Despite the cold snap across the North-east, the final league match in the Mitsubishi Lancer Conference pitched Granite City against unbeaten Mackie.
After an early pitch inspection, it was agreed by both teams that the match would be played at Mackie Academy as the Granite City pitches were deemed unplayable.
Both teams arrived in good spirits with full squads and once the pre-match warm-ups had taken place, the game soon started with a kick from Fin Sweetnam, who launched the ball deep into the Granite City half.
Some strong exchanges by both teams’ forward lines kept the ball in the middle of the field. A scrum for a Granite City knock-on gave both packs a chance to test themselves – the Mackie front row has been solid all season with the ever improving Nathan Grundy cementing his place at tighthead in a front row that includes Ben Martin and hooker Lee Robertson.
The Reds won the first tussle and soon had the ball moving forward through the hands, with excellent running from Mikey Mair feeding Eoin Vaughn to sidestep his defender and score in the corner, much to the delight of the large crowd.
The resulting kick fell short but it was just the start the Mackie coaches were looking for.
The game restarted with a kick from the Granite City fly- half whose kick did not go the 10 metres and it was a restart for Mackie, captain Iwan Kelly deciding a scrum was the better option.
Mackie got a good hook on the ball and the ball was shipped through the hands from scrum-half Fin Jacobs to Zander Begg who burst through two tackles before feeding Vaughn, who powered over for his second try. This time the kick was good.
A series of lineouts had Granite deep into Mackie territory but the red defensive line was up to the task with the bulk of the tackles being made by Sam Burslum and Drew Christie, who proceeded to score a well-deserved try, which he started and finished in great style, stealing the ball at the ruck, and following his pass to score under the posts. The kick was sliced wide.
This try seemed to wake up Granite City and they soon got their first points on the board, as excellent play through their back line had them scoring under the posts. The resulting kick was straight and true and flew between the uprights.
The Granite City attack then threw everything at the Mackie defence and despite some great tackling on the line by the Mackie forwards it was to no avail, with the ‘visitors’ spreading the ball wide to score in the corner, and the kick was good. At half-time it was Granite City 14 Mackie 17.
Mackie were soon on the front foot on the resumption, dominating the lineout and working hard around the fringes. However a series of penalties had the ref threatening a yellow card for the next offence.
Ian Macey, the returning Robbie Crighton and Harry Finch replaced Christie, Mair and Grundy for Mackie. Fraser Lindsay was winning his battle against his opposite number and came away with the ball after a great tackle and fed Begg, who offloaded to Macey, and he in turn fed Crighton. Unfortunately this passage of play did not add to the score and the next piece of action came from the whistle of the referee, who was true to his word and yellow-carded Sweetnam for trying his best to ref the game.
With Mackie down to 14 men, Granite City had the bit between their teeth and only some heroic defending by Kelly and Burslum kept them out. The game became very scrappy with errors being made by both teams but Mackie got back into their stride, and Vaughn got his hat-trick of tries by cutting a great line to sidestep the defenders and coast over the line. With Mair off, the kicking duties fell to Begg, who narrowly missed the right-hand upright.
Grundy returned to the pitch and Crighton was replaced by Ethan Thomas. Both were soon in the midst of the action with Thomas making a great cover tackle and Grundy scoring a much deserved try, ‘hulking’ his way through the desperate Granite City defence to score, much to the delight of his team-mates. Grundy has been improving week in, week out and working really hard at training. Vaughn added to his tally by slotting the extra points through the uprights to put the game beyond the reach of Granite City at 14-29.
Mackie were soon back to full strength with the return of Sweetnam but were soon back to 14 with Burslum being yellow-carded for a series of offsides at the ruck and ultimately a high tackle. With the game in its final throes, Josh Law and Jack replaced Macey and Lindsay.
Granite City had the final say with a consolation try.
To much jubilation the referee blew for full time and the celebrations began.