ALAN LORIMER @ BT Murrayfield
GHA showed why they had been the dominant force in the National Conference at under-16 level by retaining the National Youth Cup at this age-grade with a comprehensive win over Ellon on the international pitch at BT Murrayfield.
The Braidholm side put on a display of total running rugby showing pace in a powerful back-line and throughout the team, an ability to pass out of the tackle and intelligent support play, all adding up to a formula that Ellon found difficult to combat.
GHA’s coach Shane McElhinney revealed that the way his side play is down to hard work and a brand of training that focuses on ball transference. “We try not to focus too much on positions and numbers on the shirts,” he said. “It’s ball skills first and foremost. We play a lot of touch rugby where everyone is involved. Today our fitness showed in the second half and of course the dry conditions helped as well.”
In all, GHA ran in 12 tries, five of these scored by powerful and quick centre Zac Darroch, who benefitted hugely from the pin-point accuracy in passing of stand-off Ben MacDougall. GHA’s other tries came from full-back Keiran Robinson (2), second-row and skipper Hamish Bruce (2), No 8 Lloyd Moncrieff, flanker Euan McGovern and wing Ben Hughes. Scrum half Duncan Campbell kicked five conversions, the other two coming from MacDougall
On another day, Ellon might have fared better but against the National Conference champions it was always difficult for the north-east club who played in a much lower level league this season. “It was a tough experience for the boys,” admitted Ellon’s coach, Scott Johnston. “We played some good rugby to get here, beating Hawick in the semi and Mackie in the quarters. I think the boys competed pretty well in the first half but they kind of fell away in the second half when we wanted to everyone on the pitch.
“The boys are delighted to have played on the pitch and I think enjoyed the experience. It’s the first time Ellon’s ever been to a national final. Physically we were okay up front but the big difference was in the backs. They were big, fast and skilful. It was chalk and cheese as regards the back-lines. Overall we stuck in well in the first half and scored a couple of really good tries”.
Ellon, who had good performances from full-back Sam Davidson, stand-off Malachy Mannion and second-row Dylan Jakeman were still in the game at half-time when they trailed 31-19 after scoring tries by No 8 Liam Davis, Mannion and Jakeman, plus two conversions from Liam Leiper. But in the second half, GHA’s dominance limited Ellon to only one further score, a second try for Jakeman.
GHA: K Robinson; B Hughes, Z Darroch, J Henderson, C Fitzpatrick; B MacDougall, D Campbell; B Carson, J Ratter, F Faulds, H Bruce, H Brown, J Robinson, E McGovern, L Moncrieff. Subs: A Allan R Bennie, R R Grimwood, E Moore, G Grant, G Johnston, R Morrison.
Ellon: S Davidson; R Hanton, L Andrew, R Martin, F Godsman; M Mannion, L Leiper; J Rennie, W Ferguson, L Brown, M-J Nicholas, D Jakeman, J P Friiel, R Brazier, L Davis Subs K Nicol, K Webster, F McHugh, K Taylor, K Simpson, L McCullagh R Petrie
Referee: Ciaran Stark
GHA: Tries: Darroch 5, Robinson 2, Bruce 2, Moncrieff,. McGovern, Hughes; Cons: Campbell 5, McDougall 2.
Ellon: Tries: Davis, Mannion, Jakeman 2; Cons: Leiper 2
Scoring sequence (GHA first): 5-0; 10-0; 12-0; 12-5; 12-7; 17-7; 19-7; 19-12; 19-14; 24-14; 24-19; 29-19; 31-19 (h-t) 36-19; 38-19; 38-24; 43-24; 45-24; 50-24; 52-24; 57-24; 62-24; 67-24; 69-24; 74-24.
- Meanwhile, Stirling County beat Peebles RFC 45-29 in the Boys’ under-16 Shield Final.