Howe of Fife 17 Aberdeen Rugby 30
Aberdeen Grammar gave themselves and their long-suffering supporters an early Christmas bonus on Saturday with a first win since September 10.
The victory against Howe of Fife at Cupar was Grammar’s first since beating the same opposition at Rubislaw three months ago.
The success was greeted with delight and relief by head coach Ali O’Connor, who watched his side control the game in all phases – especially up front where Grammar’s pack dominated the set-pieces, enabling the back division to enjoy more freedom.
O’Connor said: “This was an excellent all-round performance as the players finally expressed themselves, helped greatly by the return of Grant Walker and Robin Cessford in the pack, while Doug Russell did well at full back after coming into the team at the last minute for Conor Lavery.
“These players and our front row gave us an intensity and a competitive edge which had been lacking in games of late. We can now enjoy our Christmas break before we take on Hamilton on January 7.”
Grammr picked up a bonus point for scoring five tries and moved up two places out of the relegation area above Stewart’s Melville, Hamilton and Howe of Fife. Grammar’s players asserted themselves early in the game, running in two well-constructed – from centre Tom Aplin in 13 minutes and flanker Cessford [later attributed to prop Rob Ellinson. Ed] three minutes later.
Sam Knudson was off target with both conversions, the stand off handing the kicking duties to Aplin, who was successful at his first attempt at goal when he slotted a penalty in 22 minutes to give his side a 13-0 lead.
But instead of building on the lead, Grammar were guilty of some poor defending, allowing Fife full back Graham Thomson to run in behind the posts for a score against the run of play. Dominic Martin added the easy conversion.
Worst was to come for Grammar as they lost the pace of the game, conceding a penalty for Martin to close the gap to 13-10 at the interval.
Grammar put their lethargic spell on the back-burner straight after the break when flanker Dom Wallen raced into space to touch down a try that was converted by Aplin.
Fife raised their game but sound Grammar defence kept them at bay and it was no surprise when they killed off the game as a contest with unconverted touchdowns from Walker and replacement Chris Jollands in the 65th and 74th minutes.
A second and late try for Thomson, converted by Martin, gave the home some consolation, although on this showing they look candidates for the drop.
While Grammar’s players will enjoy their festive break, they would do well to remember that one swallow does not make a summer.
Aberdeen Rugby: Doug Russell; Grant Walker, Alex Ratcliffe, Tom Aplin, Calum Ruxton; Sam Knudson , Andrew Ovenstone; Rob Ellinson, Fergus McKenzie, Colin Neilson; Aaron Robertson, William Inglis; Robin Cessford, Dom Wallen, Matt McCall.
Replacements: Shane Clark, Ross Anderson, Chris Jollands, Kyle McFarlane.