Edinburgh Accies coach Jonny Else urged his players to refocus on preserving their Premiership status after crashing out of the RBS Scottish Cup, defeated 8-13 by Aberdeen Grammar FPs.
In a match switched to the Murrayfield 3G surface due to waterlogging at Raeburn Place, the Capital outfit fought valiantly into a fierce wind and must have thought they had done enough when turning round only 3-8 behind.
But despite Aberdeen picking up two second-half yellow cards, Accies could not exploit their opponents’ depleted resources and a disappointed Else admitted: “Fair play to Aberdeen. They played the conditions better than us, especially in first half, showing lots of determination and desire.
“We knew what we wanted to do but just couldn’t execute. At times we looked a wee bit predictable too.
“We can now concentrate on the league and focus on picking up points, but with Melrose and now Ayr going out of the competition there was a real opportunity which is the frustrating thing. It’s bad but not the end of the world.”
Accies lie just five points above the side occupying the play-off slot and have a testing run-in featuring Ayr away as well as Heriot’s and Stirling County at home.
And, to add to their woes, their star No. 8 Callum Reid went off with a thigh injury just minutes after he had manufactured a scintillating line break which led to Alex Black’s first-half penalty as Accies responded to a Rob Aloe penalty and Matt Schosser try.
It may have taken Accies half an hour to reach the Aberdeen “22” but Else noted: “During that first half into the wind we had three or four line breaks that just couldn’t be finished off.”
However, the second-half introduction of substitute Greg Campbell after Stevie Aitken had extended the visitors lead seemed to galvanise Accies. And when Duncan Morrison rumbled over from a line-out while Calum Gordon made his way to the sin-bin for spoiling it seemed more a case of when, rather than if, they would add to home and away league victories over Aberdeen.
However, committed defence coupled with a knock-on and forward pass in the shadow of the posts kept them out, Else adding: “A line-out mis-fire a few metres out also seemed to sum up our fortunes.”
By comparison Aberdeen coach Kevin Wyness was understandably delighted on a day when his side’s No.8, Tom Preece, finished the match in the sin-bin.
Wyness was keen, though, to play down any motivation stemming from a comparative lack of professional players or elite development prospects on release from the paid ranks this season.
“We showed real hunger and that was the key for us” he said.
Earlier this season, at Accies, Wyness, with considerable justification, criticised how the cards were regularly stacked against his team when it came to professionals being released.”
As Wyness chatted on Saturday, a colleague interjected with data indicating that although Aberdeen had received more pros than Ayr, they had not been able to call on any elite development youngsters whereas Accies had received 63 so far.
“In this mish-mash we don’t really know what the club game is,” said Wyness. “I don’t want to say it isn’t fair but something isn’t right. It’s just the way it is. We have to put up with a system that the clubs voted in.
“Unless we change it is going to stay.
“That’s why I am so pleased for the players with the way they worked to beat a good Accies team.”
In the Accies ranks Alex Black worked tirelessly as did Robin Snape while Chris Dean is one to watch out on the wing.
Regardless of these promptings though, Accies slipped quietly out of the cup and were left to reflect on a real opportunity missed to emulate their 2007 achievement and reach the Murrayfield showpiece.
“It could be all set up for Heriot’s now,” remarked Else, aware of the geographical division that has them as Edinburgh’s sole representative alongside the Dons, Gala and Glasgow Hawks.
Edinburgh Accies: Try: Morrison. Penalty: Black.
Aberdeen Grammar FPs: Tries: Aitken, Schosser. Penalty: Aloa.
Edinburgh Accies: J Sole, N Godsmark, E Campbell, I Berthinussen (capt), C Dean, R Bonner, A Black, D Morrison, M LIness, S Strudwick, J McCarthy, A Toolis, R Snape, C Reid, H Watson. Subs: C Black, C Lacqor, G Campbell, R Seydak, J Marples, A Glashan.
Aberdeen Grammar FPs: S Aitken, E Oag, H Duthie, G Ryan (capt), W Wardlaw, R Aloa, M Ward, M Schosser, S Bingham, S Cessford, S Smith, J Metcalfe, A Mackie, T Preece, T McGinness. Subs: M Dixon, S O’Connor, M Emmison, S Knudson, J Lauder, C Gordon.
Referee: P Allan (Edinburgh).