game on going into the second half.

    The Aberdeen side survived a sustained spell of home pressure before mounting more successful attacks of their own, yielding two tries, the pick of which was from winger Craig Shepherd who was sent over after a magnificent power run from fellow winger Doug Russell.

    The other points came from the boot of Perrott penalty and a penalty try.

    © Jack Nixon

  4. Cartha Queens Park 19 Aberdeen Rugby 26

    Aberdeen Grammar kept their top six aspirations in National League 1 alive in Glasgow where in a less than convincing performance in an untidy sometimes chaotic game, the Rubislaw side toughed it out to land maximum points for their four try haul, and now look bound to be safely ensconced in the top half of the league with only one game left.

    Head coach, Ali O’Connor was delighted with the five points, but said: ”This was not one of our better performances, but we came through and can now look forward to a break during in which we will be aiming to get to the final of the National League Cup when we play Kelso in the semi-final in the Borders before we play Dundee High in our last league game of the season. We had one or two key players missing, but I thought Ben Inglis had a good game in his first start in the back row, while Centre Tom Aplin had a good day with the boot, kicking three conversions to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

    We are pretty near our target of getting into the top six, while still chasing some silverware. It’s been a generally good season, but with three possible games to play it’s by no means over.”

    Grammar had the best of the first half, leading 14-7, although in their anxiety to avoid relegation, Cartha squandered a number of opportunities in the mayhem of the 40 minutes. Grammar’s points came from regular scorer No 8 Greig Ryan and hooker Andrew Cook, both converted by Aplin. The Drumbreck side’s lone effort being scant reward for their efforts.

    Grammar showed displayed better organisation in the second period, cutting down on the error count, but not totally able to shake off the challenge of the stubborn Glasgow side, who managed a further 12 points to equal the second half tally of the visitors.

    The Grammar tries came from Flanker Chris Jollands and new boy Inglis, one of which was converted by Aplin, giving the Aberdeen side a narrow 26-19 win to the relief of club captain and winger Doug Russell who said: ”We knew it was going to be tough, but we managed to grind out a win. We beat them up front where we have been strong all season. It’s was great preparation for next week’s cup tie.”

    © Jack Nixon

  5. Aberdeen Rugby 34 Hamilton 17

    Aberdeen Grammar surged into fourth place in National League 1, taking advantage of being only one of two games played in the division due to extreme weather in the rest of Scotland, but with two relatively easy games to play look poised to claim a top six place.

    Hamilton proved to be worthy opponents, even although the Lanarkshire side are only two points above the relegation area on a day of foul, cold sleet which was not conducive to running rugby, but despite the conditions, there was some fine open rugby, yielding six home tries.

    Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor was happy with the outcome, but said: ”We made a good start, scoring four tries in the first half hour, thanks to some fine forward play, but I was less happy with the second half effort in which we only scored one try, allowing Hamilton to add two tries to their first half touchdown, although the appalling conditions did not help. Lock Ewan Stewart was our best ball carrier, getting his reward with an early try. But it’s five valuable points, and with games against struggling Cartha Queens Park and Dundee to come, we should grab a place in the top six which has been our target all along.”

    Grammar made a rousing start to the game, inspired by an early break from winger Craig Shepherd who took the game to the Hamilton line in three minutes, enabling hooker Andrew Cook to plunge over after a maul, followed by another touchdown from fellow forward Ewan Stewart after an intense spell of home pressure in 18 minutes.

    Neither try was converted by full back Bryn Perrott, but with Grammar in the ascendancy, a rout looked on the cards. Hamilton had other ideas, rallying to score one of their own in a flowing move, involving nearly all their back division, and finished off by winger Craig Skilling on the 20 minute mark to make it 10-5.

    Stung into retaliation, Grammar scored two tries in the space of five minutes, attributed to flanker Chris Jollands and Perrot, both converted by centre Tom Aplin, giving the home side a welcome try bonus point and a lead of 24-5, effectively ending the game as a contest after 30 minutes.

    Centre Murray Mitchell raced through the Laigh Bent defence for an unconverted try just before the half time whistle to make if 29-5.

    Helped by a strong, biting cold wind, laced with sleet, Hamilton came more into the game, adding tries through lock Craig Inglis, and replacement Josh White one of which was converted by stand off Tom Decelle, while a very subdued Grammar could only muster one try from lock Robin Cessford in 60 minutes.

    The game ended with Hamilton pressing for a vital fourth try, but despite their best efforts, the visitors were unable to salvage something from the game, losing out 34-17.

    On this form, and given the lowly status of their next two opponents, Grammar should be able to meet their target of a top six place, especially as the nearest of the challengers Gala and Selkirk meet each other in two weeks time. In the meantime the Rubislaw team head for Glasgow on Saturday where they meet Cartha Queens Park who shocked an understrength Aberdeen side at home earlier in the season.

    The spirit and commitment in the Grammar camp was best reflected by Aaron Robertson who despite being out of the team due to injury, volunteered to do gate duty on the most foul of days.

    © Jack Nixon

  6. Gala 15 Aberdeen Rugby 5

    Aberdeen Grammar dropped out of the top six in National 1 after a poor display in Saturday’s 15-5 reverse at Gala.

    It was a scrappy game, played in foul, wet weather and officiated over by a referee who demonstrated little sensitivity to the tricky conditions.

    But to blame referee John Evans for the quality of the game would be to duck the real issue of the day which was the disappointing display by a Rubislaw outfit who were unable to gel as a unit against a streetwise Gala side. Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor said: “This was an error-strewn performance which we tried to put right at half time but still they continued after the break.

    “It just wasn’t a good day for us. Our big players didn’t put in an appearance, although front rowers Andrew Cook and Matt Schosser both played well and were probably our most incisive runners.

    “Our lone try scorer Ewan Stewart was probably our best ball carrier, otherwise it was a bad day.

    “The guys know that and will have to lift themselves for three more big games, all against sides beneath us in the division.

    “We also have semi-final in the National League Cup at the end of the month at Kelso.”

    For Grammar to claim a top six slot in National League 1 and a final place at Lasswade, they will need to find the form which saw them launch the season with a blistering 68-point win against leaders Jed-Forest.

    The three games in the league should all yield maximum points, depending on which Grammar side turns up against Hamilton (h), Cartha Queens Park (a) and Dundee (h).

    The game got under way just as the cold rain swept in and with Grammar falling foul of referee Evans in the opening minutes, it was set to be a long hard afternoon for the northern visitors.

    Winger Ross Cooke kicked a fourth minute penalty to ease his side into a lead they never looked like losing, given the lack of enterprise in the Grammar side who were clearly bemused by the number of times the home side were allowed to stray offside.

    But while the visitors were less than inspiring, the home side were no great shakes themselves, taking 38 minutes to score their first try after heavy pressure on the Grammar line. Stand-off John Turnbull cashed in on one of the few flowing moves of the day to nip over the line for a try which was converted by Cooke to give his team a 10-0 lead at the break.

    Boosted by the try, Gala kept up the pressure in the early stages of the second half, getting their reward in 49 minutes when flanker Steve Cairns plundered the Grammar line for a touchdown Cooke failed to convert but at 15-0, the game was all but over.

    To the surprise of most, Grammar rallied and when Stewart crashed over the home line, the small but vociferous band of travelling support had hopes of a comeback. It was not to be, as their team faded. Greig Ryan, the Grammar number eight, said: “We weren’t organised, but we’ll get ourselves in shape for our important run in of games.”

    (c) Jack Nixon

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