Wins for Caledonia and Glasgow & The West sets-up U18s regional competition decider

Final round of matches will be played at Netherdale next Sunday

Round two of the FOSROC Academy U18 Regional Festival was played at Bridgehaugh on Sunday. Image: Scottish Rugby
Round two of the FOSROC Academy U18 Regional Festival was played at Bridgehaugh on Sunday. Image: Scottish Rugby

ALAN LORIMER @ Bridgehaugh

CALEDONIA and Glasgow & The West will go head to head for top honours in the FOSROC U18 Festival Challenge when they meet in the third and final round of the competition next Sunday at Netherdale, the home of Gala RFC. Both sides, however, will be missing players to the Scotland Under-18 squad who will be attending a training camp in Wales over the coming weekend. 

Both districts go into the Netherdale finale unbeaten over the first two rounds, both of which were staged at Stirling County’s Bridgehaugh ground. Caledonia, winners over Borders & East Lothian in the first round added to their performance CV with a comfortable win over Edinburgh on Sunday while Glasgow squeezed out a narrow result against Borders & East Lothian following their big win over Edinburgh in their opening encounter.

Caledonia, playing impressive continuity rugby and mixing physicality with subtlety in their attacking moves, looked in rampant form against an admittedly understrength Edinburgh, the Reds winning 51-14, with stand-out performances from their Scotland under-18 trio of Joe Roberts, Mickey Kesson and centre Sam Lewini, full-back Angus Crockett, pacy wing Max Garry and half-backs Ben Curtis and Henry Armstrong.


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Former Queen Victoria School centre Leweni bagged a hat-trick of tries while the Dollar blindside flanker Rory Purvis finished with a brace of touchdowns. The other tries for Caledonia were scored by the influential Crockett, Roberts, wing Logan Williams and No 8 Arthur McMichael. Armstrong kicked one conversion, the other two coming from the substitute scrum-half Tom Nodes.

Reflecting on his side’s performance, Caledonia head coach Kris McBurney said:  “We talked about coming out and being relentless and we were. I thought Angus Crockett was very impressive at full-back. He normally plays 10 but we thought having more space at fifteen would benefit him. For next Sunday’s third round we’ll have ten players away at the Scottish training camp in Wales. But that gives an opportunity for others to show what they’re about.”

For Edinburgh it was always going to be a difficult match as their head coach Andrew Gallagher explained. “It’s a really young team. Two thirds of them are under-17. So the scoreline was not reflective of these players’ abilities.  But they’ll get another opportunity next weekend at Galashiels.  Three main schools are either away or going on tour  – Stewart’s-Melville, Watson’s and Fettes –and that probably adds up to about 12 or 13 players missing.”

Edinburgh actually led at one point early in the first half when second row Oliver Anderson levelled the scores at 5-5 with a maul try, before scrum-half Hamish MacArthur added the conversion. The capital city’s other touchdown came from a good move that ended with the Boroughmuir wing Caleb Thomson crossing for the try, again converted by MacArthur.

Caledonia U18: A Crockett (Dollar Acad); M Garry (Perthshire), S Leweni (Queen Victoria Sch), R Arbuckle (Dollar Acad), L Williams (Strathallan); H Armstrong (Morrison’s Acad), B Curtis (Howe of Fife); L Hodge (Highland), J Roberts (Robert Gordon’s Coll), M Kesson (Stirling County), D Jakeman (Ellon), F McIntosh (Howe of Fife), R Purvis (Dollar Acad), K Todd (Howe of Fife), A McMichael (Strathallan. Substitutes C Duncan (Perthshire), J Ritchie (Dollar Acad), L McKenzie (Highland), H Steed (Dundee Rugby), E Anderson (Strathallan), F Thompson (Strathallan), T Nodes (Stirling County), A Howat (Dollar Acad), O Stoops (Dundee Rugby), O Baverstock (Strathallan)

Edinburgh U18: I Foley (Merchiston); J Bennett (Stewart’s-Melville Coll), R Caven (Stewart’s-Melville Coll), C Thomson (Boroughmuir); H Widdowson (Merchiston), H MacArthur (Merchiston); S Forster (Currie Chieftains), J Harrison (George Heriot’s Sch), C McHardy (Linlithgow), O Anderson (Stewart’s-Melville Coll), W Lockhart (Boroughmuir), C Robertson (Stewart’s-Melville Coll), T Hassel (Currie Chieftains), B Gammie (Stewart’s-Melville Coll). Substitues: T Di Maio (Merchiston), F Phillips (Currie Chieftains), T Kirkpatrick (George Heriot’s Sch), M Marshall (Edinburgh Academy), M Armstrong (Boroughmuir), H Kesterton (George Heriot’s Sch), M Lawrie (Edinburgh Academy), T Thom (Merchiston).

 

Meanwhile, Glasgow & the West defeated Borders & East Lothian 24-17 in a tight match, the outcome of which was influenced hugely by skilful performances from the Glasgow High School full-back Henry Provan and the powerful Sedburgh centre Nicholas Thompson. The strongly built Thompson scored two tries while Provan finished with a try and two conversions, the other Glasgow try coming from a maul drive credited to No 8 Harry Stewart.

After their big win over Edinburgh by 50-28 in round one, Glasgow’s head coach, Millan Browne, was disappointed by the way the game unfolded for his team. “There were too many penalties, so we weren’t able to play the kind of fast game that we wanted. Hopefully next week we will improve,” he said.

For Borders & East Lothian, whose forwards for the most part matched the Glasgow eight, flanker Zander MacTaggart and hooker Harris Ross scored first half tries, the other score, late in the second period, coming from a driven maul that could be safely attributed to the entire pack. Stand-off Ross Wolfenden accounted for the other points from a first half conversion goal.

“It was a close game,” Borders & East Lothian coach, Robert Grigg, postulated. “Glasgow played the rugby we expected of them. They looked to keep the ball alive with off-loads and I thought we managed that well at times. Frustratingly, we got turned over in our own red zone and our own 22, so we couldn’t capitalise on scoring opportunities.”

Impressive behind the scrum for Borders & East Lothian were the Gala Wanderers centre Nairn Moncrieff, who will wear Stewart’s-Melville College colours this season, and the Jed Thistle full-back James Hamilton. Amongst the forwards, the Kelso Quins hooker Harris Ross and the Hawick Youth prop Aidan Cannon were strong contributors for their side, while the tall Mac Rutherford made sure that Borders & East Lothian enjoyed a good supply of line-out ball.

Glasgow & The West U18: H Provan (HS of Glasgow); D McKinlay (Ayr), C Waugh (Hutchesons’ GS), N Thompson (Sedburgh Sch), B Hughes (GHA); A Bryden (Dumfries Saints), C Louden (Wear of Scotland); L Graham (Kelvinside Acad/East Kilbride), O McKenna (St Aloysius Coll), J Johnston (Oban), L Moncrieff (GHA), A Orr (Kelvinside Acad/Allan Glens), E Doak (Ayr), E Smith (Lenzie), H Stewart (Kelvinside Acad/Biggar). Substitues: M Hind (Dumfries Saints), J McAughtrie (Ayr), L Hendrie (Kilmarnock), S Neil (Biggar), E Woods (Allan Glens), H Gracie (Biggar), G Johnston (Kelvinside Acad/GHA), L Shaw (Hutchesons’ GS/GHA), R Watson (Kelvinside Acad/Biggar).

Borders & East Lothian U18: J Hamilton (Jed Thistle); H Hawkins (Sedburgh Sch), N Moncrieff (Stewart’s-Melville Coll), C Thomson (Merchiston/Peebles), G Hoggan (Preston Lodge); R Wolfenden (Peebles), S Talac (Loretto/Musselburgh); J Talac (Musselburgh), H Ross (Kelso Quins), A Cannon (Hawick Youth), C McRobert (Peebles), M Rutherford (Gala Wanderers), Z Mactaggart (Merchiston/Jed Thistle), C Hastie (Loretto), D Martin (North Berwick). Substitutes: C Grant (Peebles), M Duxbury (Loretto/Musselburgh), R Hardie (Peebles), E Hastie (Selkirk YC), B Allan (Selkirk YC), C Fyfe (North Berwick), O McClymont (Selkirk YC), F Milne (Loretto/North Berwick), M McLaughlin (Merchiston/Peebles), T McKay (North Berwick).


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About Alan Lorimer 352 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.

21 Comments

  1. I’m not involved so can’t dispute the experiences of those who are, and are saying boys get discarded to soon….but there are some other considerations to be made as well as those expressed earlier in this thread.
    1. Timing of games – its not easy to schedule a series of fixtures like this. It has to take account of school holidays/family holidays, school exams, etc etc. If some of the private schools choose to take their boys on tours at the same time that is not the fault of the organizers.
    2. International U18 camp timing. Presumably the same issues apply to the timing of this camp – how to fit it in around school and exam demands. The absence of perhaps 30 players at this camp from the final round of fixtures simply gives another 30 lads a chance for game time that maybe wouldn’t have had it, or give some under 17s experience a year early
    3. The debate around private schools is an ongoing one. Lots of lads do get to these schools because they have wealthy parents but all of the fee paying schools are offering full scholarships for some talented sports people to boost their opportunities (as well as the performance of the school’s teams!). So there are boys being selected from diverse backgrounds and given fully supported opportunities.
    4. There is a fair amount of ‘double talk’ going on here; people talk about widening the net, but when the opportunity is given to more boys for exposure (like this Sunday) by taking the best 30 players out on a camp, some people criticize as weakening the inter-districts. Others call for us to develop like Ireland, but a huge number of Irish pro’s come through private schools in and around Dublin, but on here these schools are criticized.
    5. The reality is that there are very few schools/clubs capable of playing intense games of rugby week on week that prepares Under 18s for international rugby. So some of our Under 18s are running amok against weak opposition UNTIL they get into a district team or an international camp. It is only at that point they are getting properly tested.
    6. Its not an exact science. Some parts of the system are working. Clearly some people feel that significant parts of it are not. But lets not destroy the bits that are working – developing the likes of Darge, Dobie and Alex Samuel – for the sake of improving other areas that might find a Finn Russell or Darcy Graham.

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    • Alex Samuel came through at Madras and then played roughly half a season at Stirling County u18 when he was 16 and then was moved to the club first XV. He didn’t go through the fee paying school rugby system and was better for it. Even now his getting nowhere enough game time. He is far more mobile than Jonny Gray was but gets a token 5 or 6 min at end if games whilst an 18 year old Gray was allowed to play full matches. Granted Gray is now too big and slow and one hopes Samuel is not pushed into the gym instead of simply being allowed to play. Claiming that fee paying schools are ‘diverse’ when they represent less than 4.5 % of the population is nonsense. The X conference and the Merchiston tournament have shown that whilst public school kids benefit from the extra training up to u16, by the time kids hit u18 it equals out and likes of Boroughmuir and Stirling County in recent years have been more than able to hold their own in match ups.The reason that u18s aren’t getting enough intense rugby is that so many kids are rejected far too young and drop out of the sport, and as it goes district rugby is often not as intense as the top club and school conference rugby precisely because of the dubious selection and development process. I’ve seen a club side battering a district side in a warm up match even though the club side was missing most of it’s XV. The organisers of tournaments don’t live in a communication free bubble and have access to calenders…they literally choose when tournaments occur…hence the term organisers. Having kids playing in a tournament as if they are part of the process when other kids are already pre selected for the national side is demeaning and kids see through that from a mile off. As it goes a system that misses a Finn in favour of a Dobie is utterly broken, and as for it not being an exact science….well no it isn’t but there are at least 14 other nations doing it much better than us and counting. Ireland and Wales can feed 4 pro teams and export players to other leagues whereas we only have 2 teams and only 1/3 of their players are Scottish. We won’t start fixing the catastrophic problems we have while we have while we pretend all is well. The current system would mean that Finn would be permanently be excluded from our pro team pathways. That’s how screwed up it is! We shipped 80 points to Ireland at u20 level…EIGHTY POINTS! If you think that is the sign of a productive coherent development system then you should get ready to amend your expectations for the next 10-15 years. The system could not be further from working here hence every other serious rugby nation regards us as a joke.

      • Well said Rugby Fan. This cohort of players should have had a proper regional championship at u17 at the same time as last season’s u16s, around February/March. That way the best players putting in solid performances, demonstrating all of the skills required for their position, during those games could be selected. However, that may have meant that the boys who have been pre-selected for Scotland, just by turning up to training, would have missed out, so I do wonder if that was somewhat deliberate? As it stands its rose-tinted glasses for some players and micro scrutiny for others to fit the narrative, confirmation bias supremely exemplified.

  2. For the umpteenth time this utter nonsense shows Dodson and his acolytes are unfit for purpose.

    For God’s sake replace them with people more interested in advancing Scottish rugby than themselves.

  3. Setting aside scheduling issues, are these sort of teams and competition longstanding? I’m heartened to see lads seemingly from social clubs in the Highlands, Dundee, Ellon, Currie and Borders getting exposure on a level playing field as lads from private schools.

    • Andrew: The regional teams are selected from u16 onwards and start with a wider pool and are gradually cut down to around 23-30 players at u18. They play the regional championships about once a season with maybe another game around new year. The selectors then choose for the Warriors V Edinburgh fixture and from there the Scotland team.
      Although there are players involved in the training squads from a wide range of clubs and schools it is apparent that many of the school boys have been pre-selected for Scotland before the process even starts. This is more notable with the backs selection because the backs don’t have as strict physical criteria for their positions, so if you are a back and play for a club you have a tiny chance of selection over school players. Forwards are more likely to be from a range of backgrounds due to the fact that they have to meet physical criteria and be a certain size, shape and weight for their position, not so easy to just automatically select from certain schools when physicality is so important and quite rare in our youth players. I will be interested to see the Scotland camp names and schools/clubs for the upcoming weekend!

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      • RGB: How many talented players are we missing because of this? Sends the wrong message to aspiring young players. Seems like money and background over actual talent.

      • Rowan: it is difficult to put a number on it but it is infuriating to hear national coaches say we don’t have the depth, quality or pool of players in Scotland at u20. We do. They just don’t get selected at u16/17/18 and so are lost to the system before their true potential is reached. The best players at age 16/17 are not necessarily the best players at age 18/19 yet the selection is already made in the younger years and doors are closed on the grafters who develop later.
        You could see in the regional games this weekend players who have been overlooked for contracts putting in flawless, strong performances, often out of position, yet their contracted counterparts were the ones making the mistakes and are off to the Scotland camp.
        There is much to fix and it doesn’t look like anything is changing any time soon.

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      • From what I saw during 6 odd years of watching youth rugby, in the region I was predominantly watching I’d say easily 15-20 players for each position were binned at the age of 15 who had solid potential. They were then out permanently. This happens every year and across every region (possibly less so in borders as the player numbers aren’t quite as high). People who haven’t seen youth rugby would be shocked if they knew just how much disdain there is for players. I’ve seen so.e lads at 15/16 who were bang ordinary but at 17/18 totally transform and be miles better than the counterpart in the development programmes. Equally there are some kids who are treated like untouchable super stars from 13/14 (often aided by nepotism) who glide through the development programmes despite clearly being nowhere good enough and these kids generally have no concept of real competition until they find themself up against an Irish or French teenager who has had to tear the jersey off some other kids back. This means that the failure rate of kids who have had sometimes 6/7 years in the system is worryingly high but exacerbated by the fact that dozens maybe even 70-80 players were rejected so the superstar could be indulged….The drop out rate for players after u16 is huge due to many being totally disillusioned by the process. Plenty of good coaches are lost to this too. It reaches the point where people realise the point of the development programmes is to delete as many players as possible not to develop as much potential as possible. We then spend a vast amount of £ on scouting and reporting players from abroad. We never get to see how much is wasted on this that could be pumped into running a far wider more inclusive system. It’s unsustainable but those at the top are clearly enjoying financial benefits from the market in foreign players and given the propensity for PEDS use in teenagers in some nations, we are targeting those nations. We even advertise for S6 players abroad and the very people in charge of this moan that it it’s not giving young Scottish players game time…..the very people that said this expensive mess would defo give the young players more game time!!?? Sadly we are a very long way from fixing this and until there is serious change at the top there is no appetite for change. There’s too much money to be made hence the extra summer warm up and the extra autumn international every year not to mention the increase in concerts. We have burned through £20 million which was meant to go to grass roots rugby which is withering on the vine yet millions has been spent ensuring only 1/3 of the pro players in Scotland are Scottish and S6 is packed with 25-35 year olds often not Scottish. Somehow they still can’t get sides out without having to loan from as far down the league system as Nat 2….in fact the very players that were deemed not good enough to be developed.

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      • Cheers. Very interesting the difference in the approach to backs and forwards. I would have thought physical criteria like speed and strength are highly relevant in backs and should be used to elevate any out of the ordinary raw talent at youth age to see if it can be polished. Particularly at centre (power) and wings (speed).

      • RF I respect your arguments and agree with the main points you are making but lets not use false stats to justify true arguments. We might all like more SQ players on our limited professional contracts, but it is not true that only 1/3 are Scottish.

        Of the 89 contracted professionals at Edinburgh and Glasgow at present 48 are home grown Scots (54%), a further 21 (24%) are SQ through parents or grandparents, though not born in Scotland. Only 4 players have become SQ through residency. 16 of the 89 contracted players (18%) are NSQ.

      • And just for completeness in terms of Super Series teams and their composition.
        Each team has named 29 contracted players this year (plus 3 transition pro’s)
        So that is 174 contracted players. (I am not including the Futures Team here)

        Of those 174
        73 (42%) are home-reared Scots under 25
        53 (30%) are home-reared Scots 25 and over
        22 (13%) are SQ but rugby-nurtured outside of Scotland (mostly England)
        26 (15%0 are NSQ
        There may be a slight variation in these figures because not all the information is available in the public domain but the figures are accurate to within a player or two

    • Zip it mate everyone is on a level playing field. Private school boys and club boys, everyone gets equal oppurtunity. To even make the accusation that it’s unfair is so insolent.

  4. Have to ask the question, how much do the public schoolboys value district rugby that they prioritise a school trip over representative competition. Confident in their pathways journey perhaps. Or, perhaps as Brian Gilbert once observed , it a case of ‘when the going gets tough the tough go skiing…’

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    • No, you didn’t have to ask the question. You could easily have said nothing – but you chose not to. It is a pathetic comment that says much more about you and your attitude than the KIDS going on school trips/rugby tours that were scheduled and organised long before the regional games came along.

      Does any child choose which school they go to or which area they live in (and therefore club they play at? Give it a rest FFS.

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  5. How bloody stupid can the Development Dept and the Academies be by organising a training weekend when the inter District festival is going on and organised on the last weekend of the tournament or is it when some of the big school come back from tour. Again shooting themselves in the foot by saying to the boys who will be playing sorry you are not good enough to be selected for a training camp but go and bust your gut anyway for No Apartment reason. At 20s they go on about the lack of game time surely the best 18s should be playing against each other instead of being told how good they are by the Teflon coaching group. It is a real shame the last weekend will be very diluted of the talent the first two weeks have shown.

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    • Concerned citizen: the Scotland camp players were picked months ago, based on what? No-one knows. There were no meaningful games between the regions last season to be able to pit players against each other to choose the strongest. In order to maintain training numbers throughout the season for their Scotland boys they need to give the ‘filler’ boys some games otherwise they would leave the system. Dangling the carrot for boys with no contract, who they have no intention of taking further than three regional games, is all this regional championship has been about. The boys with no contract are being played by this charade of a system and merely there to make up the numbers for the boys with contracts who are now off to the Scotland camp.

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    • Appalling scheduling but more evidence that those in power are undermining the need for young players to develop through representative rugby, as well as devaluing a competition.

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  6. Is it not a bit strange that so much reliance is put on the fee paying schools and then a development tournament is scheduled when several of them are on tour?

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    • Rugby fan: Not to worry, those players don’t need to play the regional games, they’ll already have their Scotland camp places secured without having to take part or prove they are better than other regional players. The whole Regional pathway is nothing more than a charade.

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