Aberdeenshire were the visitors to Strathmore’s Inchmacoble Park on Saturday when a large crowd had gathered for the meeting between the two sides.
With the floodlights on and the players warmed up, the game kicked off. Receiving the kick, Strathie retained possession well and began to build phases - with the experience of prop Dave Cashley paying dividends. The forwards created a good platform for Stewart Ross to clear the ball into touch and take the pressure off the Black’s shoulders.
Bruce Morrice and Calum Nicol snuffed out any hope the visitors had of breaking through with fierce defence around the rucks. Unfortunately with the home side having to commit extra numbers to the rucks, Shire capitalised with extra numbers in the backs, scoring two quickfire tries to lead 12-0 after 15 minutes.
Strathmore fought back with some very accurate kicking from Stewart Ross and Fraser McKay, the home side found themselves close to the Aberdeenshire line. Against the run of play, with Strathie dominating, a long high kick from the Shire fly half put the home back three under pressure, and with a strong chase and quick hands, the visitors crossed the line for try number three and a 19-0 lead going into half-time.
The second half began with a Fraser McKay kick high into the air, which was well challenged by the home team, leading to a Shire forward spilling the ball and conceding possession. The home forwards were first to every ruck and this pressured Shire into going in off their feet at the breakdowns ultimately leading to a penalty which Stewart Ross slotted between the posts, 19-3.
At this point the visitors looked stunned by the response of the Strathie men, and they were forced into making mistakes through the power and pace of the Strathmore defence. Strathie heaped pressure onto the visitors but there looked like there was no way through until the quick thinking and agility of Bruce Morrice stunned the Aberdeenshire defence at a quick penalty, as he darted past tackler after tackler to crash over for the try. The try was converted by the trusty boot of Stewart Ross, 19-10.
This was instantly followed by a break from the kick off by Calum Nicol. Tom Cargill took the ball into contact and forced a penalty in favour of the home team. Stewart Ross again sent the ball between the posts to change the scoreboard once again, this despite the best efforts of the Shire players who attempted a charge down 19-13.
With Shire getting frustrated, the penalty count began to rise. The defending forwards did all they could to prevent the rampant maul crossing the line, and they very nearly did. With the ball on the ground and the majority of forwards now lying over it, Bruce Morrice, supported by Colin Bell, powered round the side to claim his second try of the game. This sent the home support wild in celebration, 19-18.
Once again discipline in the Aberdeenshire defence allowed Strathmore a penalty, and Shire losing a man to the bin. Forty metres from goal Fraser McKay placed the ball down, ignoring the shouts and jeers from the far touchline he stepped up to strike the ball. Inchmacoble was silent as the crowd watched on and over it went! 21-19 to Strathmore with just seconds to go.
The last play of the game saw Aberdeenshire try desperately to regain the lead, but a last ditch Connor Blackmore tackle prevented any hope of a Shire win. The full time whistle brought incredible scenes both on and off the pitch as the club celebrated a momentous event - the unbeatable were beaten.