An ever increasing crowd is making itself heard at Redcloak on Saturday afternoons to cheer on the gentlemen of Mackie FPs 1st XV and their dramatic reversal in form and fortune since Christmas.
Almost summery conditions welcomed the supporters and Saturdays opponents, Strathmore, to Stonehaven last Saturday and with both the two form teams in the league clashing, hopes were high for a classic encounter.
Strathmore are a very good side and the earlier fixture in October resulted in a slim Strathmore win where Mackie showed promise but failed to take their chances. They are renowned for their impressive pack and with an experienced and talented backline it was up to Coach Colin Mair to make sure every member of the team was focussed and up to the task. With Team Manager Bob Richmond enjoying a weekend break in Costa Del Foresterhill (get well soon), Colin’s pre match speech was about doing the job for the badge, for the supporters of the club and for every player that had donned the shirt before.
The match kicked off and started of as a fairly scrappy affair for the first 6 or 7 minutes. Give them an opportunity though and the home side will take it at present. Almost a perfect training manoeuvre Levack kicked an early penalty into touch in the Strathie 22 and a series of set plays from the line out resulted in the impressive Kelly diving over in the left corner for the first score.
Again however, Mackie started to lose the referee. He had explained pre match what he was looking for and continued to ‘ping’ the home side for a series of rucking infringements. Penalty begat penalty and only the wayward boot of the Strathie 13 let Mackie off the hook. Some decent play and continued pressure however allowed Strathmore to penetrate the defence with their gargantuan captain making great strides through the defensive line and a score was well taken under the posts and converted. From the kick off, almost immediately Mackie were at it again and a penalty was advanced 10 yards for back chat and another successful penalty shot meant a 5-10 to Strathmore.
Further woes came Mackie’s way when Akauola was sin binned for a ‘rucking offence’... the referee agreeing that knees and heads should not be so closely acquainted. Rather than spurring on Strathmore, the loss of a man seemed to galvanise the men in red, with more noise and vocal determination falling inwardly on each other to spur on rather than the more petulant outbursts of the earlier exchanges. The Mackie forwards began surged forward and allowed clean ball for 2 scintillating breaks by the backs, first by Duncan Ross, then a second by Levack, Garden and Gray to get Mackie to within 5 metres of the line. The forwards then had another little play with it before Gerrard was propelled over in the corner to score. Half time 10-10.
The second half got underway in wintery conditions now and almost immediately Mackie were on the score sheet again when Duncan Ross finished off another fine series of set plays in the right corner. Levack added a fine conversion to take the score to 17-10. With continuing pressure Captain Thompson decided against shots to goal at penalty decisions in favour of going for the try. A bold move but it paid off with Matehe scoring the vital 4th try again in the right corner – meaning a bonus point if they could hold on to the win. Not content, they went on the charge for try number 5 and a scorching break by the backs was a certain try but for the try scoring pass to be dropped. The Gray brothers not quite telepathic yet!
Final score was 22-10 to Mackie and importantly the 4th win on the trot means Mackie jump off the bottom of Caledonian 1 and get themselves right back in the mix.
There is now hope where there was none and with 4 games remaining it is now most definitely in the hands of the Mackie Senior Squad to end the season on a high.
Man of the match was scrum half Rory Mellis for another flawless display.
MACKIE: Reddish, Mitchell, Matehe, Gerrard, Byers, Kelly, Thompson, Akauola, Mellis, Atkins, Levack, R. Gray, Garden, Ross, C. Gray. Subs: Pittendreigh, Austin, Ferguson, Flynn.