George Watson’s College retain Scottish Schools’ Under-16 Cup title

Relentless second-half pressure finally pays off against plucky Dundee

George Watson's College
George Watson's College defeated High School of Dundee in the Scottish Schools' Under-16s Cup Final at Murrayfield. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

George Watson’s College 15

High School of Dundee 5

DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield

MYRESIDE will house the Scottish Schools’ Under-16s Cup for another 12-months after George Watson’s College became the first ever team to retain the trophy with this hard-fought victory, which hung in the balance until ten minutes to go when outside centre Struan Ambrose streaked home to open up a ten-point lead for the Edinburgh side which exhausted Dundee were never going to be able to hunt down.

Watson’s had spent the previous 25-minutes camped deep inside Dundee territory, and it is a credit to the beaten side that they did not buckle under relentless pressure from a bigger and more experienced opposition.

“There was a lot of nerves, which is probably to be expected with 15 and 16 year-old boys on the big pitch at Murrayfield, but in the second-half it was a really grown-up performance,” said Mike Ker, the Watson’s coach. “They kept the ball really well, understood that Dundee defended quite wide and came up hard so played it quite tight around the fringes, and generally put the ball in the right areas.

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The game started with a bang when Dougray Smith crossed for Dundee and Michael Cantle responded in kind for Watson’s before the game was seven minutes old, but the scoring did not continue at that rate, and despite plenty of willingness from both sides, there was no more scoring until the sixth minute of the second half.

Dundee started that second period the livelier of the two sides, with full-back Ross Clark launching a thrilling break up the middle of the park, but Watson’s absorbed the pressure and then struck again when Brodie Young pounced on his own hack ahead to score in the corner.

Watson’s burst straight back upfield from the restart and spent 20-minutes camped on Dundee’s line, but they couldn’t find a way through a brave rearguard effort by the men from Tayside, until Ambrose broke from midfield to finish off a slick first-phase attack.

“Because we’ve been so successful in the recent past, we find that each year sets themselves that challenge to match or do better than the group that went before them,” concluded Ker. “We don’t, as coaches, put much emphasis or pressure on – the players do that themselves.

“We had Adam Hastings come in to present the strips this afternoon and just listening to him taking about playing in this match seven years ago and winning the Under-18s Cup five years ago … you could see the boys just thinking: Wow, he’s a guy who was in our shoes not that long ago and look where he is now!

“So, there is a real desire and belief that comes from that, and we as coaches just go with it. The boys do a lot of video analysis, a lot of extra sessions and they are just a real pleasure to be around in terms of rugby – we actually have to say to them at times that they have to take a night off. There are a lot of talented players there but they also have that attitude that breeds success.”

Birlinn Books

Teams –

George Watson’s College: S Cockerill; Z Neil, S Ambrose, E Maguire, S Cavens; M McMillan, B Young; C Robertson, B Lynes, C Myles, B Gale, J Aspinall, A Watters, C Hardie, M Cantle. Subs: C Lister, J Murdoch,M Curnow, J Clark, J Sandland, S Logan, C Elmslie.

High School of Dundee: R Clark; S Hargreaves, A Lothian, Z Boyd, R Harrower; C Findlay, H Findlay; C Lyall, C Todd, A Flynn, J Hutcheon, A Neville, M Curnyn, D Smith, M Keough. Subs: E Henderson, R Tauro, K Zaidi,M Joss, H Chohan, I Chalmers,C Gunn

Referee: S O’Neil


Scorers –

George Watson’s: Tries: Cantle, Young, Ambrose.

High School of Dundee: Tries: Smith

Scoring sequence (Watson’s first): 0-5; 5-5 (h-t) 10-5; 15-5

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About David Barnes 3956 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.