Hawick Youth 27
ALAN LORIMER @ Hive Stadium
AYR/WELLINGTON retained the National Youth Boys Under-18s Shield title by outgunning Hawick Youth at The Hive in a game that produced a total of fifteen tries spread unevenly in a 2:1 ratio favouring the west coast side and from which hooker Jamie McAughtrie laid claim to five of the Millbrae side’s tally.
Seen from the off-pitch view point, this was very much a mismatch from the physicality aspect. Ayr were able to field a powerful forward pack among whom prop Jake Shearer had been involved with the Futures XV in Super Series rugby, and as such dominated the muscular side of the game.
Hawick despite struggling to cope with Ayr’s bigger forwards looked dangerous at times behind the scrum where inside centre Luke Scott constantly threatened. For Ayr, full-back Daniel McKinlay looked dangerous on the move but their principle threats were in the forwards and notably their intelligent back-row.
Retaining the Shield certainly compensated for Ayr’s difficulties earlier in the season as Colin Duck, their head coach explained, saying: “It was a very satisfying win. From our point of view, from where we were in July until now there has been a steady progression and the boys did today what we’ve wanted to do all season.
“I think the scoreline flattered us a wee bit but I felt we did well. We kept our structure simple and resisted the temptation to play sevens. We never felt comfortable with our lead as Hawick always looked capable of breaking away and getting a try.
“I felt that we were fortunate to have a few powerful players available today. Jamie McAughtrie and our captain Euan Doak have just found out they have been called into the Scotland U18 training squad and, of course, Jake Shearer is one of the physically strongest individuals in U18 rugby just now. They make a huge difference and are a big advantage no matter who are are playing. Physicality and power makes a huge difference at U18 rugby and with our full squad available we have a lot of it.
“That said, the other players did what we’ve been working on for this game. Our midfield defence was excellent and that’s the key thing we’d been practicing as we know how good Hawick’s backs are. We put them under pressure and, mostly, kept them at bay. It was very satisfying to win by playing the way we have been training towards.”
For Hawick, it was a hard ask. They had reached the final of the Shield with a bye in the quarters and then an easy semi-final against what their own coaches admit is the weakest Melrose Wasps team for years.
Although well beaten in points and aware that it was something of a men against boys contest, Hawick were not downhearted. Their coach Garry Douglas conceded it was a difficult game saying: “The physicality was huge but the way we tried to play and get round them was great. We could easily have been ‘nilled’ today. It didn’t happen because we stepped up a bit.
“What I genuinely feel is that I’m really proud of the boys. Every one of them who stepped on the park put themselves on the line out there. One thing that sticks in me, however, is the safety issue. We had a guy playing against us who’s been playing in Super Series. I don’t think it’s really fair that he’s playing against guys who could be as young as 16. It’s not sour grapes but I really think there is a safety issue there.
“But that’s to take nothing away from Ayr. I know Colin Duck well and he’s a very good coach. They were well drilled and am sure would have done well in the Cup. We must move forwards now. We’ve got a great group of coaches and as we’ve got the majority of these players for next season we’re going to go somewhere”.
Somewhat belying what was to come, Hawick made a brisk start to the game, scoring within the opening two minutes after Ayr failed to secure the ball at the kick-off allowing the young Greens to launch an attack that ended with Luke Scott, the son of former Scotland hooker Steve Scott, to dash over.
But it was a false dawn for Hawick who were put on the back foot immediately as Ayr used their greater physicality to make ground from a tap penalty allowing McAughtrie to crash over. The conversion was missed but kicker Cole Graham was on target after Ayr’s second try this time from a powerful run by back-row and skipper Doak.
Matters became worse for Hawick Youth when Ayr attacked from deep through scrum-half Cole Graham to gain a foothold in the Borderers’ red zone and inevitably Ayr’s physicality produced a try, this time by No 8 Jake Paton, converted again by Graham.
Ayr were punching holes in the Hawick defence all too easily and after the Ayr forwards had made ground, the backs were given their chance to show their potency, with slick handling producing a try for centre Jamie McIlroy.
Then, after Hawick had been reduced in number by one, following the sin-binning of lock Ellis Dirom, Ayra again used their greater physical advantage to pressure their opponents, and from a breakdown in Hawick’s handling centre Sandy Hay gained possession before surging in for his side’s fifth try.
Ayr’s hunger for points was undiminished and when they attacked from a line-out on the five metre line, their forwards did the damage to create a second try for McAughtrie converted by Graham.
Fortunately for the game, Hawick had not given up and got their reward for endeavour with a close range try by stand-off Riley Muir to go into the break trailing 10-36.
Ayr continued where they left off in the first half with a try from deep by wing Dan O’Brien, Graham adding the extras but Hawick showed their determination to show their skills with a clever try made by a reverse pass and intelligent and swift running from try scorer, Harley Bryson.
Hawick were immediately punished for their scoring audacity when, from a penalty created line-out, Ayr set-up an unstoppable maul, resulting in McAughtrie competing his hat-trick, Graham’s conversion goal bringing up the half century of points.
But from a quick tap penalty Hawick showed more fighting spirit to grab their fourth try scored by Mikey Swailes.
Ayr soon returned to business as usual with a tap penalty try and a fourth for McAughtrie, Graham’s conversion extending the west side’s advantage to 57-20.
Again to their credit, Hawick Youth were able to make a further statement with a try by outside centre Filip Kubik , this time Hawick succeeding with the conversion kick .
Ayr, however, had the final say with tenth try – from close range – by McAuchtrie to bring his tally for the match to five. Appropriately, man-of-the-match Graham kicked the conversion goal to sign off a polished performance both by himself and his team.
Hawick Youth: G Cartner; J Vevers, F Kubiki, Luke Scott, B Hughes; R Muir, A Common; A Cannon, J Brown, C Crawley, E Dirom, H Bryson, K Wilson, M Swailes, W Donaldson Replacements: J Wood, D McGuiness, R Muir, F Casson, Z Stewart, Stuart Delaney, E Henderson
Ayr/Wellington: D McKinlay; D O’Brien, J Mcilory, S Hay, Scott Cox; A McLaughin, C Graham; S Rodden, J McAughtrie, J Shearer, T Lambert, T Campbell, E Doak, J Mann, J Paton Replacements: S Gamble, F Bradley, D Wright, F Kellett, C Alexander, L Duncan, X Shaw
Referee: M Pratt
Hawick: Tries: Scott, Muir, Bryson, Swailes, Kubiki; Con: Gartner.
Ayr/Wellington: Tries McAughtrie 5, Doke, Paton, Hay, McIlroy, O’Brien; Cons: Graham 7.