Inter-District Championship: The South defeat Caledonia Reds to claim title

Borderers have top dig deeper than final scoreline suggests in exciting clash at Canal Park

The South celebrate winning the Inter-District Championship and the inaugural Nairn MacEwan Cup. Image: Bryan Robertson
The South celebrate winning the Inter-District Championship and the inaugural Nairn MacEwan Cup. Image: Bryan Robertson

Caledonia Reds 18

The South 36

ALAN LORIMER @ Canal Park

THE SOUTH achieved a notable grand slam to win the Inter-District Championship outright after defeating an exciting Caley Reds side in the third and final round of the competition at Canal Park in Inverness, home of Highland RFC. And in the process, the Borderers became the first holders of the Nairn MacEwan Cup, minted in memory of the Highland flanker who played for Gala before being capped 20 times for Scotland.  

The visitors finished with a try advantage of 6-3 but in truth the scoreline arguably flattered the victors such was the pressure the Reds imposed on The South with back play that required trenchant defence from the eventual victors to prevent scores. That Caley were able to threaten so effectively is a huge credit to the Reds coaching team and provides further evidence that there is a seam of talent in the lower divisions waiting to be mined.

Colin Sangster, Caledonia’s head coach, believes that exposing talented  players to this higher level of competition can only be beneficial.  “If you’re a good player and you play for a lower ranked club then if the right environment is provided these guys will make a good team and show that they are as good as Premiership players,” suggested Sangster, who is rightly proud of what his side has achieved in the competition.


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“I can’t fault our guys for lack of effort. We lost our first two games by a single score and could have won this one with the rub of the green. So we’re not far off it,” Sangster, added. “The South were clinical in the first half. They scored two soft tries when we got our defensive systems a wee bit wrong. But there wasn’t much between the two teams.”

Caley, who had to start without the injured DJ Innes, had a number of notable performances with eye-catching displays from flanker Rory Brown, second-row Malachy Keough and prop Glen Brough among the forwards, while half-backs Harry Russell and Callum Beckett, full-back Connor Faulds and replacement centre Stuart Kirk impressed behind the scrum.

What told in the end was the experience of The South’s cohort of Premiership players, and as the Borderers head coach, Matty Douglas, acknowledged, the contribution of the replacements.

“Once again the bench made a big impact,” he said. “They were outstanding. At the end of the day they got us over the line. Caley are a very exciting team. Their backs were really good. We won because we had an outstanding second half.

“In the first half, we chose to play with the wind and got on the scoreboard early, then kept it ticking over. Credit to Caley, however. They put us under a bit of pressure in the first half. The chat at half-time was to find real energy playing into the wind and make our defence work”.

South certainly had the better of the exchanges in the opening minutes with control up front allied to clever play from stand-off Aaron McColm rewarded with a score after only five minutes by hooker Fraser Renwick from a driving maul five metres out.

Kirk Ford, from wide out, added the conversion points and had his second success off the tee just minutes later after South again exploited line-out possession that gave Callum Anderson a solo try, the left wing showing delicate balance in his pacy run to the line.

Caley, however, immediately showed their attacking skills and looked to have scored when wing Magnus Henry touched down in the corner only for the referee to judge the final pass to be forward.

The Reds certainly deserved a reward for their first quarter endeavour and gained their just desserts with a penalty goal from Beckett. But any hopes of a further comeback from Caley were dashed when visiting centre Douglas Crawford was the progenitor of a slick passing move that ended with second-row Keith Melbourne sailing over for his side’s third try close to the posts that left Ford with a simple conversion kick.

 

 

Once more Caley roared back with exciting and effective back play, coming desperately close to scoring when skipper Russell ran a penalty only to be stopped on the line. The referee, however, ruled a penalty but instead of going for the posts the Reds opted for a scrum.

It turned out to be a judicious call, Caley’s possession from the scrum giving Beckett the chance to show his side-stepping skill for a brilliant close range try. The stand-ff missed the conversion but nevertheless his try demonstrated what could be achieved.

The flow of tries continued following a sharp break by Douglas Crawford who then delivered a long, and in the wind, difficult, pass to Anderson who rounded Adriu Muritoki to score his second touchdown, this time unconverted by Ford.

Unbowed, Caley attacked from the restart and were unlucky not to score when Faulds was bundled into touch-in-goal after a defence beating run by Henry. But justice was seen to be done when Beckett chose his angle of run perfectly to finish off another attack by the Reds with a try in the corner.

South countered with pressure at the other end but were unable to profit from a driving maul, leaving them with a 4-2 try advantage at the end of the first half with the scores at 13-26.

 

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Playing into the fierce wind, The South, using more conservative tactics, struck first in the second period of play, from a peel round the front of a line-out by Jae Linton and his link-up with replacement hooker Russell Anderson.

But as they had shown throughout the first half, Caley responded quickly with an unconverted try by second-row Malachy Keough from a line-out drive five metres out to bring the scores to 18-31. There was still time for the Reds to pull back more lost ground and they almost did when centre Murray Mitchell was put through a gap only for his potentially scoring pass to be timely intercepted by Dwain Patterson.

It was left to the visitors to conjure the final and arguably the best score of the match that came from multiple phases of ball retention in their own half and then a break by Patterson and support from replacement Craig Keddie, who combined to create a move that ended with the ever-hungry Calum Renwick finishing with a peach of a try to seal in some style the championship for the Borderers.

 

Teams –

Caledonia Reds: Connor Faulds (Falkirk); Adriu Muritoki (Highland), Max Wallace (Edinburgh Accies/Deeside), Murray Mitchell (Strathmore), Magnus Henry (Highland); Callum Beckett (Currie Chieftains/Stirling County), Harry Russell © (Falkirk);  Stephen Murray (Highland), Scott Rendall (Orkney), Struan Cessford (Heriot’s/Dundee), Connor McFarlane (Aberdeenshire), Malachy Keough (Heriot’s/High School of Dundee), Rory Brown (Kirkcaldy), Andrew Steven (Watsonians/Howe of Fife), Alistair Johnstone (Heriot’s/Dollar Academy). Replacements: Bryce Robertson (Watsonians/Stirling County) for Rendall 58, Glen Brough (Gala/Orkney) for Murray 40, Ross Brown (Musselburgh/Ellon) for Cessford 65, Struan Robertson (Gordonians/Strathallan/Kirkcaldy) for Brown 58, Calum Macpherson (Highland) for MacFarlane 27, James Imrie (Glasgow Hawks/Stirling County) for Russell 60, Finlay Smith (Kirkcaldy) for Beckett 68, Stuart Kirk (Dundee) for Mitchell 60.

The South: Kirk Ford (Hawick); Josh Welsh (Selkirk), Donald Crawford (Melrose), Frankie Robson (Kelso), Callum Anderson (Selkirk); Aaron McColm (Selkirk), Douglas Crawford (Melrose); Shawn Muir © (Hawick), Fraser Renwick (Hawick), Nicky Little (Hawick), Connor Sutherland (Hawick), Keith Melbourne (Kelso), Bruce McNeil (Kelso), Callum Renwick (Hawick), Jae Linton (Hawick). Replacements: Russell Anderson (Hawick) for F Renwick 40, Grant Shiells (Kelso) for Muir 60, Terry Logan (Kelso) for Little 54, Angus Dun (Gala) Sutherland 65, Craig Keddie (Gala) for McNeil 48, Andy Tait (Kelso) for Douglas Crawford 65, Struan Hutchison (Melrose) for McColm 60, Dwain Patterson (Kelso) for Welsh 28.

Referee: David Young

 

Scorers –

Caledonia Reds: Tries: Beckett, Faulds, Keogh; Pens: Beckett.

The South: Tries: F Renwick, C Anderson 2, Melbourne, R Anderson, C Renwick; Cons: Ford 3.

Scoring Sequence (Caledonia Reds first) 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 3-14; 3-19; 3-21; 8-21; 8-26; 13-26 (h-t) 13-31; 18-31; 18-36.

Man-of-the-Match: In scoring two quality tries in the first half, Callum Anderson, who plays his club rugby at full-back, looked a natural finisher and deservedly wins the MOTM award.

Talking point: There can be little doubt that the Inter-District Championship has brought colour to Scottish amateur rugby and thoroughly deserves to be a fixture in the calendar.  And as Colin Sangster, the Caley head coach, commented above, it provides a stage for talents of players from lower divisions to be recognised.


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About Alan Lorimer 360 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.

15 Comments

  1. Wow, look at all the supporters filling up the stands of this game in the background image. Very impressive!

    Keith ‘Dodson’ Wallace doing an amazing job.

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    • Taking a wild guess,AG2, but given that the South are holding the trophy aloft, the picture may just have been taken well after the game was finished?

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    • It’s not a stand you utter moron it’s the clubhouse in the background. The fact you are so completely ignorant of the layout of a fabulous club facility shows u up even more than your normal posting content which frankly is saying something.

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    • You never let intelligence get in the way of your postings do you AG2? (Was your AG id banned?).

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      • David Barnes have a word with these people. They can disagree with my viewpoints and critique them as much as they like but the personal name calling which has persisted for a while now by a sad few on here is out of order.

        If this was the other way round it would be a different story. I’ll be happy to start dishing it out also if things don’t change.

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      • Your one man crusade to denigrate the club game with your persistent trolling is the only thing that needs dealt with. The names are all appropriate adjectives for what you are.

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      • You are better than this Scot Abroad. No need to turn the forum into a primary school playground IMO

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      • Hardly persistent trolling – i am merely putting forward the same arguments placed against Super 6 now that the ball is on the other foot. The best way to shut me up would be to demonstrate that club rugby is going in the right direction in terms of attendance numbers and can provide a new avenue from what has now been taken away for players to make the step up to pro rugby, something i believe is crucial for the game.

        Because you are unable to do or understand that – you in particular resort to petty name calling. Your behaviour is abhorrent.

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      • What has District or club rugby got to do with S6? S6 was supposed to be a commercial venture that required attendances and revenue to pay for the thing. Club rugby and district rugby is essentially amateur. S6 was clearly a moneypit and drain on SRU resources and damaging to the club game and many of the clubs involved in it. That’s the issue. So if you’re trying to turn the S6 argument against club rugby you’re missing the point entirely. Make sense though why you’ve been so bizarrely obsessed with attendances.

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      • AG2 – your original post contains no argument at all. That is clear for everyone to see. You can continue playing the victim as much as you like but it is this forum that is the victim. The victim of your persistent trolling.

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      • You’re right Opinions Please and I apologise for letting this guy get to me. Sick of his constant sniping at good folk doing their best to provide rugby playing opportunities for players be it club rugby or district rugby and especially borders rugby. Offering no actual constructive opinions in what he now claims to be a vengeful attack on those who have had the audacity to point out the failings in the Super 6 concept, Super 6 being not something that I have ever personally paid much attention to to be honest. He claims not to be a troll yet if his opening comment is not trolling then who knows what it is.

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