Experience gives Scotland Club XV crucial edge over Under-20s

Both coaches encouraged by their team's performance in final training match

Shawn Muir Club XV
Shawn Muir on the charge for the Scotland Club XV. image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Scotland Club XV 19

Scotland Under-20s 12


IT was fast and often frantic under the roof at Oriam last night, but slightly more power in the pack and a touch more control in general around the park gave the Scotland Club XV a crucial edge in this now traditional pre-Six Nations training match.

It got off to an inauspicious start for the Club XV when open-side flanker Iain Wilson was yellow-carded for taking out Roan Frostwick well after Under-20s scrum-half had despatched the kick-off straight back towards where it had come from. Despite being a man down, the Premiership select side still managed to dominate that opening spell, but they couldn’t quite find a way through the age-grade side’s committed defence.

Then, just a few moments after the Club XV had returned to full strength, they fell behind when Rory McMichael darted over on the right after some neat inter-passing from the Under-20s.

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The Club XV bounced back almost immediately when Steven Longwell bulldozed over, and Gregor Hunter’s conversion from in front of the posts edged them into a narrow lead which they took into the break.

Blair Macpherson extended the Club XVs advantage at the start of the second half with a try from a number eight pick-up. Unfortunately, the Ayr man injured himself in the process of scoring and had to retire from the game, just as his back-row club-mate Pete McCallum had done before half-time. Tommy Spinks, the third Ayr back-rower in the squad, withdrew from the game with a shoulder injury before kick-off.

The Under-20s battled back with open-side flanker Connor Boyle and replacement hooker Ewan Ashman both carrying with real conviction and power, and they got over the line from a close-range line-out drive but couldn’t get the ball down.

The Club XV worked their way back onto the front foot, and when they were given a chance of their own to work their line-out drive they showed the youngsters how it is done, with Currie Chieftains hooker Fergus Scott, who was cameoing in the back-row, the man who emerged clutching the ball.

The Under-20s pulled a try back in the final play of the match when Andrew Jardine intercepted and timed his pass excellently to send Nathan Chamberlain over, and the replacement utility-back converted his own try for good measure.

Both coaches were reasonably satisfied with their respective team’s performance but each acknowledged that their boys will have to show a bit more composure to build pressure when the live ammo starts to fly a week on Friday.

“It was good to look at some individual players and get a little but more detail on them because you obviously watch them with the club but until you start working with them and seeing first-hand how they operate in a game situation it is hard to make judgements on them,” said Rob Chrystie, the Club XV coach. “From the initial squad we selected, there has been a few changes in there, but that’s good that other boys have been given an opportunity to come into the squad and see what it is about – this is about giving players opportunities to step up to that next level and show people what they’ve got.”

His team take on their Irish counterparts at Myreside next Friday and play the return match in Dublin the following week.

“It is good to be week-to-week, whereas last years there was three weeks between the games, so we’ll know exactly where we’re at after the first game because there are no Premiership games to worry about,” said Chrystie.

“Hopefully a few boys will come back into the reckoning,” he added. “But these guys have had their chance to stake a claim now and once we review the game we’ll decide if we need to make a change. We said to the boys before the game that it was up to them to put their best foot forward, and we want to be true to our word so that the right people get an opportunity to play against Ireland.

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“We talked at half-time about it being a bit too loose and said that if we do that against Ireland then we are going to struggle,” he concluded. “So, we’ve got to be disciplined and make sure we understand how we want to play the game, and I think we did that a little bit better in the second half. In fairness, it is hard not to keep a lid on it when you are playing under the roof on this surface, because it is so easy to move the ball and go at pace.”

Meanwhile, Scotland Under-20s coach Carl Hogg will name his Six Nations squad on Thursday. Several players who will be in that group were either rested for this game or unavailable due to minor injuries, including tight-head prop Murphy Walker, second-rows Cameron Henderson and Charlie Jupp, and outside backs Rufus McLean, Jack Blain and Lomond Macpherson.

Unfortunately, Melrose back-row Rory Darge is out of the championship with a knee injury picked up against Stirling County two weekends ago, while second-row Marshall Sykes is hoping to be back at some point in the next seven and a half weeks from the knee injury he sustained back in October.

“This was an opportunity have a proper look at one or two exiles boys who we have not seen an awful lot of, so it was interesting to compare and contrast them with some of the domestic boys we know a bit better,” explained Hogg. “And over the piece I thought they all stood up really well – we’ve definitely got something to work with.

“There were some really good elements out there tonight,” he added. “I thought our endeavour and effort was fantastic, and at times we were clinical. We probably could be a little bit more effective and efficient in the middle third, and that’s something we need to challenge ourselves on. We want to play at pace, but we need to be smart about where and when we do that.

“Getting that balance of when to run and when to kick is very difficult to achieve, even at senior level. So, that’s a thing we will continue to work on, but overall I’m pretty encouraged what I’ve seen so far.”

Teams –

Scotland Club XV:  Jamie Forbes (Currie Chieftains); Craig Gossman (Boroughmuir), Ewan Macgarvie (Stirling County), Rob Kay (Heriot’s), Ben Robbins (Currie Chieftains); Gregor Hunter (Currie Chieftains), Andrew Simmers (Heriot’s); Shawn Muir (Hawick), Michael Liness (Heriot’s), Steven Longwell (Ayr). Ruairidh Leishman (Heriot’s), Hamilton Burr (Stirling County), Blair Macpherson (Ayr), Iain Wilson (Heriot’s), Pete McCallum (Ayr).

Subs used: Ross Dunbar (Boroughmuir), Ross Graham (Watsonians), Lewis Skinner (Glasgow Hawks), Tommy Spinks (Ayr), Fergus Scott (Currie Chieftains), Jack McLean (Heriot’s), Kaleem Barreto (Glasgow Hawks), Stuart Edwards (Heriot’s). Gavin Parker (Boroughmuir), Robert Kay (Heriot’s), Mark New (Glasgow Hawks), Murdo McAndrew (Melrose).

Scotland Under-20s: Matt Davidson (London Scottish); Rory McMichael (Heriot’s), Ollie Smith (Ayr), Robbie McCallum (Complutense Cisneros, Spain); Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks), Roan Frostwick (Currie Cheiftains); Sam Grahamslaw (Leicester Tigers), Finlay Scott (Jed-Forest/Melrose), Will Heard (Cardiff Met), Ewan Johnson (Racing 92), Ross Bundy (Stirling County), Jack Hill (Durham University), Connor Boyle (Watsonians), Kwagga van Nierkerk (Golden Lions, South Africa).

Subs used: Angus Fraser (Glasgow Hawks), Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks), Euan McLaren (Ayr), Mak Wilson (Melrose), Kieran Watt (Watsonians), Murray Scott (Watsonians), Kyle McGhie (Musselburgh), Nathan Chamberlain (Hartpury College/Bristol Bears), Andrew Mitchell (Hawick), Andrew Hall (Currie Chieftains), Andrew Jardine (Melrose).


Scorers –

Scotland Club XV: Tries: Longwell, Macpherson, Scott; Cons: Hunter, Edwards.

Scotland Under-20s: Tries: McMichael; Chamberlain; Con: Chamberlain.

Scoring sequence (Scotland Club XV first): 0-5; 5-5; 7-5 (h-t) 12-5; 17-5; 19-5; 19-10; 19-12.


Yellow cards –

Club XV: Wilson

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About David Barnes 4028 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.