FOSROC Under-18 Inter-Districts: Edinburgh claim Grand Slam with win over Caledonia

Borders & East Lothian draw with Glasgow & West in final round of games at Netherdale

Edinburgh v Caledonia
Edinburgh's Dara Omotawa scores against Caledonia. Image: Crawford Graham.
EDINBURGH completed a clean sweep in the FOSROC Under-18 District Series on Sunday, defeating Caledonia 40-14 in the third and last round of the competition at Netherdale.
The capital side’s grand slam had been expected given their form in the second round when they ran in nine tries against Borders & East Lothian. That they achieved such a large win in the final round without 11 first-choice players points to a strength in depth that the other regions can only envy and to a coaching team able to work with a changed side.
Edinburgh’s head coach Doug Thomson believes that much of his side’s success is down to not being over-prescriptive. He said: “We let the boys take responsibility. And it’s great to see such development over the programme.  We’ve got a good strength in depth and that’s been good for competition. We’ve worked at Dam Health stadium and that’s allowed us to train with intensity”.
Of course these matches are not about results but rather about identifying talent. And Edinburgh have talent in spade loads.  Against Caledonia the likes of centre Thomas Russell, who came off the bench, Conor Findlay at full-back and Oz Canakaivata, who Thomson described as “having special skills”,  were all outstanding
For Caledonia and their coach, Jake Greenwood, the result was a second successive disappointment after losing out to Glasgow in round two. “It’s been a very competitive series and the boys have grown as a result. Today we made too many errors in key parts of the pitch to launch any meaningful attack against Edinburgh. They were patient and took their chances. But today was a chance for some of the guys who missed selection in games one and two to put their hands up.  Ultimately, though, the performance was not good enough. So lots to work on”.
Edinburgh on the attack against Caledonia. Image: Allan Brown.
Edinburgh effectively had the game won by half time when they led 26-7 with tries from second-row Dara Omotowa, centre Murray McGowan, wing Canakaivata, who then made the score of the match for fellow wing Cole Mapara. Three of the tries were converted by stand-off Jamie Cain, who controlled the game impressively.
Caledonia’s first-half points came from a close-range try by prop Cole Stirling and the conversion from stand-off Angus Crockett. Early in the second half Caledonia regained some lost ground with a touchdown from Archie Bell, the try again converted by Crockett.  But thereafter Edinburgh looked dominant, scoring tries by late call-up to the squad Caleb Thomson and the outstanding Canakaivata, both made seven pointers by the trusty boot of Cain.
Glasgow and the West recycle ball in their draw
with Borders and East Lothian. Image: David Wilson.


Earlier, Borders & East Lothian drew 21-21 with Glasgow & the West in an entertaining game in which both sides moved the ball well. Arguably Glasgow might be the more pleased with the scoreline given that, like Edinburgh, they were missing a number of first-choice players.
“We had ten boys missing, so that gave a lot of the young guys an opportunity,” explained Euan Clark, the Glasgow head coach. “We had a couple of under-17 guys, Alex Bryden and Nicky Thompson in the centre,  playing up an age band.  They certainly took their chance well. They’ve been training with us for the past few weeks.
“It was a good game and a fair result. Playing the Borders in the Borders is always challenging. I was impressed with the way they played”.
Clark also gave special mention to the Whitecraigs flanker Craig Nolan, who combined a physical presence with an intuitive sense of being close to the ball. In addition there were laudable performances from skipper and second-row Calum Hamilton, flanker Emen Thaqi and full-back Fergus Clannachan.
For Borders & East Lothian, the result eased the pain of losing so heavily to Edinburgh in round two at Stirling. Borders head coach Bert Grigg admitted that his players had responded positively to a difficult experience against Edinburgh. He said: “We talked a lot last week about getting our performance right and not worrying about the result and the boys played some strong rugby.
“Both teams looked to play, making it an entertaining game to watch. Our boys had a bit more desire to make more tackles and that certainly slowed down Glasgow and made it easier for us to transition into attacking rugby”.
Borders were well served at half-back by the lively Jed Thistle scrum-half  Mark Glenn and both of the Gala tens, Russell Kerr and Rory Wilson, who each did a stint at stand-off. Also impressing for Borders was the powerful Preston Lodge centre Fraser Falgate, while amongst the forwards, Melrose second-row Rory Anderson and flanker Dylan Cockburn posted useful showings.
The half-time scoreline reflected the final result with the teams locked at 7-7, Borders grabbing an early try through No 8 Lachlan Graham, converted by Kerr,  and Glasgow replying with a try by hooker Caleb McCracken and the conversion by scrum-half Stewart Black.
Borders seemed to have the game won when they added tries by Falgate and replacement Hamish Derrick and conversions by Kerr and Wilson, only for Glasgow to stage a late show, scoring tries by Clannachan and skipper Hamilton both converted by Black for a 21-21 result.
Teams – 
Caledonia U18s: Tyler Crook (Highland); Ross Birnie (Robert Gordon’s College), Theo Natiri (Queen Victoria School), Wilfie Timney (Dollar Academy), Ben Morriss (Deeside RFC); Angus Crockett (Dollar Academy), Hamish Chisholm (Kirkcaldy RFC); Jay Richards (Stirling County), Euan Lee (Queen Victoria School), Cole Stirling (Howe of Fife),  Nick Torkington (Stirling County), Ben Marshall (Perthshire RFC),  Cameron Potter (SLM Blues), Archie Bell (Dollar Academy), Alfie Kinsella (Highland). Subs:  Mickey Kesson (Stirling County), Angus Cook (Howe of Fife), Ruaridh Anderson (Ellon Rugby), Archie Ingles (Dollar Academy), Fraser Gallagher (Dollar Academy), Scott Sheddon (Stirling County), Jake De Jager (Mackie RFC), Rory Buchannon (Mackie RFC), Jay Richards (Stirling County),  Euan Lee (Queen Victoria School).
Edinburgh U18s: Conor Findlay (Linlithgow RFC); Oz Canakaivata (Boroughmuir RFC), Max Clark (George Watson’s College), Murray McCowan (North Edinburgh Vikings), Cole Mapara| (Edinburgh Academy); Jamie Cain  (Stewart’s Melville College), Jake Burns (Stewart’s Melville College); Finlay Gilgrass (George Heriot’s School / Boroughmuir RFC), Gordie Stephen (Merchiston Castle School),
Angus McGregor (Merchiston Castle School), Mark Fyffe (George Watson’s College), Dara Omotowa (Fettes College), Oscar Davies (Linlithgow RFC), Toby Edwin (Edinburgh Academy), Harrison Wood (George Watson’s College) Subs: Zack Griffiths (Boroughmuir RFC), Finlay McIntosh (George Watson’s College), Michael Rice (George Watson’s College), Ben Gammie (Stewart’s Melville College), David Brown (George Watson’s College), Thomas Whyte (Edinburgh Academy), Thomas Russell (Stewart’s Melville College), Charlie Lamond (Edinburgh Academy), Caleb Thomson (Boroughmuir RFC).
Borders and East Lothian U18s: Ethan Wilson (Borders College/Gala Rugby); Ollie Craig (Knox Academy/Haddington RFC), Joe Townshend (Strathallan School), Fraser Falgate (Preston Lodge HS/Preston Lodge RFC), Ritchie Mitchell (Gala Academy/Gala Rugby); Russell Kerr (Gala Academy/Gala Rugby), Mark Glenn (Jed Thistle); Gavin Fisher (Preston Lodge HS/Preston Lodge RFC), Fergus Bell (Hawick Youth Rugby), David Campbell (Ross High School/Ross High RFC), Oliver Furness (Peebles HS/Peebles RFC), Rory Anderson (Borders College/Melrose RFC), Dylan Cockburn (Earlston HS/Melrose RFC), Daniel Martin (Dunbar Grammar School/Dunbar RFC), Lachlan Graham (Preston Lodge HS/Preston Lodge RFC). Subs: Craig Cochrane (Selkirk HS/Selkirk Youth Club), Hamish Derrick (Borders College/Melrose RFC), Jay Johnston (Ross High School/Melrose RFC), Finlay Yule (Preston Lodge HS/Preston Lodge RFC), Harris Ross (Berwickshire HS/Duns RFC), Rex Condie (Loretto School), Rory Wilson (Gala Academy/Gala Rugby), Aaron Weatherhead (Ross High School/Ross High RFC), Mathew Gaston (Melrose RFC).
Glasgow and the West U18s:  Fergus Clannachan (Dumfries Saints RFC); Kwesi O’Hare (High School of Glasgow), Nicky Thompson (St Aloysius College), Alexander Bryden (Dumfries Saints RFC), Yeadon Davie (Ayr RFC); Gregor Lang (Biggar RFC), Stewart Black (West of Scotland RFC); Jake Shearer (Ayr RFC), Caleb McCracken (GHA RFC), Lucas Graham (East Kilbride RFC), Calum Hamilton (Ayr RFC), Stewart Neill (Biggar RFC), Craig Nolan (Whitecraigs RFC), Emen Thaqi (West of Scotland RFC), Harry Stewart (Biggar RFC) Subs: Myles Macauley (Kelvinside Academy), Scott Roden (Ayr RFC), Toby Clark (Helensburgh RFC), Aidan Orr (Allan Glens RFC), Lewis McCormack (GHA RFC), Harrison Lang (Biggar RFC), Robbie Baird (Hutchesons’ Grammar School).

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About Alan Lorimer 295 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.


  1. Quite the opposite in fact. The donkeys got more individual coaching than the more gifted players and I found that slow starters who might otherwise have been lost to the game often became the backbone of the team as they matured. I remember one gangly lad who had been tried at centre by the other coaches becoming a very good 2nd row when he was pointed in the right direction

  2. Bursaries offered by Fee Paying schools undermine the quality of rugby in State Schools by cherry-picking their best players. This serves to both preserve the status of the Fee-Paying schools whilst ensuring that they are unlikely ever to have “their” sweeties pinched by a State School like the triple-winning Bell Baxter/Howe side. In addition, this cherry-picking demotivates the teammates of the individuals involved. How must it feel to have one or more of your top players who you have built a team around for four years whisked away and your team hollowed out?
    Having said all that the real problem is retention. If 25% of the players who started mini rugby went on to play in adulthood we would not have a numbers problem. I helped coach my son’s age group from mini to age 16. They were a talented group with a few real stars. I was often left to coach the “donkeys”, but I found time spent with slow starters paid more dividends than the time lavished on the natural players. One player who shall remain nameless was a wee fat toerag, and when one of the fee-paying schools turned up a man short, he offered to play for them. They rejected him, saying “We know what you are trying to do to us”. That same player went on to play something like 5 seasons for the adult first xv in National 1 and 2 before having to retire early due to a concussion. His age group won the Caledonia Cup at age 16, but very few of them went on to play adult rugby. When I spoke to them about it in later years, many of them felt that they had enjoyed the best of rugby in their early years and wanted a change.

      • It says you have no respect for your players so how can you expect them to have any respect for you?

      • Quite the opposite in fact. The donkeys got more individual coaching than the more gifted players and I found that slow starters who might otherwise have been lost to the game often became the backbone of the team as they matured. I remember one gangly lad who had been tried at centre by the other coaches becoming a very good 2nd row when he was pointed in the right direction

  3. Kenny, in my view a possible solution would be be :
    1- let private schools mind their business and take profit of that
    2- to be a S6/Permiership/Nat1 club, to have 2 senior teams at least , U18/u16/u15 competing in SRU leagues regularly, and a mini section. 4 S6 clubs have that structure in place , well done ! . It should be a duty for them to have that pathway. This should encourage for Nat2 clubs and below to develop young players if they have ambitions. But if they only want to be a social club, then let them be.
    3- have a fee system when players move from club to club, specially when big club poach them from small ones .

    Just a few ideas, but that would/should promote development, which in my view should be the main mindset for everybody and of course each club have their own targets/objectives etc etc

    Don’t think S6 is the issue, I think the foundations of the whole structure is the issue.

    Thoughts ?
    Challenge: provide solution not complains ? 😁

  4. Alan, does anyone ever do a longitudinal study of how many of these lads are retained in rugby over a period of time? I was looking at your preview of the schools cup finals day in 2016
    There are about 300 young men listed there, aged under 16 to under 18, at that point.
    So they are all now in adult rugby. In one sense it is a random selection of guys who played for successful school teams. On the other hand they are all lads who experienced ‘a high’ of playing rugby at Murrayfield in a cup final while still at school, so you would have thought they would be fairly motivated to keep in the game.

    You can choose a fairly decent ‘PRO/SEMI PRO XV’ out of the lads selected that day
    K Clarke; J Blain, O Smith, G Hughes, A Scott; R Thompson, K Barreto;
    M Walker, A N Other, E McLaren, C Henderson, A N Other, C Boyle, T Andrews, H Morris
    That makes me think we are doing not bad at keeping motivated talented lads involved in the game.

    I can then count about another 25 guys who played Premier 1 or 2 last season. Again not bad. And then perhaps another 25 who play regularly at University level.

    But that leaves more than 200 I don’t know about. Does anyone ever go and ask them if they are still playing and if not, why not? Did work get in the way? Studies? Did other interests take over? Was there nowhere to go? Did injury stop them? Did they enjoy playing with their mates at school, but not without their mates at a club?
    I think such research might highlight why guys leave the game and what would help to retain them.

  5. JW – you read me completely wrong. I am not for one moment saying it is the private schools fault.

    I am simply saying that the selectors are missing out on loads of talented players from all areas of society. That is not the private schools fault.

    I never for a moment suggested anything negative about private schools and their system. Without them we would be in an even worse position.

    You will see that the main point i made was that we need more game time after school years. I even said that private school boys were being overlooked who have loads of talent.

    • That’s fine but in my defence your post was in answer to the question why people are beating up private schools and your answer started because ….!

  6. why are some people constantly beating up private schools I understand that the age grade system works on nominations from schools / coaches & teachers. Fact is the private schools are usually better prepared and are usually at a higher standard because they have been playing longer have access to better facility’s. its not because they are POSH enough is enough the private schools are not the problem. Investment by local councils in extra curriculum activities (rugby) is the issue

    • Because of the vast number of talented players who are totally ignored. We have never replied more on the fee paying school system and we are falling further and further behind at age grade and pro rugby. Results and performances aren’t lying.

      • Understand that frustration, but what is the solution? How do these talented players get picked up? This is a selection issue surely, rather than anything else.

        At the same time, we also have to be realistic and say that there are also many very talented private school players who are not getting opportunities at a higher level, so I genuinely don’t believe that it is only one way.

        I think we also can agree that the U18 Scotland team did well in the 6 Nations this year (around 50:50 split private and state), and that the problem lies 100% in getting players playing after school so that they are prepared for U20’s. This is our biggest issue as a nation at the moment, and the reason we are falling behind. It is not to do where someone goes to school. It is to do with game time and the route when they leave school.

        Which starts the Super 6 / club debate again…

      • But it’s not the private schools fault that other talented players are ignored is it?

        Criticise the selectors who ignore non-private school players all you like but don’t beat up those are only doing their jobs and producing the players for the selectors to consider.

    • A lot of comments recently comparing us negatively to Ireland, who are obviously notably more successful. However, they still rely heavily on the private schools to make up their age grade squads. Their U18 Six Nations squad was 2/3rd from private schools and 1/3rd from state schools.

    • Chas, I don’t understand the aggression to private schools either, just because they have resources and want to improve the lads in rugby? … State schools shouldn’t be blamed either if rugby is not a main sport for them, why force people to do a sport they don’t have any interest?? Or put PE teachers or volunteers to run the rugby program with little knowledge? … the clubs should pick that up , which I know some of them are doing it and very well.
      Re states schools lack of interest, my son was in a state school with a “strong” rugby program ( 2 sessions a week after school) cos PE couldn’t fit it in?!.. he was overlooked by the coaches because he was tall and slow, his game time was very little, I was coaching him as keen rugby dad, I had a few chats with their coaches but nothing changed, aka he stopped playing rugby. Today the lad is 16 yo, 6.6” tall and 110kgs fit boy !! I bet any private school would’ve seen that and help him to develop !

    • I brought up private school first in this thread. Tl be clear I agree with what you have said – I would repeat that they do “head hunt” great players form state school by offering bursaries, which also make them better and a recommendation from say and ex pro player will carry more weight than a state PE teacher.
      I’m not attacking private schools, but I am very concerned at how reliant we are on them – always have been, now more than ever I think. Plus it also can act as a deterrent for some state pupils.
      I have no easy solution. But that does not mean we should ignore the issue

  7. 18 of the Edinburgh squad are from Private schools? How many boys from state schools with talent have been missed.

  8. The selection process at U16 & U18 is garbage – so much talent is missed and/or wrongly backed (when they will not pursue Rugby post school when option of Law, Medicine, Maths/Economics) The evidence is there in the U20s road crash. I could name three players from Glasgow & West not in U16 squads – who are better than almost every single player in the named sides. (None of them are relatives have just observed them play and have seen every side at that age up close for several seasons). System is flawed. Needs to be season long representative competition and more regional cup contests.

  9. anyone know why Glasgow and Edinburgh were missing so many players?

    Also good to see how (outside Edinburgh!) how many did not come from fee paying schools – and again wonder how many of the Edinburgh guys have been brought in from elsewhere on scholarships

    • Scotland u18s had a training week and a number of players from the district sides were called up to enlarge the squads.

    • Regarding the comment about boys on scholarships in Edinburgh, I know that almost all, if not all, of the boys have been at their schools for a long time. So I don’t think there are many brought in. Same with last weeks Edinburgh team

      • don’t doubt that at all. But most isn’t all, and most season’s there seems to be a top talent from elsewhere turns upon a bursary late school. Quite remarkable how they are only offered to top sports guys in s4/5/6. Only takes one or two to lift the overall level if you recruit, eg Bradbury types


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