Dundee University Medics 31
DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield
ABERDEENSHIRE picked up their third piece of the silverware of the season as Finals Day at Murrayfield got off to sizzling start. They triumphed at the end of a compelling contest in which the lead changed hands seven times, as the outcome hung in the balance right up until the final whistle.
Having already picked up the Caledonian North Bowl and the Caledonian North Division Three league title during this campaign, the men from the Granite City came into this match high on confidence, but they were up against a side who had played in a nominally higher division [Caledonia Midland Two] this season, and it ended up being an incredibly tense, nip-and-tuck affair.
“We didn’t know much about Dundee at all, but we just didn’t want the occasion to get to us, and I think the boys did a good job,” said Aberdeenshire captain Frazer Forman. “I think it’s the greatest season we have had in the club’s history. The goal was always to win the league and we did that in great style and to cap it all with a win here at Murrayfield is fantastic.
It has been a turbulent period in the club’s proud history, with an aborted association with Aberdeen Grammar hitting them hard. But they have regrouped and are now slowly climbing their way back up the food chain.
“Two years ago, we were in National Three, but we lost 42 players and both our coaches, so it has just been about rebuilding since then,” said Forman. “There is a real buzz at the club now. We’ve got some old faces back – it is an ageing team, most of us are the wrong side of 30 – but there is a lot of good history at the club and we want to put it back where it should be.”
Aberdeenshire raced out of the blocks, and after kicking a scrum penalty to the corner they snatched a third minute lead when No 8 Jason Burton crashed over from a well worked line-out move.
The Medics bounced back, with stand-off Michael Finnerty sending home a long-range penalty, and they nearly snatched the lead when Tom Bissett came off his wing on a set-move to hit a gap in Aberdeenshire’s midfield defence, but he couldn’t quite hold onto the ball as he collected a flat pass just yards short of the try-line.
It was an edgy, tense affair at this stage, with both sides showing plenty of willingness with ball in hand but struggling to get any purchase against some ferociously full-blooded defence. Eventually, Aberdeenshire restored the five-point gap, just before the half hour mark, when Medics second-row Fraser Curran was penalised for going off his feet at a ruck in front of the posts and Gavin Cunningham stepped up to send home the straightforward kick.
Finally, the game burst into life when Fraser Paterson spearheaded a Medics breakout, and when that initial counter was stopped just over the halfway line there was acres of space on the right for the pacey student backs to exploit. Initially it appeared that the opportunity would go abegging when the ball went down in midfield, but possession was retained and Finnerty launched a scything diagonal run which cut Aberdeenshire wide open, before he released Bissett for an unchallenged run in.
Finnerty added the conversion then landed a monstrous 45-yard penalty from wide on the right to establish 13-8 half-time lead. It could have been more when Finnerty mugged Tom Watson on the right a few minutes before the break, but he miscued his grubber kick ahead.
Aberdeenshire regained the lead after four minutes of the second-half, once again from a close-range line-out, with blindside flanker Kenny Penman powering over, and Cunningham slotting the tricky conversion.
DUMS once again bounced right back with Toby Hughes breaking from midfield, and after a period of pressure, Finnerty swung the scoreboard back in his team’s favour with an offside penalty from right in front of the posts, and they pressed home their advantage with a well worked try, scored by Paterson after Fezan Mughal stepped outside his man to deliver the killer pass.
Aberdeenshire wasted no time in striking back. Once again, a penalty in the middle of the park was despatched to the corner, and once again the Aberdeenshire pack worked the line-out possession over the whitewash, with tight-head prop Steven Cook – a veteran from the last Aberdeenshire appearance at Murrayfield in the Bowl Final ten years ago – getting the ball down this time, with Cunningham drilling home the extra points.
Finnerty struck another penalty – after replacement lock Iain Irvine was sin-binned for an illegal shoulder-charge – to put the Medics back ahead, but no sooner had the players and crowd drawn breath than Aberdeenshire had responded, with Tom Watson escaping on the right and running it in from 30-yards.
The player numbers were evened up when Medics No 8 Campbell Yates was sent to the naughty step for taking a player out in the air, and Aberdeenshire kicked to the corner again, although this time it took three or four phases before Watson powered over for his second and his team’s fifth try of the match. Cunningham’s conversion opened up the gap to ten points with seven minutes to go.
But the students weren’t done yet, getting themselves back into the strike zone, and then over the line after a lovely underarm offload from that man Flinnerty sent Liam Deboys over on the right. Flinnerty then nailed the touchline conversion, which meant it was a three-point game with a minute left.
Medics ran the restart back, and found themselves streaking clear up the left wing, but Aberdeenshire’s scramble defence managed to get back to snuff out the threat and secure the win.
“It was a tough way to lose but an exciting game and thoroughly enjoyable,” said Ewen Cullen, the Medics captain. “I think we proved ourselves, we’re a group of boys who coach each other, so we’ve done pretty well. We’ll build on this, each year we go from strength to strength, and hopefully the next captain who comes in after me can put the structures in place next year so that we can go one step further.”
Dundee Uni Medics: F Mughal: T Bisset, F Paterson, T Hughes, L Deboys; M Finnerty, M Romano; M Ashfield, Z Slevin, F Kennedy, F Curran, C Grieve, C Sreenan, E Cullen, C Yates. Subs: C Paulina,E Pflug,R McCall,H Campbell, B Doherty, N Cameron, J Paxton.
Aberdeenshire: J Stephen; T Watson, C Cunningham, J Gray, M MacLugash; P Harrow, M White; S Shrewsbury, J Dooley, S Cook, F Forman, P Watson, K Penman, A Forman, J Burton. Subs: L Emslie, J Taylor,I Irvine, B Davies, M Lynch, J John,A Wright.
Referee: Grant Stephen
Dundee Uni Medics: Try: Bissett Paterson, Deboys; Con: Finnerty 2; Pen: Finnerty 4.
Aberdeenshire: Try: Burton, Penman, Cook, T Watson 2; Con: Cunningham 3; Pen: Cunningham.
Scoring sequence (Dundee Uni Medics first): 0-5; 3-5; 3-8; 8-8; 10-8; 13-8 (h-t) 13-13; 13-15; 16-15; 21-15; 21-20; 21-22; 24-22; 24-27; 24-29; 24-34; 24-34; 31-34.
Yellow cards –
Man-of-the-Match: Dundee Medics stand-off Michael kept his side in touch with some excellent goal-kicking, and he also played a crucial role in creating two out of his team’s three tries in an accomplished all-round performance.