Irvine’s Scottish Cup match against Aberdeen Grammar Rugby was brought to a premature end with only two minutes to go when full-back Lance Elrick collapsed with hypothermia. He was joined on his post-match trip to hospital by centre Matt Kenny who had been helped from the field minutes earlier. Both subsequently recovered and were released later on Saturday evening.
The match started with only a howling gale to contend with, driving from the harbour towards the moor, but soon, with the arrival of bitter drenching rain, and later of hail, both sets of players were soaked and bitterly cold.
Aberdeen, who play in Premier Two, started into the wind, but took early control of the game, with their forwards punching the ball deep into Irvine’s twenty two. However, outstanding defensive work by forwards and backs alike repelled the attacks and by mid-half, Irvine’s pack was beginning to assert superiority, driving the visitors off the ball, both in scrums and at the breakdown. Indeed, Irvine nearly broke the deadlock when Ruchin Filander broke into the clear and was caught deep in the Aberdeen half, his pass out of the tackle spilling to ground. Irvine were also unable to take advantage of the wind, which was so strong that, on several occasions, Sean Christie’s kicks were blown over the dead ball line. It was no real surprise then that there was no score at half-time and the hardy few supporters who were watching from the side of the park took themselves into the clubhouse for a warming refreshment.
Irvine started the second half with the intention of keeping the ball close and by halfway through the second period were laying siege to the Aberdeen line. However, equally fine defence by the Aberdeen players kept them out and going into the last five minutes, with extra-time looming, there was still no score. At this point a Sean Christie penalty, given for consistent and desperate killing of the ball by the visiting pack, fell short and Grammar hacked the ball upfield. Many players were dropping with injuries caused by the cold and the wet conditions but Elrick scampered back to ensure that the ball went dead. The effort, however, proved the last straw for the diminutive full-back and he collapsed in the Irvine in-goal area. Referee Finlay Clark had no alternative but to abandon the game on safety grounds and Aberdeen will have to make the long trip to the Costa Clyde again to replay the match.
Jeremy Beckhuis was adjudged man-of-the-match in a performance by the pack that belied the difference in league status between the teams, but truly every player, and indeed the referee, was heroic in what was, in impossible conditions, a well-fought match.
Next week, Falkirk visit Marress for the reverse Premier Three league match while the Seconds, who were defeated by a strong Dalziel team, visit Dumfries. That match saw the return to refereeing of legendary Irvine whistler Andy Clift who kept a lid on a match which, after the first game at Motherwell, could have got out of hand. The Under-18s returned to playing rugby with a narrow loss to league leaders, Strathaven.