1st XV - Report
Shire battle the freeze to win Granite City Derby
Aberdeenshire First XV didn't have home comforts to fall back on, with a change of venue, and make hard work of a victory against local rivals Gordonians.
1. Everybody was playing hide and seek on him
2. Training had been cancelled.
After 20 minutes of unsuccessfully searching the dunes, shouting ‘Fir abouts are those tubes?!’ and knowing that Rob was probably watching from somewhere he proceeded to do solo sprints up and down a snowy Aberdeen beach front reminiscent of scenes from the Rocky IV montage.
On arriving home exhausted he discovered a voicemail telling him the game was back on and he had 20 minutes to KO.
So the rest of the squad assembled and prepared for what would prove to be one of their toughest games this season. With the sun low in the sky and snow crunching underfoot Shire kicked off choosing to play with the wind in the first half. The disruption to the mornings schedule does not excuse but may explain the teams disappointing start. From the kick off they were put under sustained pressure from the Gordonians pack whose tight forward play and quick ruck ball had Shire on the back foot almost constantly. They got their reward early on with the referee penalizing Shire for not releasing the tackler and the Gordonians scrum half knocked over the first points of the day. Shortly after, following another indiscretion by the Shire forwards the Gordonians lead was doubled by yet another penalty. Being 6 points behind, the team found themselves in a position they had not been in very often this year and were chasing the game. The only thing that seemed to be going right was the dominant scrum, the pack repeatedly drove the opposition backwards turning ball over on almost every Gordonian put in, with BARNY HENDERSON and Steve Cook showing little mercy to their opposite numbers. As the half war on frustration increased and discipline started to slip and it took the late arrival of Captain Chris Gilchrist to steady the team. Ross- Benie Coulson managed to finish off a well worked maul from one of the ‘home’ sides only attacking field position in the half. The half continued in this vein, with Shire mainly defending and conceding penalties, and it eventually finished with shire 7-6 up, clinging to a slender lead.
During the half time team talk some choice words from Coach Strachan which could be heard echoing off the spectators stand 100 feet away, and walking away in disgust he gave the players no illusion what his thoughts were on the first half performance. If they wanted to win this game Shire would have to change (pause for effect)……..and change they did.
Shire started the second half a completely different team, the pack tightened up their loose play considerably. Playing into a strong wind, and with frostbitten fingers they knew it wasn’t going to be expansive rugby that would win the day. Adopting the late great Corporal Jones saying Gordonians ‘don’t like it up’em’ they took it straight through the middle. A constant mixture of pick and goes and runners off 9 found space in behind the Gordonians defence. In situations where players had been isolated in the first half and the ball lost they were now there in numbers. The rucks were fast and the ball played quickly for another player to take it on at the Gordonians defensive line. Rather than being satisfied with making it to the gain line, Shire were now driving past it keeping the Gordionians defensive line always on the backfoot. BARNY HENDERSON yet again proved he is unstoppable from 5 yards powering over from the side of a ruck to give Shire a 6 point lead. The backs weren’t going to let the forwards have all the fun though, and they showed their quality through a well worked try from a set piece in the bitterly cold weather with the limited ball they got, with Gav Cunningham scoring a try out wide following some excellent quick hands from antipodean centres MacDougall and Matt Ball provided Gav with enough space to outpace his opposite number to the corner.
Gordonians did manage to get on the score sheet, although be it in controversial fashion. Shire were under a bit of pressure, but were still defending the line well. The ‘away’ side dropped the ball and scrum half Gary Leith pounced on it, and was harshly told he did not release it. Gordonians took the quick tap and Captain Gilmartin tried the sly getting in the way, saying he was not able to retreat the 10metres quick enough, upon thinking it had been tactical, and allowing the Shire defence to properly reset. The referee instead immediately ran under the posts and awarded the penalty try. This clearly got Gordonians back in the game, with the score now being 17-13. Shire woke up to this immediately though, and upon their next attack, again through some excellent hard straight running from the forwards and equally good clearing out of rucks, veteran prop BARNY HENDERSON was able to again bundle his way over the line.
Kicking conditions in the second half were difficult in the face of strong winds and with all the tries being scored out wide none of the second half tries were converted. This was hurtful for poor Gavlar, with some people asking after the game if Redmond had been kicking!
So the game finished 22-13, but the team knows they will need to improve if they want to maintain their unbeaten record through the rest of the season, but it was still satisfying to win at what has always been a hard ground to go to in recent seasons for what was supposed to be a home fixture at fortress Woodside. Home comforts were still there for the men from Woodside with Sheila’s special stovies making the journey across the city and provided for the enjoyment of all.
Apologies for the lack of photographs, for what there usually is for a home game, this was due to Cavey not wanting to get a Christmas present this year, and deciding to tell his dad, regular photographer Jim Livingston to go to Edinburgh as the game was cancelled, much to the rest of the clubs despair!