AN INJURY ravaged Ellon U18 side took on an unbeaten Highland side at the Meadows on Saturday and went down to their heaviest defeat of the season.
Earlier in the week it looked like Ellon would be able to field their strongest squad of the season but a string of injuries – most notably to influential No. 8 Mathew Emmison – saw the squad reduced to just seventeen players as two more players failed late fitness tests.
Highland are renowned for their powerful pack and prowess in the linout so Ellon’s defence would have to be on top form to keep them at bay. The tone for the match was set from the kick-off when Highland’s No. 8 claimed the kick-off and burst through a number of tackles. He opted to chip the ball over the head of the fullback but fortunately Centre, Adam Krasjuk was able to get back and touch the ball down for a 22 dropout.
Highland took the lead after three minutes with a penalty and doubled their lead after more Ellon indiscipline at the breakdown.
Ellon did start to exert some pressure and had a good passage of play within Highland’s half. However, the cutting edge that has been evident for the last month was missing as attack after attack was repelled by the well-organised Highland defence.
Ellon were still in the game but imploded in the final ten minutes of the half. First Highland set up a lineout on the five metre line. The ball was laid off to the giant prop who barrelled over the line carrying several defenders with him.
The conversion took Highland’s lead to 13 points. More Ellon indiscipline gave Highland the chance to kick to the corner once again and the pack easily drove over to open up an 18 point lead. When an Ellon player stupidly shouted at the No. 10 as he ran up to kick the conversion, the referee had no option but to order the kick to be retaken and also give Highland a penalty from the restart.
The ball was kicked over the top and fell nicely for the Highland winger who broke through a tackle to score and give Highland a 27 point lead. In the space of 7 minutes Ellon had managed to concede 21 points through their own lack of focus, indiscipline and playing into the hands of the Highlanders tactics.
At half time a few key changes happened with Jamie Gillan switching to stand off, Adam Krasjuk to inside centre and Christian Avis at outside centre. Josh Broc was replaced by Matthew Royce at tight head.
The second half was all about damage limitation for Ellon. The half time team talk was dedicated to restoring some pride in the performance and under the leadership of captain and man of the match Jamie Gillan the boys set about dominating territory and possession. Ellon’s inability to challenge in the lineout and failure to create space for the backs limited scoring opportunities but they did get on the scoreboard with just over five minutes remaining when replacement centre, Christian Avis created space to put winger Josh Walker in the corner. A comeback was never on the cards but the scoreline took on a degree of respectability when the powerful second row, Ellis Swainston took a pass from scrum half Ben Shirron to driver over. Shirron slotted the conversion with the last kick of the game to make the final score Ellon 12 – Highland 27. It was a heavy defeat but winning the second half 12-0 provides a positive to take from the game.
There is much work to do before Deeside visit the Meadows on Saturday with both teams vying for second place in the League.
Ellon Coach, Gareth Kemp said after the match. “Not a great first half. We lost too many line outs and had a weakened attacking line”. “However the scrumaging we have worked on this week paid off, as we totally dominated their front row in the scrum.” “Second half was a different story, some key reshuffling in the back line tightened our defence and improved attack”.
“We welcome Deeside at the Meadows on Saturday with a full strength team, and the guys are up for a strong performance!”.