The biggest rivalry in local age group rugby was renewed on Saturday at the Meadows with the visit of Deeside.
Ellon was buoyed by the return of players from injury, and the return of Bradley Fraser – who plays in Melrose – for one week.
Deeside may have had a threadbare squad but the addition of two Grammar Senior 2nds players meant this would be a stiff test for the home side.
Deeside kicked off and immediately camped themselves inside the Ellon half. The home defence was up for the challenge and repelled a series of attacks.
After 5 minutes Ellon made their first foray into opposition territory when good interplay from centre, Jamie Gillan, Prop Mathew Royce and winger Cousins nearly created a try but some last-ditch tackling saw the ball go into touch. Ellon’s next attack saw Cousins evade several tacklers only to be shoulder charged into touch. This was one of a number of infringements missed by the referee.
Ellon’s pressure was building and a scrum against the head set up the backs to pass along the line where Gillan was just bundled into touch in the corner. The breakthrough came after 11 minutes when a scrum on the Deeside 5m line was picked up by Man of the Match Sharp – who drove over to give Ellon a 5-0 lead.
The lead was doubled after 16 minutes when another five metre scrum led to second row Connor Silver driving over. The conversion was missed but Ellon led 10-0.
It was now time for Deeside to exert pressure and finish the first half strongly. When the referee missed the Deeside 13 running into his own No.8 the ball was slipped to the big back rower who drove over. The try was converted and the teams went into halftime at Ellon 10 – Deeside 7.
Ellon’s coaches demanded more hunger from their team and made a tactical switch with new recruit McKenzie coming on at scrum half with Ben Shirron moving to 10 and Stewart Cruickshank making way. Ellon’s new recruit from New Zealand made an instant impact with a brilliant tackle to deny a Deeside forward who was breaking down the wing.
Six minutes into the second half Ellon stretched their lead when McKenzie passed the ball out of the scrum to Captain Gillan running a great inside line at pace. He broke through the first line of defence before side-stepping two players to score. The conversion was missed but Ellon had a 15-7 lead. The home side were under pressure again and panic in the defence saw the ball find its way to U18 international Rennie who beat two players to score and bring Deeside back within 3 points.
Ellon did not panic and re-opened an 8 point lead when a penalty on the Deeside 5m line was tapped and passed to flanker Matthew Emmison to drive over.
With 5 minutes remaining the result was put beyond doubt when Martin McKenzie made a break off a lineout. He was stopped short, but the ball was recycled and passed along the line for winger Cousins to score. Shirron kicked the conversion to give Ellon a 27-12 lead with 5 minutes remaining.
The home team looked the more likely to score in the final few minutes but there was joy mixed with relief as the referee blew the final whistle to give Ellon a richly deserved victory. This win should secure progress to the Champions League, but Ellon will want to make sure when they take on Gordonstoun away next week.