Aberdeen Grammar launched their bid to regain Premiership rugby with a merited National League 1 draw against Stewart’s Melville in Edinburgh on Saturday.
It was a competitive game which never hit the heights, as both sides displayed an innocence which will surely be punished by more streetwise teams.
Grammar coach Stuart Corsar had mixed feelings about the outcome.
He said: “We deserved our draw but were naïve at times, conceding tries just after we had scored. But once again there were positives, including the continuing good return of stand-off Alex Hagart, whose place and out-of-hand kicking was superb.
“The set-piece looked a little shaky but we can work on that before next week’s home game with Peebles.
“We also lacked penetration in the centre but I am reasonably happy that we are in a good place.
“Losing our experienced captain Greig Ryan with an ankle strain just before kick-off did not help.”
The home side drew first blood in eight minutes when stand-off (Ed: Bay of Plenty Kiwi) Nick McCashin kicked a penalty, which was cancelled out four minutes later by Hagart.
Two minutes later Peceli Nacamavuto stunned the home crowd when he raced on to a fine pass from scrum half Morgan Ward to score under the posts, giving Hagart the easiest of kicks.
Nacamavuto’s performance on the wing was a revelation as he terrorised the Stewart’s Melville defence.
Hagart increased the Grammar lead to 13-3 before Stewart’s hit back just before the break with a penalty and try from centre Ciaran Whyte to make it 13-11.
Grammar were quickly in action after the break when Nacamavuto chipped the home defence for winger Grant Walker to score. Hagart kicked the difficult touchline conversion to make it 20-11. The Inverleith side then enjoyed its best spell, upping the pressure and enabling flanker Ben Wilson to plunge over, only for Hagart to kick his third penalty of the day to keep Grammar in the driving seat at 23-16.
A situation that was to change on the hour when a converted try tied up the dcores with lock Fraser Morrison the scorer.
The sin-binning of replacement William Bisset (Ed: a case of mistaken identity) put the Rubislaw side under pressure, enabling McCashin to kick what appeared to be the winning penalty, only for Hagart to step up to nervelessly kick over a penalty to earn his side a draw.
Grammar survived some late drama when home stand off McCashin, with an overlap of three men outside him, needlessly threw a forward pass to save the blushes of the non-existent Rubislaw defence.
© Jack Nixon
Stewart’s Melville: Mike Hanning; Matt Morrell, Ciaran Whyte, Neil Bowie, Angus Rennie; Nick McCashin, Andrew Manson; Willie Aitken, Ruaridh Mitchell, Rhys Morgan; Fraser Morrison, Callum Hunter Hill; Adam Howie, Ben Wilson, Ryan Lambert.
Replacements: Ruaridh Stewart, Hugh Lindsay, Fraser Christie, Gregor Portuous, Matt Hannay.
Aberdeen Grammar: Alex Ratcliffe; Peceli Nacamavuto, Sam Knudson, Doug Russell, Grant Walker; Alex Hagart, Morgan Ward; Peter Gillies, Fergus McKenzie, Matt Schosser; Ed Nimmons, Aaron Robertson; Richard Simms, Calum Champion, Louis Kinsey.
Replacements: Willliam Bisset, Colin Neilson, Calum Ruxton, Graeme Crow.