Frost has been a been a disrupting issue for several previous Deeside-Gordonstoun games, but despite the cold trend the Banchory pitch was in almost perfect condition.
Gordonstoun’s last fixture saw them record a 22-13 win over previously unbeaten league leaders Highland, so this was expected to be a tough game all round. Deeside’s previous game was a somewhat rusty performance against Mackie away in Stonehaven and although Deeside came away with a convincing 22-10 win they squandered at least two additional try scoring opportunities. A similar performance this week would simply gift the game to an on form Gordonstoun but Deeside’s focused warm up suggested they had different ideas altogether.
For the first 15 minutes Deeside dominated play, the forwards rucked well, the backs tried options and the linkage between forwards and backs was levels above that of Deeside’s previous game.
Gordounstoun’s defence held however and with 20 minutes played they began to make more and more incursions into the Deeside half, eventually breaking the deadlock with a long range penalty 0-3.
Deeside’s lineouts also showed a big improvement and Gordonstoun were unable to set up the driving maul platform that they used so effective the last time these two teams met. They changed tactics and began to use a pick-and-drive game more effectively in an attempt to suck in more of the Deeside defence. The tactic worked and the first try of the game came from a series of connected plays taking Gordonstoun close enough to the line for their forwards to drive over from close range, the try was easily converted 0-10.
Undeterred, Deeside’s response was almost immediate. They moved the game back into Gordonstoun territory and were unlucky on several occasions, a single pass not going to hand or a knock-on at the crucial point just foiling the continuity of building their attack.
Nonetheless, pressure usually does result in points and, with a series of quickly-taken tap penalties by scrum-half Matthew Hillier constantly putting Gordonstoun on the back foot, Deeside set up a ruck less than a metre from their opponents’ line. Several previous penalties against Gordonstoun were for repeatedly being offside at the ruck and, as they committed the same offence again only one metre out, referee Roy Greig had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try to Deeside as flanker Joe Birdsey pushed for the line with Melvin McAskill, in close support, tackled illegally by an offside Gordonstoun player once again.
Struan Gordon added the conversion and the ref’s whistle went for half time 7-10. The game was still very much up for grabs.
The second half was again very tight and, like the first, there was no score for the first 20 minutes as the sides battled it out. Also, like the first, the deadlock was broken with a penalty but this time it was Deeside’s Struan Gordon taking the points to level the score at 10-10.
Unfortunately for Deeside they soon conceded a penalty within range for Gordonstoun who kicked successfully again to re-take a narrow 10-13 lead.
Deeside rallied and, with only minutes on the clock, could have scored the winner in the dying moments of the game when a series of penalties put them within metres of the line. From only five metres out a structured tap to the forwards might have worked a try, but the final tap was taken quickly and ball was spilled from the immediate tackle. Despite the Gordonstoun tacklers not being on their try line the referee judged the first offence to be lost forward and blew the whistle to signal full time.
Although it was disappointing for the players not to win this very close game, this was an excellent performance all round from Deeside and a huge improvement over last week’s win against Mackie.
In the last two games Deeside have fielded squads of 22 and 21 players, again a big improvement in all round commitment on previous games and undoubtedly an additional factor that will be key in the second part of the season where success in the Caley Cup will require a large and committed squad of players. Deeside’s next game will be away to Aberdeen Grammar on January 26.
Deeside: Liam Hutcheon, Connor Bull, Matthew Gordon, Peter Lamont, Andrew Mullins, Douglas Park, John Crilly, Alexander Taylor, Struan Gordon, Matthew Hillier, Rafe Welsh, Andrew Hardman, Tswai Mweemba, Joe Birdsey, George Watt, Thomas Christie, Angus Hart, Melvin McAskill, John McGowan, Chris Ballantyne, Jordan McDonald.