EDINBURGH RUGBY scored a sumptuous 50-12 win over Glasgow Warriors to lift the Junior 1872 Cup in Sunday’s under-18 match at The Greenyards, with a performance of power, pace and not a little panache coupled with a defensive effort that gave their opponents few chances to show their attacking skills.
Just why Edinburgh Rugby rattled up such a big score is down to a number of factors, not least the level of rugby which many of their players have experienced in their conference matches, a point touched on by Glasgow Warriors’ head coach Euan Clark in the aftermath of the game.
“They’ve got a lot of players playing in higher leagues: we’ve got some players who are in lower leagues,” he said. “So, there’s that competition shock where guys take time to get into the game. There’s a lot of Borders players in the Edinburgh side and they’re playing at a good level. Getting more games like this one would help. We just need to do more of that in Glasgow and the West. We could maybe try to get more fixtures. Previously we played against Saracens and Cardiff at age-grade level: the more we can do of that the better.”
Overall, Clark was pleased with what he saw from the two teams. “There’s a lot of ability being shown across this age group. Some very exciting rugby at times from both sides” he said, before explaining that most of his players will be involved this coming weekend in further development matches “We’ll play the Celts and the Druids in Wales. There’ll be a few Exile players coming into the squads. We’ll take two squads of about twenty five to Wales,” he explained.
As to the game, Clark was full of praise for his side’s opponents. “I thought Edinburgh were organised, they were intent when carrying the ball and their defence was outstanding,” he said. “Defensively we were just a little bit shocked after the first 15 minutes by being three scores down. It’s then pretty challenging to come back. But all credit to Edinburgh. They’re a good team”.
Edinburgh Rugby’s head coach, Chris Laidlaw, took satisfaction from the way his team performed after minimum time together. “The first half was particularly pleasing,” he said. “It’s a new group coming together for the first time after just two sessions – as is Glasgow. They gelled well together during the week. There was a real energy around the group and they were excited about the opportunity to play today.
“It was great to have the conditions we had at The Greenyards – dry and sunny and of course the surface [3G] allows for a quick game,” added Laidlaw, who echoed the view of Clark on the difference in playing backgrounds of many of his players.
“Week to week their [Glasgow Warriors] exposures aren’t as intense as some of our guys are at. But that’s a challenge for Scottish rugby to make sure we’re working hard with our players to expose them to environments like this as much as we possibly can, because that’s what we ultimately have to do to push these guys through into the next stage whether it’s 20s, Super6 or professional rugby. We’ve all got responsibility around that to raise standards of players”.
Outstanding for Edinburgh Rugby were Boroughmuir flanker Liam McConnell and the George Watson’s College scrum-half Conor McAlpine, while there were eye-catching performances in the Edinburgh pack from second-rows Euan McVie and Ben Weir. Behind the scrum, the tall Gala Wanderers centre Kerr Johnstone combined well with the Melrose Wasps’ stand-off Luke Townsend, whose accurate passing gave Johnstone chances to show what a potent runner he is. Others to impress in the Edinburgh Rugby backline were full-back Jack Brown and scrum-half Hector Paterson, the son of the former Scotland number nine ‘Deek’ Paterson.
Although on the wrong side of a big scoreline, Glasgow Warriors at times produced some fine moments of rugby and are certainly not lacking in talent. Amongst their top performers were flanker Sam Wallace, prop Bartek Brylak and scrum-half Harrison Lang.
The game was effectively over by half-time when Edinburgh Rugby led 33-5 from tries by Johnstone, fellow centre Jamie Littlefield, McAlpine and two from winger Nick Alder, with Townsend and McAlpine each kicking two conversions. Glasgow Warrior’s first half points came from a try by their No 8 Jonny Morris.
After the break, Edinburgh Rugby increased their lead with a second try from Johnstone converted by Townsend before a try for Glasgow by Brylak, converted by centre Aminio Bogidrau, brought Warriors into double figures.
However, two further tries from Brown and Paterson gave Edinburgh their half century of points and a satisfying win.
Edinburgh U18: 15. Jack Brown (George Watsons College); 14. Finn Douglas (Melrose Rugby), 13. Jamie Littlefield (George Watsons), 12. Kerr Johnstone (Gala Rugby), 11. Nick Alder (Boroughmuir RFC); 10. Luke Townsend (Earlston High School/Melrose Rugby), 9. Conor McAlpine (George Watsons College); 1. Ross Brown (Loretto School), 2. Marcus Brogan (Hawick Youth), 3. Robbie Deans (Merchiston School), 4. Ben Weir (Melrose Rugby), 5. Euan McVie (BATS Rugby), 6. Liam McConnell (Boroughmuir RFC), 7. Munroe Job (Selkirk High School/Rugby), 8. Gregor Thomson (Stewarts Melville College).
Replacements: 16. Jerry Blyth-Lafferty (Boroughmuir RFC), 17. Aaron Steel (Livingston RFC), 18. Robbie Robinson (Earlston High School/Melrose Rugby), 19. Hamish Reynolds (Berwickshire High School/Duns RFC), 20. Luke Henderson (Ross High), 21. Mark McKay (Boroughmuir RFC), 22. Hector Paterson (Jed Thistle), 23. Rory Cockburn (George Watsons College), 24. Patrick Cannon (Peebles High School/Peebles RFC), 25. Finlay Wheelans (Selkirk RFC).
Coaches: Chris Laidlaw and Robert Grigg.
Glasgow U18: 15. Euan Muirhead (Dumfries Saints); 14. Logan Jarvie (Stirling County), 13. Alex Thom (Strathallan), 12. Aminio Bogidrau (Queen Victoria School), 11. Amena Caqusau (Queen Victoria School); 10. Charlie Greaves (West of Scotland), 9. Harrison Lang (Biggar); 1. Eben Cairns (Ardrossan Academicals), 2. Struan Reekie (Strathallan), 3.Bartek Brylak (St Leonard’s/Madras), 4. Ruaridh Hart (The Glasgow Academy) CAPTAIN, 5. Benjamin Nehring (Mackie RFC), 6. Theo McKenna (St Aloysius College), 7. Sam Wallace (Dollar), 8. Jonny Morris (Strathallan).
Replacements: 16. Aaron Burgess (Kelvinside Academy), 17. Ewan McDonald (Morrisons Academy), 18. Ewan Brannan (Kelvinside Academy), 19. Archie Clarke (St Leonard’s / Madras), 20. Ben Skinner (St Columbas), 21. Fraser Gallagher (Dollar), 22. Johnny Ventesi (St Aloysius College), 23. Fergus Watson (Biggar), 24. Finn Carden (West of Scotland), 25. Kerr Yule (West of Scotland).
Head coach: Euan Clark; assistant coach: Gary Strain.
Meanwhile, in the Scottish Schools Under-16 Cup, George Watson’s College booked their place in the final with a 45-12 win over Merchiston Castle School at Myreside last Friday. Watson’s will play the winners of the semi-final between Dollar Academy and Stewart’s-Melville College, going ahead at the Oriam this Friday.
In the Under-16 Schools Shield, Loretto who defeated North Berwick High School by 10-0, and Queen Victoria School who were 22-10 winners over Strathendrick/Balfron High School, will contest next week’s final.
There was also semi-final activity in the Boys National Youth Cup and Shield competitions at under-16 level. In the Cup, Stirling County defeated Boroughmuir at Meggetland by 36-12 to book their place at Murrayfield for the final on 27th March and in the other semi-final GHA produced an impressive performance to defeat Peebles Colts 24-12 at Braidholm.
The Shield under-16 final will be an all-Borders affair between Kelso and Hawick Youth. Kelso were 24-17 away winners over Whitecraigs while Hawick Youth edged out Dundee Rugby with a 17-15 win.