Under 18 - Report
STUNNING TEAM PERFORMANCE AS ELLON DEFEAT DEESIDE 27-12
The biggest rivalry in North East age group rugby was renewed on Saturday at the Meadows with the visit of Deeside. Earlier in the season Deeside had narrowly won the reverse fixture 19-17.
The team knew a victory over their arch rivals would all but guarantee a top three spot. The team was buoyed by the return of a number of players from injury and the return of Bradley Fraser – who currently lives and plays in Melrose – for one week only.
Deeside may have had a threadbare squad but the addition of two Grammar Senior 2nd’s players – including Scotland U18 International Angus Rennie – meant this would be a stiff test for the home side. Deeside kicked off and immediately camped themselves inside the Ellon half. The home defence was up for the challenge and repelled a series of attacks in their own 22.
After five minutes Ellon made their first foray into opposition territory when good interplay from centre, Jamie Gillan, Prop Mathew Royce and winger Liam Cousins nearly created a try but some last-ditch tackling saw the ball go into touch.
After eight minutes Ellon’s next attack saw winger Cousins evade several tacklers only to be shoulder charged into touch. This was one of a number of infringements missed by the referee to the frustration on the large and vocal home support.
Ellon’s pressure was building and a scrum against the head set up the backs to pass along the line where Jamie Gillan was just bundled into touch in the corner. The breakthrough finally came after eleven minutes when a scrum on the Deeside 5 metre line was picked up by No.8 Douglas Sharp – who went on to collect the Man of the Match award – and he drove over to give the home side a 5-0 lead.
The lead was doubled after 16 minutes when another five metre scrum led to second row Connor Silver driving over. The conversion was missed but Ellon led 10-0.
It was now time for Deeside to exert pressure and finish the first half strongly. When the referee missed the Deeside 13 running into his own No.8 the ball was slipped to the big back rower who drove over. The try was converted and the teams went into halftime at Ellon 10 – Deeside 7.
The Ellon coaches demanded more hunger from their team in the second half and also made a tactical switch with new recruit Martin McKenzie coming on at scrum half with Ben Shirron moving to 10 and Stewart Cruickshank making way.
Ellon’s new recruit from New Zealand made an instant impact with a brilliant tackle to deny a Deeside forward who was breaking down the wing.
Six minutes into the second half Ellon stretched their lead when McKenzie passed the ball out of the scrum to Captain Jamie Gillan running a great inside line at pace. He broke through the first line of defence before sides-stepping two players to score next to the posts. Not for the first time the conversion was missed but Ellon had a 15-7 lead. The home side were soon under pressure again and panic in the defence saw the ball find its way to U18 international Angus Rennie who beat two players to score and bring Deeside back to within 3 points.
Ellon did not panic and re-opened an eight point lead when a penalty on the Deeside 5 metre line was tapped and passed to Flanker Matthew Emmison to drive over.
With five minutes remaining the result was put beyond doubt when scrum half Martin McKenzie made a break off a lineout. He was stopped short of the line but the ball was recycled quickly and passed along the line for winger Liam Cousins to score in the corner. Ben Shirron kicked the conversion to give Ellon a 27-12 lead with five minutes remaining.
The home team looked the more likely to score in the final few minutes but there was joy mixed with relief as the referee blew the final whistle to give Ellon a richly deserved victory by 27 points to 12.
This win should secure progress to the Caledonian Champions League after Christmas but Ellon will want to make sure when they take on Gordonstoun away next week. The winner of this game should be guaranteed a second place finish in the league.
Coach Gareth Kemp commented after the match “After an intensive training session Tuesday and Thursday I had no doubt of the result". "Ellon were up for the game and knew to fully control the passion.” “The team is really coming together and we welcome Martin McKenzie into our small, but efficent, squad as a great addition”. “Saturday sees an early start at Gordonstoun, with a 10:00 KO!, but both teams want to be in Aberdeen to support our Nation against Tonga”.