Merchiston Castle School 40
St Aloysius’ College 7
DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield
A RECORD sixth win in the Scottish Schools’ Under-18 Cup was achieved by Merchiston Castle last night with a combination of big-match experience and physicality giving the Colinton outfit a significant edge over a St Aloysius’ side who battled hard, but ultimately lacked the firepower to really turn the screw when they got into promising positions.
“I think we were under extreme pressure during that first half,” said Merchiston Director of Rugby Roddy Deans. “We scored an early try and the maybe sat back a little bit. Our discipline was poor and, to be fair, they probably should have scored another try before half-time. Our boys were unnerved, you could see that the St Als were getting under their skin, so it was a case of calming them down and getting them back into the game.
“We stayed patient and got through our attacking systems in the second half, and I think our fitness and strength helped us pull away in the last 15 to 20 minutes.
Merchiston is one of the established super-powers of schools’ rugby in Scotland, playing in the top tier Colt Conference and travelling each October to compete in the St Joseph’s Rugby Festival in Ipswich against 15 of the other top rugby schools in the UK. This year they finished sixth in that tournament. However, they have not won the Cup since 2008 and were desperate to put that right on this occasion.
“That was the big motivational factor for us,” said Deans. “I’ve been in this job for five years now and we’ve lost a final and four semis, so I think we have felt the pressure. I think beating Watson’s in the semi two weeks ago was key – because we have had a habit of losing those sorts of games – and I think the confidence we got from that win gave us what we needed in the second half to go to another level.”
St Aloysius, who play in the lower-rung L200 conference, have not had that sort of rugby exposure, and that was key in the end – although the Glasgow side deserve great credit for remaining competitive throughout, even when it became clear during the second half that the game had got away from them. They have won the cup five times, but that was back in the days before the big independent schools got involved, and before this match they had not featured in the final since 1996.
Merchiston took an early lead when hooker Douglas Tidy rumbled over from close range inside three minutes, and Douglas Fraser added the extras, but St Aloysius responded well and might have levelled it had Luca Alessandri managed to hold onto the ball under pressure as he dived for the corner under pressure from winger David Taylor.
A scything break from the base of a scrum just outside his own 22 by man-of-the-match Jamie Dobie sent Rory Stewart-Cox in for Merchiston’s second try. This time St Aloysius’ were able to strike back, with Alessandri capitalising on a second opportunity to get the ball down, and Adam Scott nailing the tricky conversion.
Merchiston began to really dominate after the break. Tight-head prop George Kyriazi blasted his way to the line for try number three, and the fourth followed a few minutes later when Dean Anderson stormed over on the left after several slick phases.
St Aloysius’ rallied briefly, but a breakaway try with just over ten minutes to go – which was launched by Dobie, carried on by Stewart-Cox, and finished off by Marcus Cornelius – stretched Merchiston further clear.
Anderson then went over for his second try to finish off the scoring.
- U18 SHIELD: The High School of Glasgow 45-22 Kelvinside Academy
- U18 PLATE: Carrick Academy 0-38 Boroughmuir High School
Merchiston Castle School: R Stewart-Cox; D Anderson, M Currie, O Ashley, D Taylor; A Fraser, J Dobie; R Ewing, D Tidy, G Kyriazi, H Skipworth, J Laing, W Harper, W Smith, F Stewart. Subs: J Dun, S Robertson, A Geddes, H Chapple, O Flannigan, M Cornelius, A Spencer.
St Aloysius’ College: L Bardelli; D Subushimike, A Scott, A Hughes, R Jackson; A Lamb, J Brawley; L Patrick, P Norris, B Maclennan-Patton, L Alessandri, S Morrison, D Sharkey, F Quail, L McCutcheon. Subs: D Hunter, T Mudoti, E Darroch,J McEntegart, L Coyle, A Thompson, D McCarron.
Referee: Michael Todd
Merchiston: Tries: Tidy, Stewart-Cox, Kyriazi, Anderson 2, Flannigan; Cons: Fraser 5.
St Aloysius: Try: Alessandri; Con: Scott.
Scoring sequence (Merchiston first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 14-5; 14-7 (h-t) 19-7; 24-7; 26-7; 31-7; 33-7; 38-7; 40-7