by ALAN LORIMER
IT’S referred to as the business end and certainly the semi-finals of the Scottish Schools’ Under-18 Cup being played at Myreside and Glenalmond tomorrow [Tuesday] fits that description as four highly motivated teams will fight for the right to appear at Murrayfield’s showcase event on Wednesday 6th December.
At Myreside, George Watson’s College face Strathallan in what many might have hoped would be the final. The two schools have posted impressive performances this season in the top tier Colt Conference but it is Watson’s who have the perfect record having swept through that competition with five wins from five.
Significantly, they achieved a 17-7 conference win against Strathallan at Myreside. That game, however, was in early September and since then Strathallan have achieved some excellent results, most recently a 52-17 Conference win over Dollar Academy.
Watson’s, who created a record by winning the Cup in four successive years between 2013 and 2016, reached the penultimate round with a 10-7 defeat of Merchiston Castle in a tense match at Colinton last week, with the winning try by lock Ben Marshall being scored in the last play of the match.
Thus far they have not lost to any Scottish opposition, their only defeat this season being to Royal Grammar School Newcastle back in September.
For this semi-final match, Watson’s coach Ally Donaldson has made one change to the side which won the quarter-final tie against Merchiston. Returning, after recovering from a concussion, is first choice stand-off Cameron Scott, who represented East under-18s in their match against West. Alex Harley, who played well at stand-off for Watson’s against Merchiston, moves to the bench.
Strathallan, coached by the former Caledonia flanker Andy Henderson, have never been in the final of the Under-18 Cup and that alone will act as a huge incentive against Watson’s. The Perthshire school has set high standards in recent seasons and like Watson’s have produced a number of outstanding players, notably Scotland prop, Zander Fagerson.
The other semi-final at Glenalmond College will match the home side with their Eclipse Conference rivals Fettes College. It should be close, the two schools met in the final round of the second-tier conference ten days ago when Fettes won 27-24.
Fettes, because of their unbeaten record in the Eclipse Conference this season, will be favourites but Glenalmond, coached by Graham Smith and whose alumni include former Scotland captains David Sole and Rob Wainwright, have steadily improved their performance levels after a slow start.
Glenalmond reached the last four by defeating Glasgow High School 62-10 in the quarter-final and that result will give the Perthshire school a huge amount of confidence ahead of the semi-final; but Fettes, arguably will have gained even more from their quarter-final, in which they achieved a win over Dollar Academy, who play in a conference above Fettes.
Whatever the outcomes of these two penultimate stage ties, the final will be tier one versus tier two and a chance for the lower ranked team to show that there is not really much difference between the two conferences.
Under-18 Scottish Schools’ Cup semi-final teams –
George Watson’s College: C Henderson; B Grant, C Hoffie, P Cunningham, J Stephen; C Scott, T Urquhart; E Craig, R O’Brien, J Cantle, R Aitchison, B Marshall, H Morris, M Tink, J Millgan. Subs: F Mealyou, C Ye, A Hoggarth, D Ryan, G Jackson, A Harley, B Clark.
Strathallan School: C McKeown; T Clark, O Smith, A Vipond, F Laird; R McCorkindale, A Brennan; H White, G Clunas, M Walker, S Robertson, C Henderson, L Webster, Y Sutcliffe, A Marsh. Subs: C Ramsay, E Murray-John, R Bayne, L Louden.
Glenalmond College: B Morrison; W Arnot, H Marlow, L Kinge, M Kinge; R Houston©, T Godfrey-Faussett; R Orr Ewing, F McCarthy, G Breese, J Houldsworth, A Fitzpatrick, J Morrison, T Porter, J Stodart. Subs: W Weir, C Lai, H Rowley, B Humphries, T Roynon Brown, G Manson, B Porter.
Fettes College: H Paterson; G Petrie, M Harley, F McCarville, H McMIllan; G West, J Brydon; A McNicol, H Campbell, A Thompson, N Edgerton-King, S Kearney, B MacLeod, E Li, T Adeola. Subs: F Bolton, R Weissen, N Miller, D Sinclair, A Goold, C Fagan.