With barely time to warm up properly following the long trek to Inverness for the Caledonia Shield final Deeside looked like they had been thrown to the lions in the opening minutes of this game with old rivals Ellon. The heavy weight Ellon pack made their intentions clear and with only 15 minutes played Deeside had already conceded two tries, both coming from short drives by Ellon’s forwards. Deeside seemed to have started in a panic, gifting possession to Ellon at the breakdowns and Ellon duly capitalised right away. It was clear from the sidelines that Deeside needed a good shake to settle nerves. The shake came from the combined words of Captain Angus Hart and flanker Chris Ballantyne whose ‘can do’ attitude provided the vital spark to ignite the Deeside comeback. Suitably advised, the team spirit and the players confidence was lifted back to the key point where they believed, not only that that they could comeback, but that they would comeback, from 0-12 down with only fifteen minutes played. The self belief was not misplaced and the next fifteen minutes of the game was all Deeside. Ellon’s game plan seemed to focus around the efforts of their large pack whereas Deeside opted to move the ball quickly away from contact. The first break for Deeside came from a quick tap penalty taken by scrum half Matthew Hillier who shipped the ball quickly out to centre George Watt. Watt jinked his way through the first layer of the Ellon defence and finished with a powerful well angled drive to the line. Patrick Nicol added the conversion and the deficit was reduced to only 5 points. Ellon continued to try the direct route, placing their reliance on the brut force of their forwards, although when they did elect to go wide their centre’s and wings looked a more formidable threat. Ill discipline was Ellon’s undoing when an Ellon forward was sin binned for a malicious shove of a Deeside player right in front of the referee, after the ball had gone out of play. Deeside capitalised on the one man advantage in the forwards and their more open style of play soon had the Ellon pack trailing around the park looking for their next rest rather than looking to win the ball. Deeside’s back row dominated the short lived breakdowns and they tackled relentlessly with Josh Gomez and Malcolm Diack particularly prominent. Alex Taylor along with Joe Birdsey in the second row were also constantly in the thick of the action and Joe Birdsey’s lineout jumping, both in attack and defence was some of the best seen at the club this season. Particularly outstanding performances were recorded by Garran Sutton, learning the trade of tight head and playing his first full game in this position, and Chris Long on the wing who tackled strongly and consistently throughout and also cut down the available space quickly every time Ellon threatened to go wide. John McGowan did the same on the other wing and showed that his ability to read the game has improved enormously this season. As Deeside began to work increasing amounts of second phase possession and recycle at ever increasing pace it seemed inevitable that pressure would lead to points. The prediction came true when fly-half Patrick Nicol collected his own chip over the heads of the Ellon back line and sprinted in to score under the posts. The conversion attempt went uncharacteristically off course and the scores were tied at 12:12 just as the whistle went for half-time. The Highland pitch, like many in Scotland, has a slope, slight but still an obvious advantage and Deeside now faced the prospect of a second half playing uphill, albeit with a decent breeze blowing in their favour. The first half had shown clearly that simply keeping your own possession was key to this game and the players team talk at half time focused on ways to keep possession, thinking carefully about tactical and territorial kicking and the importance of keeping the play away from the Ellon pack. Most of the ensuing half was played out well into Ellon’s territory with Deeside commanding most of the possession and most of the play. Replacement lock Andrew Mullins bolstered the forward effort with his outstanding work-rate in both loose and set play and stalwart loose head prop Melvin McKaskill did everything asked of him and more, despite carrying an injury from the game against Currie the week before. Ellon’s indiscipline once again cost them as they gave away numerous penalties and free kicks for careless and repeated infringements. Deeside’s dominance of territory and possession eventually paid off and once again it was quick handling by the backline that was decisive. Moving the ball quickly along the backline was the key element from Joe Grimble at scrum half, via Sam Morris in the centre to fullback John Crilly joining the line with deadly precision for the score. George Watt added the conversion form wide out and Deeside now had the lead they wanted. As the clock ticked away the final minutes, Deeside should have kicked for points on at least two occasions, but chose instead to run the ball quickly. Fortunately, these were not decisions Deeside came to regret as in the final dying moments of the game Ellon’s back’s threatened to break out of defence and could easily have scored a break away try, which if converted would have levelled the score. Only relentless tackling saved the day, and it was Deeside’s day this time again with a final score of Deeside 19 Ellon 12. This was without doubt one of the best games for Deeside of the season, and with four of their regular players, Angus Rennie, Angus Wallace, Tom Christie and Luke Earle-Wright away representing Caledonia, the Deeside team needed to prove to themselves that they have the strength in depth and character to win such important games ; there is no doubt that they did so. As a bonus Deeside’s contribution to the Caledonia regional squad also resulted in a win over the Border Rievers 19-5.
Following the game Deeside were presented with the Caledonia U16 Shield and also with the U16 Caledonia North East league champions’ cup having won the league early in the season. They also collected the league trophy to pass on to the Desside U18 team who have also had a very successful season.
Deeside: Melvin McAskill, Angus Hart, Garran Sutton, Alex Taylor, Joe Birdsey, Andrew Mullins, Chris Ballantyne, Josh Gomez, Malcolm Diack, Matthew Hillier, Joe Grimble, Patrick Nicol, Sam Morris, George Watt, Chris Long, John McGowan, John Crilly.