Up eh Road

Before setting out on my long-suffering Cannondale bicycle last week I first delved into my inconsistent Strava history. Strava for those unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately out of the loop, is an app which provides a relatively detailed account of how far or fast you have gone on a ride or a run.

According to my run-dominated profile, my lonely steed hadn’t been ridden for at least seven months, which is likely a long time in bike years. So, when considering how to keep my restless legs entertained during lockdown I decided to boldly go where my legs hadn’t been for a while.

The first two ventures on my bike didn’t take me far from home. This was partly due to the lockdown restrictions, but mostly because my runner legs weren’t pleased with this foreign activity. My backside was also displeased at taking an unacquainted battering from a hard road bike saddle.

Pressing on from unfortunate innuendos however, and I want to put a positive spin (see what I did there) on these two 30-mile cycles. Despite some unfortunate gearing issues and the incessant wind which seemingly blows down the two valleys which define Braemar’s environs, I could still ride a bike. That in itself was pleasing.

Next on the agenda was to discover whether yours truly and a mistreated 2014 Cannondale could tackle a good old-fashioned hill. Setting out on another planned local ride to Fraser’s Bridge and around to the Linn of Quoich, I climbed carefully out of the village and towards Glenshee Ski Centre. My unambitious plan was to turn off well before the climb at the top of the valley, taking a U-turn along the rough and bumpy golf course road and back into the village.

After riding for ten minutes into a slight headwind, the crossing over the 18th century crossing over the River Clunie came into sight. I looked up from my unprofessional position on my bike and caught a glimpse of wild lands which lay beyond. It was mild yet dull morning and low cloud enveloped the summits of munros such as Cairn an Tuirc, amongst others which I knew surrounded the nearby ski centre.

The right turn never came, and I could almost hear my brain arguing with my legs. If I wanted an insight into any leftover climbing resolve from last summer this was a primary opportunity. Though in all honesty, the climb up to the popular snow sports destination wasn’t actually that steep. I reckon it must average a 5-6% gradient from the Sean Spittal Bridge and its non-descript layby.

That is where I’d argue the climb begins good and proper for just over two kilometres. This is where you say goodbye to the valley floor and your hopes and dreams. It is a lesser climb from Fraser’s Bridge up until that point and can be a struggle in the prevailing south-westerly which consistently blows down Glen Clunie.

Passing through the barren landscape of very few trees and an occasional uninterested sheep, I finally reached the bottom of the climb. The wind dropped as a shifted down the gears. This was the moment of truth. Could I still climb?

The answer is complicated. Breathlessly slugging my way past the desolate ski centre with its deserted café and chairlifts, I eventually reached the ‘Welcome to Perth & Kinross’ sign (pictured).

The last stretch of the hill had been the most challenging, as I struggled to find a suitable gear on my worn-out chain set. Perhaps its worth pointing out here there often isn’t a correct gear. Climbing in granny gear is still unlikely to be an enjoyable affair for the mere cider guzzling student amateur.

I had however, survived the dreaded climb, also avoiding any serious incident on the steep descent back into the valley. Now I just need to pluck up the courage to tackle the other side as well. But’s that can be for another week…or month.

Two Different Types of Lockdown

It was 17 days ago that I dragged the last item of my student belongings through the door of my Aberdeen flat. My mood was rather sombre as I carried my annoying elephant costume, which I regret ever purchasing, and placed it beside the dusty staircase. Having said my final goodbyes to my Jamaica Street accommodation, I turned the keys in the door for the final time.

The nine months I spent there had been for the most part enjoyable, but with the semester coming to an abrupt close and the other complicated outcomes of a global pandemic to consider, I realised it was time to move on.

Indeed, I hadn’t actually inhabited my flat since the nationwide lockdown began following Boris Johnson’s 8pm speech on the 16th March. I watched the announcement in my girlfriend’s flat and decided to stay there, being fortunate enough to isolate with company. A luxury many haven’t been so lucky to enjoy over the last 57 days.

During the first five weeks of the unprecedented restrictions I spent a ludicrous amount of time watching boats manoeuvre in the nearby harbour. This rather than focusing on a challenging, but doable web design project. I even became excited about witnessing the Northern Isles ferry’s arrival and departure on its reduced Covid-19 timetable. Sometimes the small things in life can keep you mildly entertained.

Throughout those first few weeks I lived for my daily opportunity to experience the outdoors, predominantly taking a liberating run down to the often-blustery beach. Often the limited exercise would be reduced to a short trip to the shops to buy essentials and cider. The cider likely negating much of the good work being done through the regular running.

Journeys to the supermarket where anxious affairs with many audible sighs being heard as customers grumbled at other customer’s apparent lack of adherence to the new social distancing precautions. At first, I was disappointed by the absence of patience, before quickly realising that some of these aggrieved customers were likely key workers, experiencing high stress in their jobs.

I was also admittedly irked by a gentleman in the queue one day who was standing so unnaturally close to me that I could feel him breathing down my neck.

Out with the organised chaos of Morrisons and days of warm spells were spent cooped up inside, with no garden to inhabit. The lack of a green area is of course a common feature of most Aberdeen flats and therefore, an extremely minor issue.

When it comes down to it, I know I have been fortunate to have company and to lead a lifestyle in relative safety. These considerations are likely why I hated myself for beginning to become jaded with my city surroundings by the start of the fourth week of pandemic restrictions.

My longing for a bit of greenery was fulfilled by runs around to the Girdle Ness lighthouse at Nigg Bay, gaining a picturesque view back across Aberdeen. This accompanied by short but breathless efforts up the steep Broad Hill beside Pittodrie Stadium.

I guiltily missed the countryside which lay just outside mu current concrete jungle surroundings. Again, this being offset by the company I was enjoying.

Though ironically, I now find myself in the countryside again, returning to Braemar after my girlfriend and her flatmate opted in for the NHS as students. With the tables turned I realised I should move-out, wanting to decrease the risk of cross-infection for her. I also realised that I would likely not see my girlfriend in the flesh for another several weeks.

It was also time to depart the flat as the unpredictability of the future effects of Covid-19 made me hesitant in agreeing to a lease into next semester and beyond. It was a Friday evening when I gathered all of my belongings into an overladen Vauxhall Corsa and made my way back up the valley.

I would be joining my family in lockdown and hoping that I wasn’t breaking lockdown rules by moving to a new house. I had already set out a two-week self-isolation period which meant avoiding the village.

The journey along the length of Deeside was dark and uneventful. I happened across a couple of buses and five police cars travelling eastwards, but otherwise the roads were spookily quiet. I remained convinced until I reached the confides of the Pass of Ballater that I would be pulled over by a rightfully inquisitive bobby.

Resting up that evening and considering my new quieter surroundings without the pleasant company of my girlfriend, I awoke the next morning to the almost foreign sound of birds singing. Having inhabited rural village settings for around 18 of my 21 unproductive years on this planet I’ve been lucky enjoy this sound of nature along with the eerie hoots of owls in recent nights.

Indeed, it didn’t take me long to conclude that a rural lockdown and an urban lockdown are two quite different prospects. The day after my return to village life I went for a run in the nearby woods, uninterrupted by vehicles or over socially distant pedestrians. It was hugely enjoyable despite the missing presence of some who I hold closest.

There are of course many who don’t experience living in the countryside are prefer inhabiting a concrete jungle. For me, gaining a taste of lockdown in the city made me realise how much of a luxury sitting in a garden at a time like this is.

Aberdeen Caley Coaches Disappointed but Understanding of Decision to Call the Season Void

Posted – 24/03/20

It would be naïve to suggest rugby is on anyone’s priorities list as the globe battles a devastating pandemic.

Nevertheless, a decision had to be made by Scottish Rugby about how to finish the domestic season following the suspension of all rugby in Scotland on the 13th March.

On Tuesday a decision was reached to null and void the league season, preventing any form of automatic promotion or relegation.

An SRU statement detailed this outcome had been delivered as part of a wide-ranging consultation period which involved every club in Scotland, although at least Northern Caledonia side has claimed they weren’t consulted.

The governing body provided five different options to the clubs and noted that around half of them had opted to call the season as null and void.

The second most popular option was to finish the season with the current positions of each club, while another was to award two points to each team for any outstanding fixtures.

Other options involved calculating an average of points over the season and counting earlier fixtures as double headers.

However, Orkney claim they weren’t consulted and despite the difficult circumstances, can be forgiven for feeling hard done by after they looked certain to be promoted to the National Leagues.

The Islanders were eight points clear with two games in hand at the top of Caledonia One when the season was suspended last month.

In Caley Two, Aberdeenshire also saw their promotion hopes being quelled having already gained a place in Caley One next season.

Shire’s Head Coach, Barny Henderson believes a different outcome would have perhaps been preferable.

He said: “The option of awarding two league points for each remaining game would have been fairer.”

“For us its disappointing because we’ve played all our games and gained every point we need to get promoted.”

“I feel very bad for Orkney and Marr who were likely to win their first Premiership title this season.”

“The club has worked hard to return to Caley One which is where I believe Aberdeenshire belong, but in the wider sense this outcome won’t be that important in a few years and we now have an added incentive to be successful again next season.”

Henderson isn’t overly critical of the SRU but does register some frustration at past scheduling decisions and the unseen impact which they are having now.

He adds: “In hindsight its frustrating that the clubs agreed to play through the international games this season, but the SRU didn’t want them to.”

There is a recognition that those weekends lost to international fixtures could have made significant inroads into any matches which hadn’t been fulfilled across the leagues when the Covid-19 outbreak stopped play.

Aberdeen Wanderers aren’t likely to have felt as aggrieved by the null and void outcome as they sat fourth in Caley One when the season ended, unable to realistically challenge for silverware.

Director of Rugby, Russell Arthur said: “It’s an unprecedented situation we are in at the moment and I’m comfortable with the way the SRU went about the decision in asking the clubs what they thought should happen.”

“We can’t expose anyone involved with the club to any unnecessary risks but is it disappointing to lose that momentum that Wanderers have built across all facets of the club this season.”

Meanwhile, RAF Lossiemouth and Aberdeen University Medics had already wrapped up the Caley Three and Four titles respectively before Tuesday’s announcement.

However, the decision does favour Gordonians in National Two who were in the midst of a difficult battle for survival near the bottom end of the table.

The reality is that a difficult decision has been made at a time when rugby isn’t at the forefront of discussion.

There is a shared recognition of the unprecedented situation we as a society now face and it has been heartening to see ongoing community work which countless teams have have initiated during this global crisis.

Caledonia Two: Aberdeenshire leave it late to beat resilient Ross Sutherland

Aberdeenshire 29 (14)

Ross Sutherland 26 (12)

Aberdeenshire finished off a successful season with the narrowest of wins against a tough Ross Sutherland side. 

This game was always in the balance, with Paul Harrow’s penalty at the death proving the difference in a tight encounter.

Harrow had opened the scoring for Aberdeenshire early on and both teams claimed try scoring bonus points, sharing eight tries between them at Wooside.

Scrappy start feeds into running rugby

 

The hosts’s stand-off opened the scoring on ten minutes from close range after a slightly hectic opening period which saw several handling errors in muddy conditions.

Ross Sutherland then responded almost instantly through Chris Watt who found a gaping whole in the hosts’ defence to score.

The hosts then hit the front again through Andy Forman who latched onto a Jamie Stephen pass, the Full-back doing well to set Forman on his way for the score.

Watt then added his second for Ross just before the break to make it a two point game again as the flanker made a good break to leave a disorganised Aberdeenshire defence behind.

Indeed, the Invergordon side started the second-half brightly as well, with centre, Ali Kennedy finishing of a good team try.

John Mann’s conversion made it 14-19 and it briefly looked like there might be a shock on the cards at Woodside if Ross Sutherland could maintain this momentum.

There was a momentum shift on 50 minutes, but it was in the hosts’ favour instead when Aberdeenshire centre, Malcolm White finished off a superb try in the corner.

Harrow then did brilliantly to add the extras from the tightest of angles and the hosts had the lead once again.

This try seemed to relight Shire’s attacking firepower and seven minutes later, Keiran Fulton did well to finish in the other corner for his team’s fourth try.

The tough conversion was missed this time round, but it looked as though the hosts could start to regain some control from that point.

Ross Sutherland wouldn’t give in though and Matthew Robinson’s converted try set up a scintillating finish as the sides drew level.

On 74 minutes the visitors had the opportunity to go ahead, but Mann’s penalty kick was just wide and it was Aberdeenshire who sealed the victory when Harrow’s kick sailed through the posts at the death.

The hosts had sealed their promotion to Caley One last week when they defeated Mackie Academy FP, but the withdrawal of their 2nds from Caley Four has proved a slight dampener on their successful season.

It was perhaps important for their confidence that they were able to grind out a win on Saturday, before their National Bowl Semi-final encounter with Dalkeith.

Meanwhile, Ross Sutherland have three games of their season left, but are unlikely to avoid relegation after results elsewhere didn’t go their way. They travel to Highland 2nds next week needing a win.

Aberdeenshire Head Coach, Barny Henderson: “It was good to get the win even if we didn’t perform as well as we can. We were missing a few key players, but we now have three weeks for the guys to recover from any injuries before we go into the semi-final. Its been difficult losing the 2nds team, but the hope is we can rebuild one for next year. I’ve been on the other side of teams pulling out a couple of days before games and we don’t enjoy doing that.”

Aberdeenshire: Stephen, MacLugash, Watson, White, Fulton, Harrow, Morris; Shrewsbury, Mackie, Littlejohn, Watson, S.Lafferty, Penman, Forman, Burton

Replacements: G.Lafferty, Davies, Carr, Dagaga, Falconer, Stuart, El Hidane

Ross Sutherland: Team sheet not available.

 

A Granite Paradise

The sand is warm between your toes as you stroll across a beach sipping a cocktail while lounging around in your swimsuit. The location is undisclosed as the waves lap the shore. You could be in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean or somewhere else warm. That doesn’t matter. The sun is shining and you’re at peace with the world.

Suddenly you’re hit by a wave of brain freeze and you return to reality with a bump. You’ve been daydreaming again. You’re clinging to a hot flask of coffee while trying to prevent yourself from shivering. Shivering despite the multiple layers you wrapped around yourself before you set out. The location is a non-descript bus stop on Union Street. Passing buses, cars and smelly dustbin lorries create a deafening cacophony of sound around you. Welcome to Aberdeen.

On a cold, wet November day a bitter northerly wind is often funnelled down Aberdeen’s main drag. A wind which can chill you to the bone and can make you feel instantly ‘jeelt’. As they would say around these parts.

Meanwhile, Councillor Marie Boulton is sitting in her warm office on the second floor of the Town House, watching as people scuttle across the rain-soaked pavements below like woodlice. It’s a Thursday afternoon in December and the Christmas market across the road is struggling to find much trade from potential passing customers. Most people are either at work or are deliberately minimising the time they have to spend outdoors.

This is the Granite City. Not perhaps a name that shouts out attractive architecture, tourism hot spot, or holiday destination central. It is, however, a name which accurately reflects the nature of Aberdeen’s mini skyline of quarried rock clad buildings.

The town house itself is a pretty unremarkable building with its tinted windows and multiple entrances. Entrances which seem to all be out of order. This rather drab sight, however, is offset by the impressive Marischal College building next door with its church spiers towering above the festive display below. The is the second largest granite building in the world and is principally used by the city council.

Councillor Boulton is the cultural spokesperson for the council. She admits Scotland’s third city still lags behind the more popular attractions of Edinburgh and at Loch Ness for example in terms of visitor volume and popularity. Despite this, she remains enthusiastic about the Granite City’s potential as a tourist destination. An almost curbed enthusiasm if you will.

“Before there was this perception that Aberdeen was a grey, cold, only oil related city and I think people almost expected to see an oil rig in the middle of Union Street”, she suggests.

Boulton insists this snap judgement now firmly belongs in the past. She explains that the city council are putting more emphasis on developing the Granite City’s sightseer trade, citing the recent reopening of the popular Art Gallery as part of the council’s “city centre masterplan.”

She explains: “It was a huge investment for the city. We got £10 million from heritage lottery funding and £5 million from the UK treasury to do the memorial hall which is an important part of the art gallery.”

The newly refurbished venue is certainly impressive with its wide range of art and scenic roof top viewing point. The nearby Union Terrace gardens are also being redeveloped and are set to be completed in 2021 to the tune of £25 million. They will join an already plentiful supply of parks and green areas in Aberdeen.

However, the city arguably suffered culturally before and while the art gallery was under wraps, with 2016 city council figures suggesting that only 16% of visitors to venues in the city visited cultural locations. Councillors and locals alike will be hoping that the Schoolhill venue attracts a wider audience to its 15,000 strong collection of decorative art pieces.

This sentiment is echoed in a vast but empty conference room in the Visit Aberdeen offices, a company which promotes tourism in the Granite City and the wider North-East. Their CEO Chris Foy says: “I think it’s the tipping point. I’ve been here for two and a half years and I think when I arrived it was a lot harder to promote Aberdeen as a city destination on its own. The gallery kind off changes everything.”

But how does the gallery compare to the Dundee V&A, for example? An unusual yet impressive piece of architecture which sits proudly on the River Tay. It’s grand opening in September last year was met with much fanfare and the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, described its opening as putting “Dundee firmly on the world’s cultural map.”

Foy reckons Aberdeen’s art gallery can compete with the City of Discovery’s offering. “You can compare it to the V&A. A great brand which is getting lots of media attention. But I think the substance that we have in that gallery really makes it stand out and it’s a complete game changer for the city.”

He also zealously describes the action his team is taking to promote the P&J Live arena and newly reopened music hall as venues which have attracted and can attract big names. An obvious example is the BBC Sport personality award which will be hosted by the P&J Live on the 15th December.

Returning to the Town House, and Councillor Boulton explains how a wider audience had attended a recent performance in the city: “I believe out of those who attended the Michael Bublé concert at P&J Live, 60% of the audience were from out with Aberdeen.”

On this basis, it would seem there is an upward trend in visitors coming into the city, though there are those who have concerns this apparent increase in visitor numbers isn’t being felt by other areas of the city. Boulton believes the new harbour being built in Cove Bay to the south of the city will solve this issue.

She expects that cruises will land there, bringing visitors to different areas of Aberdeen and of course the wider North-East with its castles, distilleries and wide-ranging outdoor pursuits. But are other areas other than the city centre itself actually experiencing an upward turn in tourism?

On the other side of the city from Cove Bay is Old Aberdeen. Founded around the time of the 15th century, this area is home to Aberdeen University and the impressive St Machar Cathedral which some locals think isn’t being promoted to visitors to the city enough. The area is busy during university hours but is much more peaceful and quieter than the bustling city centre on the weekends or outside term time.

Several of the full-time residents here meet every month at an open meeting in the Old Town House. This building sits at the end of the cobbled High Street, a narrow road which travels through the university’s picturesque main campus.

Tourism, or an apparent lack of it, is often on the Old Aberdeen Community Council agenda. However, it is discussed a lot less exuberantly around these parts, with a conversation at the last meeting being provoked by complaints that there aren’t enough public convinces in the vicinity for visitors.

Attendees were beginning to make their excuses to leave after an hour of productive proceedings when Dewi Morris mentioned the apparent lack of amenities. Looking over his spectacles the council’s chairman described how, “tourists are directed into the main centre of Aberdeen and that’s it. Our understanding is that even senior people on the council aren’t aware of Old Aberdeen and aren’t aware of the significance of St Machar Cathedral.”

It’s a hurdle which Chris Foy and Visit Aberdeenshire refer to as the “challenge of the final mile”, but the community group have other concerns as well. Wider concerns.

Some members aren’t impressed by the amount of attention to detail or funding that has gone into encouraging tourism in the city as a whole. Trevor, an older man who has sat quietly during the previous proceedings suddenly pipes up: “I don’t think our council have done a good enough job over the years of helping that (tourism). They’ve got lazy because the oil industry has been here and the city has, in some ways, made its money too easily.”

It’s a scathing remark and one which is met with no vocal dispute from around the table. The attendees seemingly share a displeasure at the council’s attempts to try and attract tourists to visit this historic part of the Granite City. In the less official surroundings of the Old Town House, the insistence of others that tourism is at the top of the city council’s priorities is being undermined somewhat.

Chairman Dewi, thinks the city council should walk a mile in their shoes: “Tourists are directed into the centre of Aberdeen and our understanding is that senior council members aren’t really aware of the significance of Old Aberdeen and St Machar Cathedral. We want visitors to the city to be able to stop here.”

It is clear that if Visit Scotland and the city council want to entice tourists into the Granite City there is no time to rest on their laurels. Despite the exciting prospects new and improved attractions like the art gallery, music hall and P&J Live arena will bring to Aberdeen, it has a long way to go.

Back amongst the bendy buses on Union Street, and it may be hard to see Aberdeen’s appeal as the cold tickles your bones. It may not be the Caribbean or the Mediterranean and a stroll by the beach barefoot is likely to be a bracing affair at the least, but Aberdeen might just be growing in its appeal. The critical hurdle to overcome is encouraging tourists to stop here and give this potential granite paradise a second glance.

Caledonia One: Ellon beat battling Wanderers in enthralling encounter

Ellon  38(24) 

Aberdeen Wanderers  31(12) 

Ellon now sit second in the league table after an entertaining bonus point victory against a resilent Aberdeen Wanderers side.

The sides shared ten tries between them as Wanderers fought their way back into a game which the hosts looked to have tied up by the 50th minute after James Hainshaw crossed for their fifth try.

That score had made it 38-12, though within 20 minutes the visitors were back in the fight, assisted by two Scott Byers tries in quick succession.

Scores both sides of half-time prove crucial

Ellon were first to break the deadlock through a straightforward Caleb Jack penalty, but this was quickly followed by a Fraser Christie try which gave Wanderers the lead.

The centre latched onto an Ed Vickers pass at an angle and with pace to score beneath the posts.

The lead then swapped hands twice before the Meadows outfit started to pull away towards the end of the first half.

First Fraser Chalk crossed the whitewash, but this was cancelled out by a Sammy Alkhalof score in the corner.

However, it wasn’t long until Ellon regained the lead in style when Douglas Sharp picked a hole in a disorganised Wanderers defence to cross the whitewash. Jack doing well to add the extras from a tight angle.

Bradley Fraser then added another for the hosts, scoring off the back of a scrum to give Ellon a 24-12 lead at half-time.

Indeed, the Maroons and Golds also started the second half strongly when Angus Craig crossed to increase their lead after a fine piece of interplay with Mark Galloway.

The second rower made a powerful run through a disorganised Wanderers defence to score and Hainshaw’s try followed soon after from the back of another strong scrummage.

This would, however, be the last time Ellon found the try line as Wanderers regained some much-needed confidence when captain Carwyn Walker crossed after the hosts’ Douglas Sharp was sent to the bin.

It was then Byers who skilfully kicked through and gathered his own kick to score in the corner, before scoring an almost identical try minutes later to take his side to within seven points of the hosts.

This set up an exciting last ten minutes, but Ellon held their nerve to win a match which provided the gathering of supporters with plenty of entertainment on a windswept day at the Meadows.

This victory meant they overtook Dunfermline after the Fifers were defeated by runaway leaders, Orkney. The arduous journey to relegation strugglers Alloa is next up for the Maroons and Golds who will look to build on this performance.

Meanwhile, Wanderers managed to gain two bonus points from an encouraging display and will be confident they can bounce back against Glenrothes next week.

Ellon Head Coach, Craig Parslow: 

“We put a very young team out and at one point our back line was basically made up of 17-year-olds. It was a gutsy performance against a big outfit, but we did slack of slightly towards the end of the second half. We were a little naïve at times, but I’m really pleased with how the guys have been performing.”

Aberdeen Wanderers Director of Rugby, Russell Arthur: 

“We paid for that fallow period after half time, but I thought we played well in the opening stages. You can’t deny that comeback and I said during the week that Ellon would be a really tough place to travel to. I thought it was a spirited performance from the guys.”

Ellon: Shirron, Notton, Jack, Campbell, Chalk, Gray, Hamilton; Whyte, O’Brien, Galloway, Craig, Hainshaw, Brown, Rodger, Fraser

Replacements; Sharp, Aitken, Bridgeford, Fitzgerald

Aberdeen Wanderers: Webster, Alkhalaf, Christie, Scott, Buyers, Vickers, Fox; Barnes, Alexander, Strachan, Coull, Lawson, Liddle, Smith, Walker (c)

Replacements: Parkes, Knight, Dugan, Smith

Yellow Card: Douglas Sharp (Ellon)

Caledonia One: Aberdeen Wanderers 29-5 Blairgowrie

Aberdeen Wanderers 29 (15)

Blairgowrie 5(0)

Aberdeen Wanderers brushed past Blairgowrie as blustery conditions and a heavy Groats Road pitch made the going tough for both sides. 

The hosts’ stand-off, Ed Vickers, scored 14  points, adding a fine try to three conversions and a penalty.

Ewan Smith, Mitchell Scott and Carwyn Walker also crossed the whitewash as Wanderers continued their good recent form with a bonus point win.

Blairgowrie responded through centre, Matthew Mitchie late on, but offered little attacking threat despite frustrating their opposition with some strong defence.

Wanderers make a winning return after a month on the sidelines

 

This was Wanderers first game since the 27th January due to weather related cancellations, but the Hazelhead outfit started brightly and Ed Vickers converted an easy penalty to give his side an early lead.

This was followed up by a Ewan Smith try on five minutes as the left-winger finished off a simple move from a strong Wanderers scrum.

Indeed, the hosts’ scrummage reigned dominant throughout the 80 minutes in a game where the set piece became crucial as the ball began to resemble a bar of soap in the Hazelhead mud.

Some fine interplay between Vickers and Mitchell Scott then sent the inside centre on his way as Wands looked to be on their way to a convincing victory.

From there it became rather quiet though as the home side struggled to break down Blairgowrie’s defence with a chance going a begging on 33 minutes when Vickers missed touch with his penalty as the wind swirled around Groats Road.

It wasn’t until the hour mark that the dead lock was broken after a multitude of scrums and chances missed through handling errors which were forgivable in the tough conditions.

Carwyn Walker and Gabe Liddle both put in impressive shifts in the back row and it was Walker who grabbed Wanderers third after another solid scrum.

The hosts’ bonus point looked imminent, but Blairs defence held solid until the 69th minute when Vickers added his side’s all important fourth try with a fine piece for running rugby before adding his third conversion.

In the dying moments of the game Blairgowrie were awarded for their efforts in defence with a try at the other end.

Matthew Mitchie found a way through after some sustained pressure in opposition territory to give his side something to travel home with.

Meanwhile, for Wanderers this win puts them in contention for third place and they travel to Ellon – who currently occupy that position – next weekend.

Aberdeen Wanderers Director of Rugby, Russell Arthur: “We had real problems finding players to play in the back line and made it more difficult for ourselves as we found it difficult to get the ball out wide. Full credit should go to a strong Blairgowrie defence who we often found hard to break down. I was really impressed by David Knights who has made the step up from playing in the back row for the Under 18s to starting on the wing today.”+

 

 

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