ALAN LORIMER at Inverleith
EAST completed a double double after scoring wins at both under-16 and under-18 levels against West in the second of the two inter district round of matches with a 40-24 victory in the younger age group and a 34-14 success for the seniors.
The matches at Aberdeen last week and at Inverleith yesterday [Sunday] form part of the selection process for the international squads at these two age levels.
A further scrutiny will take place this week when a squad of Exiles will be put under the microscope at Murrayfield and with a wider scouting net having been announced by Scottish Rugby the likelihood is that there could be a higher percentage of players from south of Scotland wearing national colours in the future.
On the evidence available so far, the coaching teams in charge of each age level have reason to feel confident that they are narrowing the gap between Scotland and the other home nations.
If you were to compare a district match of ten years ago with this season’s offerings then you would conclude that something dramatic had happened in the intervening decade. It is, of course, all to do with a determination to raise the standard by better talent identification, focused coaching and more organised competition.
The results of this drive towards big improvement was evident in both matches yesterday. Players were able to show a range of quality passing skills, an understanding of the different ways to attack and the ability to defend with accuracy, first-up tackling being a pleasing feature.
Understandably, because of their greater physical maturity, the under-18 match showed off defensive skills while the under-16 match showcased to a greater extent on attacking rugby, as former Scotland 1990 Grand Slam centre Sean Lineen, who heads up age-grade rugby for the Scottish Rugby Union, acknowledged.
“This all forms part of the blueprint for Scottish rugby involving playing off the ten, taps at free-kicks and trying to keep the ball in play as much as possible. They make mistakes, but so what? They score some fantastic tries and they just get better,” he said.
Lineen also revealed that Scotland will be fielding three under-16 teams this season.
“We want to keep the base as wide as possible.” he explained.
This approach certainly showed in the under-16 game in which West appeared to be en route for victory when their dynamic start put them into a 19-0 lead thanks to tries by full-back Peter Wallwork, stand-off Luke Armstrong and wing Gabriel Smith, plus two Armstrong conversions.
East then found their scoring rhythm as pacey wing Angus Hoffie sped in for his side’s opening try, converted by full-back Kieran Clark, before back row Rhys Tait narrowed the score at half-time to 19-12.
Then in, the second half, West increased their lead through replacement hooker Cameron Bullard, but East’s half-time changes began to be significant, most notably at stand-off where Christian Townsend’s skills changed the game. Tries through lock Callum Anderson, wing Douglas Blood (twice) and Hoffie, plus three conversion from Townsend and one from Clark, secured a 40-24 final score-line.
If not such a high scoring affair, the under-18 game nevertheless was another quality show. Loretto centre Robbie McCallum, named as the most valuable player of the two round series, opened the scoring for East with a try under the posts that left stand-off Paul Cunningham with an easy conversion.
Flanker Ross Milne replied in kind for West and stand-off Lachlan Kelly levelled the scores with his conversion, but a Cunningham penalty gave East a narrow interval lead.
Tries by wing Nathan Brown, back-row Cameron Brown, replacement hooker Rory Jackson and second-row and Kieran Watt, plus two conversions by replacement stand-off Cameron Scott, confirmed an East victory, although there was a late consolation score for the hard-working West side when second0row Allan Ferrie crashed over and Kelly converted.
West U16: P Wallwork (Strathallan); F Weir (Glenalmond Coll), A Fraser (Deeside), J Kemp (Kelvinside Acad/Glasgow Hawks), G Smith (Stirling County/Dollar Acad); L Armstrong (Glasgow HS/Glasgow Hawks), F Troup (Robert Gordon’s Coll); F Overend (Williamwood HS/GHA), C Hunter (Falkirk HS/RFC), Rory Cockburn (Dumfries Acad/Saints), E Cameron (Glasgow HS/Glasgow Hawks), M Williamson (Dollar Academy/Stirling County), R Ward (Carrick Acad/Ayr), T Brown (Lathallan School/Montrose), D Sands (Dollar Acad). Subs: T McGuire (St Aloysius Coll), O Brown (Dunfermline HS/RFC), G Ratcliff (Strathallan), J Paterson (Glasgow HS/Glasgow Hawks), R Renwick (Jordanhill School/Glasgow Hawks), O del Priore (Hermitage Academy/Cartha QP), E Cunningham (Wallace HS/Stirling County), C Inglis (Marr Coll/RFC).
East U16: K Clark (Earlston HS/Melrose); A Hoffie (George Watson’s College), P Harrison (Peebles HS / RFC), S Wells (Peebles HS/Peebles), R Brett (Earlston HS/Melrose), R Daly (George Watson’s College); R Stephen (George Watson’s Coll), B Grainger (Royal HS); T Banatvala (Fettes College),J Di Domenico (Trinity Acad), K Davidson (Stewart’s-Melville Coll), E Henderson (Royal HS), C Anderson (George Heriot’s), M Jones (Lasswade HS/Boroughmuir), A Geddes (Merchiston), Rhys Tait (Hawick HS/RFC). Subs: A Bogle (Eyemouth HS / Duns RFC), C McGregor (Boroughmuir HS/RFC), M Haldane (Selkirk HS), N Henderson (Earlston HS/Melrose), C Scott (Preston Lodge HS/Preston Lodge), B Pickles (Dunbar GS/RFC), C Townsend (Earlston HS/Melrose), D Blood (George Heriot’s).
West U18: M Godsman (Glasgow HS / Glasgow Hawks); J Miller (Dollar Acad), O Smith (Strathallan), M Stewart (Biggar RFC), J Henry (Highland); L Kelly (Dollar Acad), G Hurst (Highland); C Miller (Ayr), S Clelland (Prestwick Acad/Ayr), S Bell (Glasgow Hawks), R Jackson (Bishopton), A Ferrie (Newton Stewart), R Milne (Lathallan School), D McLaren (Stirling County), A Marsh (Strathallan). Subs: C Bullard (Glenalmond Coll), L Mackay (Stirling County), C Lynas (St Aloysius Coll), G Wilson (Wallace Hall Acad/Dumfries HS), Y Sutcliffe (Strathallan), L Kotze (Biggar), R Houston (Glenalmond Coll).
East U18: M Bannerman (Hawick HS/RFC); C Hoffie (George Watson’s College), M Kindness (Borders Coll/Kelso), R McCallum (Loretto School), N Brown (Stewart’s Melville College); P Cunningham (George Watson’s College), R Frostwick (North Berwick High School/RFC); F Miller (Trinity Acad/BATS), K Scott (Preston Lodge HS), M Wilson (Duns), K Watt (Watsonians RFC), S Whittaker (Trinity Acad/BATS), B Marshall (George Watson’s College), G Inkster (Boroughmuir), C Brown (Kelso). Substitutes: R Jackson (Edinburgh Acad), T Jeffrey (Borders Coll/Peebles), R O’Hara (Stewart’s-Melville Coll), G Mitchell (North Berwick HS/RFC), E Allan (North Berwick HS/RFC), K McGhie (Loretto), C Scott (George Watson’s Coll), A MIchael (Borders Coll/Hawick HS).