Aberdeen Grammar edged another step towards safety after picking up a precious bonus point at Musselburgh on Saturday, but should have had a five-point maximum after letting a 22-15 interval escape.
There was better news for the relegation-haunted Rubislaw side as Hamilton and Howe, the two sides beneath it, both lost, leaving Grammar needing only one win to escape the drop from their remaining four games, two of which are at home.
Head coach Ali O’Connor was hugely frustrated and said: “We beat ourselves after failing to consolidate an early lead, including a hat-trick of superb tries from winger Matt Arnold, and then late in the game when we eased in front, only to concede a late penalty.
It was a disappointing finish to an improved performance, but a win at home to GHA in two weeks will make us safe.”
Grammar’s players hit the ground running, mainly due to a fine individual showing from Arnold, who twice skinned the home defence to give his side a great start.
But as is the Grammar way, the Rubislaw side then allowed the Stoneyhill men back into the game, this despite Arnold scoring a third try, and centre Tom Aplin kicking two conversions and a penalty, and should have been more than 22-15 to the good at half-time.
Musselburgh made the most of the reprieve, running the show in the second half, but were pegged back by Grammar who scored a fourth try through Calum Ruxton, and then regained the lead at 30-28 late on in the second half when Aplin kicked his second penalty. The late effort looked to have won the game for the visitors, but the home side snatched victory with a converted try and a penalty to ake its own position safe, leaving Grammar to rue what might have been.
O’Connor added: “Once again we failed to handle restarts, and missed a number of vital tackles, but hopefully we will get in right on March 25. Then we have games against Edinburgh Accies, Dundee and Jed-Forest in which to pick the points required to retain our league status and I am confident we will.”
© Jack Nixon
Aberdeen Rugby: Doug Russell; Matt Arnold, Alex Ratcliffe, Tom Aplin, Calum Ruxton; Sam Knudson, Jake Gray; Rob Ellinson, Fergus McKenzie, Colin Neilson; Aaron Robertson, Matt McCall; Chris Jollands, Conall Howard, Robin Cessford.
Replacements: Shane Clark, Jordan Robertson, Dom Wallen, Christian Brew, Bryn Perrott.