It's a numbers game
Sadly no away win
Deeside headed to closest Division 4 neighbours Dyce on Saturday to see if they could get that elusive away win. Sadly it wasn’t to be. Deeside travelled with a squad of eighteen, but those three substitutes consisted an individual who has never played, one who hasn’t played this season and a reluctant 59-year old that was sensibly hoping not to have to play at all. Playing downhill in the first half, Deeside took the lead after 10 minutes with a penalty from the boot of Rhys Barker. On 20 minutes Dyce came back with a converted try to take the lead 7-3. Another penalty by Barker from distance a few minutes later brought the score back to 7-6. On the half-hour mark Deeside had another penalty just inside their own half so Barker fancied his chances again, but it wasn’t to be. Deeside’s first forced substitution came when Rhys Barker twisted an ankle and was unable to continue. On came rugby and Deeside debutant Chris Somers. With Barker off, captain Graeme Ainsley took over the spot kicking duties and through his boot Deeside took another two penalties before the half-time whistle to take the lead 12-7 at the break. Deeside prop Tom Andrews had to be substituted at half-time by Phil Evans. Dyce started the second half strongly and with a full 22-man squad and the advantage of playing downhill they applied pressure and started to play more of the game in the Deeside half. Deeside were managing to keep Dyce at bay but on 55 minutes another twisted ankle brought Deeside captain Graeme Ainsley’s game to a premature end. Deeside coach Ray Hall came on to keep the numbers even and the visitors continued to compete right to the final whistle. However, with Dyce able to refresh their line up by using all their substitutes and Deeside having lost three influential players early in Barker, Andrews and Ainsley, the home side took advantage scoring two converted tries before the final whistle to take the game with a 21-12 victory. So once again another example of club rugby being a numbers game. We don’t begrudge Dyce a well-deserved win but without the Deeside injuries and if both squad sizes had been equal the result would have been different.
After the game Dyce posted on social media about the last time they had managed to stop a team scoring any tries against them in a game – that was four years ago and their post showed the six fixtures played that weekend of 18th January 2014. Of the 12 teams that were playing in their league that weekend, five of them no longer exist. That is a huge rate of attrition for any sport and shows how the fall in player numbers is affecting the game. As former Scotland player Iain Milne was quoted in an on-line article about the state of grassroots rugby in Scotland on theoffsideline.com in November 2018, “the adult male game is, at the moment, dying on its feet”. As the article states, there is an “alarming drop-off in participation levels amongst adult males”. This is also illustrated by a total of seventeen points deductions for teams being unable to field a squad across the Caledonia North Divisions so far this season plus one team withdrawing completely from Division 4. The good news from a Deeside point of view is that we have so far fulfilled all our fixtures even though we have sometimes been short of numbers. But what we really need are more individuals who are prepared to play on a Saturday – this is the only way adult rugby at Deeside will be sustainable. We only have two more fixtures this season, both at home vs Moray 2’s on 23rd February and vs Peterhead on 2nd March. Here's hoping for full squads for both dates.
Thanks to Kevin Moir and Dyce for the photos.