Mackie U18s welcomed Howe of Fife to Stonehaven on Saturday for their Caledonia Cup quarter-final, which proved to be as close as it looked.
Fin Sweetnam started the game for the home team with a kick deep into the Howe half. The ball was taken well by the Howe No 4, who stuck the ball under his arm and attacked the Mackie line with gusto, finally being tackled by Lee Robertson.
Mackie had to make their first substitution after only ten minutes, Mackie tight-head Nathan Grundy taking a bang on his left leg, and Jack Banfield took his place.
Strong forward play from Howe had Mackie on the back foot and some good play around the fringes and a maul had the big No 4 powering over for the first score of the game. The resulting kick from the scrum-half flew wide.
Mackie were having some success at the scrums, constantly putting the Howe pack and their scrum-half under pressure. The next ruck was won through tenacious work from Liam Dreelan and Drew Christie. A superb run by Fin Jacobs had the ball through the hands to Zander Begg, who powered his way through a couple of tackles to feed the excellent Euan Cauldwell and he set up Eoin Vaughn for the first score for the Reds, in the corner. The tough kick was pushed wide by Mikey Mair.
With the game tied and both teams working hard in the forwards, it was a battle to see who would get the next score and it was the visitors who did. Some great offloading from the Blues had Mackie on the back feet and their good work around the fringes had them crash over via a maul. Despite the pleas from the Mackie players as the ball appeared to be dropped in the maul then picked back up, the referee did not see the incident and the score stood, but the resulting kick from the scrum-half fell short so Mackie trailed 5-10 at half-time.
A great passage of play from Mackie, keeping it in the forwards, saw them make short yards left and right, keeping the ball close to the ruck, and soon they found themselves close to the Howe line. The final passage of play had Mackie captain Iwan Kelly driving over for his first score of the season. Robbie Chrighton had replaced Aiden Smith and he took over the kicking duties, but unfortunately his first kick was pushed wide so the score remained 10-10.
The next score was crucial and the powerful Liam Dreelan touched down, powering his way across the line to the delight of the large home crowd. This time the kick from Chrighton was good, for 17-10.
Josh Law replaced Fennick Deans, who had taken a knock to the head. The Mackie scrum was shuffled to accommodate Law at flanker. He was soon in the action, having at least five good carries in as many minutes, and causing the Howe defence all sorts of trouble. The Mackie coaches could sense the game was turning their way and the big Howe pack was beginning to tire.
Eoin Vaughn had been having a great game at full back, winning all his tackles and joining in the attack when needed, and he got his reward. A great team try utilising both the forwards and backs had the full back scoring in the corner, with good work from David Talbert and Robbie Chrighton stretching the Howe defence and Vaughn pushed over for the try. The kick from a tight angle was missed, making the score 22-10.
Howe scored next to complete the scoring. With the scrums now down to non-contested due to the Deans substitution they scored in the corner, despite a last-gasp tackle from Lee Robertson.
Mackie U18: Iwan Kelly, Zander Begg, Lee Robertson, Nathan Grundy, Ben Martin, David Talbert, Fennick Deans, Liam Dreelan, Drew Christie, Fin Jacobs, Fin Sweetnam, Zander Begg, Euan Cauldwell, Mickey Mair, Aiden Smith, Eoin Vaughn, Josh Law, Robbie Chrighton, Jack Banfield.