THERE was a predictability about the Scottish Schools U18 Cup quarter finals which resulted in a clean sweep for the East Conference schools and which added confirmation of the widening gap that now exists between them and the rest of the field.
That leaves the east schools to slog it out in the semi finals, scheduled for 29th January at venues still to be confirmed. Cup holders Stewart’s-Melville College face their city rivals George Watson’s College and Dollar Academy take on Merchiston Castle School.
Stewart’s-Melville College travelled to Perthshire for their quarter-final tie and in the event were too strong for what is a relatively young Glenalmond College side, running in seven tries to win 41-7. The Inverleith side made a blistering start to the game scoring four tries in the opening quarter. “We knew it was a potential banana skin, so we challenged the boys to start quickly and not let Glenalmond into the game,” reflected Stuart Edwards, the Stewart’s-Melville College head coach.
Winger Finn MacFarlane scored a brace of tries and there were single contributions from flanker Freddy Douglas, full-back Isaac Johnston, scrum-half Cammy Ross, centre Louis Le Sueur and replacement full-back Monty Dunlap. Two of the tries were converted by stand-off James Lewis and one by centre Benjamin Roger.
At Myreside, George Watson’s College shrugged off a less than convincing start to the game to secure their place in the semi-finals with a 29-7 win over a resistant High School of Dundee side. “We were really poor in the first half with lots of errors with the ball in attack which led to a stop start game,” admitted Watson’s head coach, Mike Ker, adding: “Dundee played very well and put us under plenty of pressure. We settled in the second half and had more control of the game but again just lacked the edge that maybe the Christmas break has brought. We know we will need to be a lot better in two weeks versus Stewart’s Melville”.
For Watson’s, winger Tom Kelly ran in two tries and there was one apiece from prop Red Rutterford, centre Jamie Littlefield and full-back Jack Brown, who also kicked two conversions. Dundee High’s try was scored by scrum-half Matthew Lowdon. “It was an outstanding effort from the boys and I was very proud of our performance,” enthused Phil Godman, the High School of Dundee head coach. “After Watson’s beat us convincingly at the beginning of the season, we gave them a shock and we were in the match for the duration”
In one of two East Conference versus West Conference quarter-finals, Merchiston Castle School defeated St Aloysius College 31-0 at Millerston, scoring tries through Tom Currie, Amaan Raza, Joseph Farquhar, Drew McCall Smith and Luke McCarroll, three of them converted by Matthew DeVilliers.
“Overall we were very happy with our performance after our Christmas break,” said Roddy Deans, the Merchiston coach. “Full credit to Rob Currie and his St Aloysius team who really stuck in, they have some powerful forwards and quality backs which made for a competitive game.
“We were happy with the opportunities we created with ball in hand, we just need to look after the ball better once in behind teams. Defensively we put in another big shift and it was rewarding to stop them scoring.”
The other East versus West match resulted in a 61-0 win for Dollar Academy over Hutchesons’ Grammar School. Dollar coach, Don Caskie, suggested, however, that the scoreline did not reflect the game. He said: “It was a long 25 minutes before we managed a score. It was very competitive throughout and they never gave in. It was pleasing not to concede and everything to play for now with a huge game coming against Merchiston”.
In total Dollar ran in nine tries, a brace each by No 8 Johnny Rutherford, stand-off Jamie McKillop and flanker Sam Wallace and single touchdowns by prop Zac Jones, hooker Gonzalo Lucas-Garcia and centre Angus Hunter, who finished with a 21 points tally for the match after converting eight of his side’s tries.
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Meanwhile in the National Youth Cup U18 quarter-finals, Boroughmuir confirmed their status as title favourites by defeating an understrength Ellon side 54-0 at the Dundee Regional Performance Centre to remain unbeaten this season.
The game was over by half-time when Boroughmuir led 47-0. Then five minutes into the second half, after the Meggetland side had scored an eighth try and Ellon had suffered an injury to one of their players, former international referee JP Doyle decided to bring the game to an end.
Boroughmuir’s tries came from full-back Finn Hollins-Kirk (2), centre Nick Adler, winger Lewis Bisset, back-row Liam McConnell, second-row Mark McKay, stand-off Gavin Lockhart and hooker Jerry Blyth-Lafferty. Scrum-half Greg Anderson kicked six conversions and Gavin Lockhart one.
“Great conditions and pitch for our Cup quarter-final,” stated Scott Anderson, the Boroughmuir head coach, adding: “It was a very strong first half performance and we ran in some very good team tries, so that was really pleasing”.
In the semi-final, Boroughmuir will face Stirling County, who only just scraped through 19-16 against a committed Kelso Quins side, who were just millimetres away from victory in the last play of the game at Croft Park. Quins had shocked their National Conference opponents by leading 13-0 at half-time from two penalty goals by Archie Barbour and the stand-off’s conversion of a well taken interception try by Ben Stewart.
County, however, stepped up their tempo in the second half to score tries by scrum-half Sam Brooks and centre Ben Gibson, both converted by centre Murray Johnston. A third penalty for Kelso by Barbour restored the lead for Quins before the balance tilted again when County’s stylish No 8 Adam Elder scored what proved to be the wining try.
“The result was disappointing but I’m pleased that the boys played with commitment and passion – they gave it their all,” said Richie Laing, the Quins coach, who was part of the Kelso team that won the Youth Cup 29 years ago.
County’s Youth Rugby Director Stewart Milne conceded that his side had been taken aback by Kelso’s first half effort. “The intensity that Quins brought to the game knocked us off our stride,” he said. “In the second half we played to our strength and that allowed us to go forward.”
The other Borders club in the Cup quarters, Hawick Youth, came away from Hartree Mill with a satisfying 26-13 win over Biggar Colts, who had qualified for the top tier of the competition by defeating Mackie, and who proved to be difficult opponents for the Semi Junior League leaders.
“It was by far the toughest game Hawick Youth has been involved in this season and credit to Biggar who were powerful and aggressive upfront, but this actually brought out the best performance of the season from our boys,” said Hawick Youth manager, Paul McDonald. “They maintained their focus and discipline in front of a partisan crowd to close out the game with a well deserved win. It has to be said we also had a big travelling support which played its part too.”
Hawick”s tries were scored by winger Sean McMichan (2), centre Scott Young and stand-off Owain Gray, who also kicked three conversions.
Hawick’s opponents in the the semi-final will be West of Scotland, who – with a hat-trick of tries from Finn Carden, a brace from Pat Spence, one each from Sebastien Sing and Harris Mitchell, and four conversions by Lewis Howick – were 43-14 winners over Livingston.
The result and the performance of his team delighted the West coach, Millan Browne, the former Scotland A prop. “It was 19-7 at half-time but we got better as the game went on and scored four tries in the second half,” he said. “Overall a good performance as first game of the year with some really good team tries.”