Although slightly crusted with frost, the normally heavy surface of the Highland pitch just made it soft enough to take a stud which enabled the Highland v Deeside U16 fixture to go ahead despite the cold weather.
Both sides were up for this encounter and it took just over 18 minutes to break the deadlock with the first points coming Deeside’s way. A lightning break from outside centre James Long cut through the Highland lines and wing Tswai Mweeba was in close support to claim the try.
The second score was also down to another break by Long, this time a subtle change of pace left the Highland defence flat footed for Long to score the points himself. With both tries converted by centre John Crilly, Deeside sat back a little and eased off.
Highland began to use their forwards more effectively and soon had Deeside on the back foot defending. A series of linked close drives by Highland eventually disrupted the Deeside defence and resulted in a score, unconverted, as the half time whistle blew.
At 5-14, this was clearly going to be highly contested second period. Within five minutes Deeside had racked up another two tries. The first came from a clearance kick from Highland which failed to make touch, John Crilly fielded the ball and managed to jink his way back past several defenders and then broke into space down the blind side. Linking with the forwards the ball was moved quickly back infield and then out finding James Long who once again injected the pace necessary to break the Highland defensive line for his second score.
The second was try was sublime. With the forwards putting in a lot of work, both in the loose and in the set pieces, Deeside won a scrum against the head 35 metres out. Scrum half Matthew Hillier picked up and broke down the blind side, a dummy and change of pace took him past the first defender and a change of direction infield held the full back, before a pass back to the blind side gave wing Tswai Mweemba ample space to run in for his second try of the game. John Crilly slotted the conversion and Deeside now seemed at last to be taking control at 5-26.
Deeside’s forwards worked hard throughout this encounter, Andrew Mullins, Alex Taylor, Elliot Wood and Matthew Gordon were always making ground and stand-off Struan Gordon used the kicking options effectively.
However, Highland began to rally and play to their strengths and Deeside’s forwards had to increase their work rate to cope with an onslaught by the Highland pack. Almost immediately with the sustained pressure Highland pulled back another score, unconverted but narrowing Deeside’s lead to just 16 points with still 24 minutes to play.
Deeside rallied again and scored what turned out to be their final try of the game and wing Tswai Mweemba’s hat-trick.
Deeside fielded the last of their subs from the 21 strong squad and the fresh legs worked hard to contain Highlands last ditch attempts, although a series of penalties took Highland to within striking distance and they crossed the line once more for their third and final try.
For the remainder of the game Deeside managed to contain Highland within their own half and when the referee blew for full time Deeside could at last relax and enjoy the well deserved 15-31 win.
This win may ensure a place in the National Cup for Deeside’s U16s and does ensure that they progress to the Pan Caledonia league, as have Deeside U18s where the top three sides from the north of Scotland will now complete with the top three sides from the Midlands.
Overall this was a great all-round team performance from Deeside U16s whose strength has been built on the strong squad that has come together this season.
Deeside: John Crilly, Tswai Mweemba, James Long, Liam Hutcheon, Connor McWilliam, Struan Gordon, Matthew Hillier, Dan Sutton, Tyler Booth, Peter Lamont , Andrew Mullins, Alex Taylor, Will Underwood, Matthew Gordon, Elliot Wood, Rafe Welsh, Adam Thomson, Roaul Sutcliffe, Connor Bull, Andrew Hardman, Alex Fyfe.