Former Scotland centre Ben Cairns still has big ambitions in the game and is desperate to share the experience gained from ten years in the professional ranks and seven international caps in a coaching role at his former club, Currie.
On Saturday, the 28-year-old, who has been forced to retire from playing, saw the Malleny Park side extend their unbeaten run in the RBS Premiership to seven matches with a 21-8 win that has consigned Aberdeen Grammar to relegation.
The result has moved Currie into fifth spot in the league, although it does not yet guarantee top-flight survival.
However, they will travel to Melrose on the final day of the campaign in the knowledge that one point from their match against the title-chasing Borderers will complete an impressive second-half revival after a dismal start to the league campaign that had Currie as many people’s favourites for the drop.
Rallying from that situation has been just as demanding for Cairns, who joined the Malleny Park coaching team at the start of the season, as it has for the players involved in engineering the recovery.
“It was a tough start to coaching in the first half of the season, but it’s been great since then,” said Cairns, who concedes that the poor results in the early matches have hastened his development as a coach. “It’s been really positive for me personally and I’ve definitely learned a lot. You learn more from your losses than you do from your wins so that first half has stood me in good stead. I’ve definitely learned a lot this year.”
Having served under several coaches in his career, Cairns is well-placed to contribute to the development of a Currie that played some scintillating rugby on Saturday in a match that both sides were desperate to win, with the visitors knowing that anything other than victory would confirm their relegation.
And the hosts wasted no time in laying down a marker when James Semple dotted down inside two minutes. Byron McGuigan pulled back three points with a penalty and that sparked a spell of pressure from the visitors. However, a steal by Sean Cox – who was later red carded after an incident involving Grammar’s Sean O’Connor – inside the Currie 22 and his deft pass to George Horne caught the visitors short-handed. The full back’s well-timed off-load then freed Ethan Pollock for Currie’s second try.
That proved to be the final score of the half, but the hosts extended their lead when Dave Cherry bagged a fine opportunist score. Will Wardlaw responded in kind for the visitors, but Currie resumed control and, although they were thwarted as they chased the bonus-point try, made the win safe with a penalty from Joe Reynolds and a late Semple drop goal.
For Cairns, the key to success on the pitch is a simple game plan implemented well and in that respect he was happy with the performance.
“Not a lot changes in rugby really – you want to play in the right areas of the pitch, keep it tight early on, get your forwards into the game early on and then open up and keep working,” he explained. “That’s what we try to do and it worked fairly well in this game. Defensively we were pretty strong, we didn’t give them much apart from penalties.”
Cairns did acknowledge that the battle for Premiership survival is not yet won. “I’m pleased with the result. We’re not quite mathematically there yet, but we are pretty close.
Currie: Tries: Semple, Pollock, Cherry. Pen: Reynolds. Drop Goal: Semple.
Aberdeen Grammar: Try: Wardlaw.Pen: McGuigan.
Currie: G Horne, R Smith, J Dominguez, J Reynolds, E Pollock, J Semple, R Snedden, J Cox, D Cherry, A Hamilton, S Cox, P Neascu, M Cairns, M Peacock, R Weston. Subs: G Carson, F Watt, G Temple, M Vernal, H Elms.
Aberdeen Grammar: S Aitken, W Wardlaw, H Duthie, G Ryan, B McGugian, S Knudson, M Ward, M Dixon, S Bingham, N Fraser, S Smith, J Metcalfe, A Mackie, T McGinnesss, T Preece. Subs: S O’Connor, S Cessford, C Harvey, F Niua, J Lauder.
Referee: N Paterson.