Last Gasp Win for Mackie
By michael levack
Mackie 1st XV pulled off an epic win against former National 1 opponents Ellon on Saturday.
Mackie welcomed Ellon to Redcloak on Saturday on the first weekend of fixtures in Caledonian Division 1. Ellon and Mackie have a long history of rivalry harking back to when the two clubs formed within 6 months of each other some 35 years ago. Competing regularly for many of those years, the clubs exchanged blows in matches which many of the spectators on Saturday remember well. In the 10 years previous to this weekend Ellon made huge strides forward as Mackie struggled at senior level and the clubs were separated by 5 leagues at their peak. Steadily however Mackie has managed to improve and make gains whereas Ellon have been unfortunate in dropping down from the national league due to restructuring. A big crowd turned up to watch with interest and many of them ex players who each had their own story of the battles of the past. Whatever the history between the clubs, there weren’t many players on either side who remember the rivalry and could draw on that passion and drive one gets from playing in a ‘derby’ game. Instead these players drew on the fact that in the previous week in a cup match in Ellon, Mackie were outgunned 24-10 in the first competitive match of the season. After a hard week of training, a competitive week, the squad was selected and unfortunately some very good players had to be left out of the squad but joined the crowd to support the team.
After a team photo with new shirt sponsor Graeme McKinnon of Kynon Engineering the game kicked of in bright but blustery conditions. Levack’s kick off although hit sweetly held up in the wind and drifted out, gifting the away side with a scrum on the half way line. With Ellon dominating the scrum the previous week, the Mackie pack had worked hard throughout the week and were now more than matching the larger Ellon forwards. Despite the improvements Mackie had made, Ellon were somewhat more clinical in what their play. Their set piece was their strength in the scrum and their line-out was functioning brilliantly again with their non English speaking hooker Cedric Porche having another great game. Mackie were playing well but small errors were pounced upon and Ellon took the advantage scoring in the corner for an unconverted try after just 5 minutes. From the kick off, Mackie went long this time and pressurised the Ellon attack and after stifling their efforts with some great first up tackling, Ellon were penalised dead centre and 35 yards out. Captain Craig Thompson opted for the kick and Levack stepped up to slot the 3 points. 3-5. Despite their efforts however, Mackie could not find the breakthrough try. Ellon, like last week were particularly good at pouncing on the tackled player and getting their hands on the ball. Soon into the half Mackie lost Prop Carey and second row Jhuan Roux – two big line breakers, fortunately on came Gerrard and Johnstone who filled the boots admirably. The physicality of the first man at the tackle situation was a real problem for Mackie. With the home side unable to find that killer final phase and often resulting in a turnover, Ellon on the other hand capitalised on these and scored 2 further tries in the first half to be up 3-19 before a period of great pressure in the Ellon corner sucked in enough players to create an overlap for Duncan Ross to cross the line for a try converted by Levack.
In the second half Mackie had the wind and Coach Colin Mair and Manager Bob Richmond were confident that their superior fitness would mean they would be able to claw the match back. Despite this, the Team was quiet and lacked the bite and drive that was required to turn the match around. Another nail in the coffin occured with a handling infringement in the ruck resulting in a penalty to Ellon which was duly converted leaving the score 10-22. From the kick off Levack held it up in the wind and Stuart Lawson rose like a salmon to pick it out of the air on the run to get Mackie on the front foot straight away. For the last half an hour it was a different Mackie side. The back row of Kelly, Thompson and Akaoula began to run impressive lines between centres Gray and Levack causing problems while the front five of Gerrard, Mitchell, reddish, Johnstone and Lawson rucked and mauled like their lives depended on it. Ellon however spoiled their efforts time after time with some great defence in terms of organsisation and physicality. Unfortunately the referee saw fault in some of their play and this resulted in a further yellow card for their winger. reducing them to 14 men once more. From a subsequent scrum the next phase was set before scrum half Rory Mellis sniped through the tiniest of gaps to scamper home beating another 2 tacklers to dive under the posts. Levack converted and the squad re set for the kick off with the fire in their belly, ready for the last 10 minutes of play to be all or nothing.
Johnstone who this season is making a very welcome return to the Mackie squad took the kick off cleanly and the Mackie forwards began to churn out phase after phase up the pitch. With 7 against 6 in the backline, they were primed for the next attacking chance they got but alas a touch of inexperience or perhaps excitement in the heat of battle meant that Mackie continued to play a tight game rather than stretching the Ellon defence. The scrum was all of a sudden majorly in Ellon’s favour, the young Gerrard was being unfarirly bored in on causing him to be unable to bind properly. The referee deemed this Gerrards fault and repeatedly penalised him. Luckily the Ellon scrum half was struggling to master kicking into the wind and gifted possession back to Mackie time and time again. The pack re-grouped and took matters into their own hands and one scrum was all it took to teach the offending prop that boring in on Gerrard wasn’t the best idea. Tempers were frayed after this and resulted in an Ellon prop being red carded for killing the play on purpose. With Ellon now down to 13 for a short time, an expansive game was again the key, yet still mackie could not execute. Phase after phase of pressure kept resulting in a turnover and kick back downfield by the Ellon Stand off. With each failed attack the thoughts started to creep in that it just would not be Mackie’s day, the crowd were restless and the visiting support were vocal in trying to upset Kiwi Atkins who was on for the young stand off Andrew Reid who had another great game. Atkins is however a match for anyone in terms of ‘banter’ and managed to quieten the crowd whilst still commanding the back line. With seconds to go, after another period of pressure, the ball was whipped out through the backs for Michael Kelly to pop a quick pass to Cameron Gray to dive over the line to equal the scores at 22-22 with no time remaining. With the try scored wide on the left, Levack tee-ed the ball up right in front of the Ellon travelling support and enjoyed some less than helpful words as he lined up the kick. With the strong wind he struck it well heading wide and waited for the wind to catch it and push it straight between the uprights to win the game. The celebrations on the pitch and on the sidelines were some of the best the club has seen in recent years and with the confidence that this win gives the team, facing St Andrews University next week at home is a mouth watering clash. Men of the match were the young front row Dean Gerrard and Callum Reddish – sponsored by The Barclay Clinic.
Squad: Reddish, Mitchell, Carey, Lawson, Roux, Thompson, Kelly, Akauola, Mellis, Reid, Kay, Levack, Gray, Ross, Leask Subs: Garden, Jonstone, Gerrard, Atkins