Aberdeen Exiles failed to make it three wins in a row in the traditional Boxing Day game at Rubislaw, narrowly losing out to an Aberdeen Select.
The Select held out to win 41-35 in an exciting, highly-competitive match, marking the 90th year of the fixture.
Organiser and Exiles President, Jim Sugden – who is also president of Gordonians – paid tribute to all those had contributed to the day, saying:: “This was a game in the best traditions of the fixture, full of fine running rugby, big hits, and some magnificent tries.
“The fixture is still alive and well, helped by another bumper crowd who came along to not only watch, but renew friendships and hopefully make new ones.
“I feel privileged to have had the responsibility of putting the two sides together.”
Tom Aplin, Aberdeen Grammar player and captain of the home side, played a prominent part in the Select win, scoring a hat-trick of tries.
He said: ”This was a full-on game which the players of both side relished. Having so many clubs taking part was just great.
“It was a run out we all appreciated after the excesses of Christmas. It was a pleasure to captain such a talented side who just shaded it against a good Exiles side.”
The Select made the running in the first quarter, racing into a 14-point lead on the back of two tries from Sean Mills and Aplin, both converted by Mills, before the Exiles found their feet to pull level after tries from Callum McNiven and Stuart Niven, both of which were converted by John Crilly.
But the home side were not to be denied, surging back with two more touchdowns attributed to the Grammar duo of Mills and Aplin, with Mills again adding a conversion.
The Select looked on their way to a comfortable win, only for Tristan Jones to pop up for a fine score created by the effervescent Niven to make it 26 -21 at the interval.
Not surprisingly the pace of the game slowed in the heavy ground in the second half, although the Exiles did ease ahead with a converted try, dotted down by Hamish Payne.
The Select regrouped, scoring a further three unconverted tries to take command at 41-28. The scorers were Finlay Lennox of Gordonians, while Aplin completed his hat-trick, but it was the final effort from Craig Shepherd which had the crowd on their feet when he got on the end of a superbly-judged cross-kick from Sam Knudson – his Grammar team-mate – to score their seventh try of the day.
There was just time for the Exiles to add to their tally when Paul Jones raced clear to make it 41 -35, after which the two teams retired to the Palm Court Hotel for lunch.
Niven, one of the stand-outs in the Exiles and a former Watsonians player, said: ”This is a fine tradition and, although I am retired from the game, I might just be back next season. The organisers have done a great job.”
Waldemar Van Heeren, the Aberdeen Wanderers head coach who coached the winning team, said: ”Once we settled into our game we started to play seven-a-side rugby. It was great to watch.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”
The international touch was provided by Hong Kong-based referee Malcolm Pratt, who officiated with the sensitivity the occasion demanded with a firm but encouraging word for both teams throughout.