Youth round-up: quarter-final draws for National Cup competitions confirmed

Strong second half performances see Stirling County and West of Scotland under-18s secure wins to book home ties in the last eight

Ayr/Wellington picked up a morale-boosting win over GHA in the inspire National 1 Conference. Image: Susan Hay
Ayr/Wellington picked up a morale-boosting win over GHA in the inspire National 1 Conference. Image: Susan Hay

STIRLING COUNTY completed their schedule of National Youth u18 Cup pool matches with a 43-6 home win over Mackie to finish top of their group and with it the reward of a home tie in the quarter finals. 

In a match which doubled as a Conference fixture and which had been twice previously been postponed because of foul weather or the effects thereof, Stirling used their strong bench to dominate the second half after leading by a slender margin of four points at the break, much to the satisfaction of County’s u18 head coach, Stuart Imrie.

“We put good phases together in the first half but struggled to find the last pass,” he said. “At half time the scores were still tight at 10-6. In the second half we kept good focus and turned our pressure into points. It was also really pleasing to see the substitutes add real impact to the game”. Stirling’s tries were scored by Arran Pollock (2), Layton Bryce, Daniel Casserly, Tom Nodes, Fraser Dempsey and Thomas Mackin with three conversions from Nodes.

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For Mackie, whose points came from two first half penalties by Taegan LIttlejohn, an extensive injury list eventually told, but coach Rob Foubster was able to draw positives from his side’s performance for much of the match.

“It was a really even battle with the first half, finishing 10-6,” he explained.” The second half was a similar story until Stirling showed the depth of squad, with a full bench coming on. Ultimately, we couldn’t maintain the same physicality with some tired Mackie lads unable to match their pack size.  Fortunately, we have a  number of players returning from injury over the next few weeks, which will make a huge difference.”

The other u18 Cup match played was at Netherdale where Gala Wanderers faced West of Scotland. In a very competitive game in which Gala Wanderers led at half time, West’s strong second half display took them to a 32-19 win and a top finish in Group 3.

Like County, West had the luxury of  a strong set of subs which in the words of their coach Gavin McGreish “looked like South Africa’s with six forwards and one back”. He added: “We struggled to get out of the blocks in the first half, going in at half time 12- 5 down. A serious half time talk from captain, Robbie Dale, and a few tactical changes, was the boost the team needed.

“We played a much stronger second half,  the forwards fronted up, being much more accurate and aggressive around the breakdown. Ewan Collins [scrum half] picked up the pace and, with better ball distribution, we scored some fantastic tries out wide.”

Three of the West tries were scored by winger Luke Wilson and there was one each from full-back Rory Caldwell and flanker Elliot Weir. Christian Ward kicked three conversions, all from wide out.

For Gala Wanderers, Harris McDonald, Sam McAneny and Rowan Chalmers scored tries, two of them converted by stand-off
Rory Wilson. “It was a  disappointing result but I’m pleased with the performance. Our set piece was excellent and we competed really well at the breakdown,” was the assessment by  Wanderers’ coach, Bruce Chalmers.

He continued: “We led at half time, but West upped their physicality in the first period of the second half which resulted in us conceding, from our perspective, a couple of soft tries. We got ourselves back into the game but were unable to turn that pressure into points until the last play of the game when we scored our third try.”

Wanderers are drawn away to defending champions Boroughmuir in the quarter-final while West will face Peebles Colts at Burnbrae. In the other two quarters, Stirling County are at home to GHA and Dumfries Saints face Currie Chieftains.


Meanwhile, in the inspire National 1 Youth Conference, Ayr/Wellington travelled to Braidholm to take on GHA, and the Millbrae side showed an impressive return to form after a difficult run of games recently to secure a 39-24 win with tries from hooker Jamie McAughtrie (3), prop Scott Rodden, full-back Dan McKinlay, and a penalty and three conversions from Cole Graham.

“The game really could have gone either way and I feel for GHA who I think have similar injury problems to what we’ve been experiencing,” said Colin Duck, the Ayr coach. “That said, I’m very pleased with the way our boys kept fighting even when nine points down early in the second half. They really earned the win. I hope it translates into self belief for the next few games.”

For GHA, prop Findlay Wheeler scored a brace of tries and there was one apiece from No 8 Lloyd Moncrieff and full back Matt Inglis, and two conversions from Ben MacDougall.

“We played well in the first half, competed well at the breakdown and managed to score three tries,” reflected Shane McElhinney, the GHA coach. “We gave away a few penalties which gave Ayr some access to our 22 which they were able to capitalise from. We went into half-time with a four point lead and then managed to score again. Ayr came back strongly and we started to fall off a few tackles and lost our urgency and accuracy around the breakdown allowing them to take control of the game, and score 24 unanswered points.”

“A frustrating afternoon: we showed in patches that we can play good attacking rugby but disappointing that we couldn’t compete in the second half,” he concluded.

In the National 2 Club Conference, leaders Dumfries Saints consolidated their top-of-the-table position with a 40-7 win over Currie Chieftains ahead of their meeting with the Malleny Park side in the Cup quarter final, while Biggar had an equally emphatic home win by 40-7 against Dunfermline.

Top game in the Borders Semi Junior League last Saturday was at the Volunteer Park where Hawick achieved a 29-12 win over Kelso Quins with tries from hooker Jack Brown, flanker Mikey Swailes and wingers Jardine Vevers and Greig Cartner (2).

“This is is the second good win for us in a fortnight against good opposition and just shows the progress we’re making week on week,” noted the Hawick Youth team manager Paul McDonald, adding: “It was a complete team performance with the forwards doing the hard graft in securing the ball and then releasing our speedy backs to cause havoc in open play.”

For Kelso Quins, Jack Utterson and Max Reynolds scored tries and Ben Burton kicked one conversion. “Overall, it’s a sense of disappointment in how poorly we performed on the day. We just didn’t play as we did earlier in the season and fair play to Hawick Youth they fully deserved the win,” said Keith Green, the Quins team manager.

In the other BSJL match of domestic importance, Jed Thistle defeated Melrose Wasps 52-33 with tries from Robbie Duff (3), Matthew Palmer (2), Matthew Beaton, Aaron Weatherhead and Charlie Lewis,  Weatherhead kicking five conversions and Louie Reid one. “We played some really good rugby in spells but then went to sleep for periods of the game, too. It was good to pull away at the end though because at one stage Melrose had fought back to within seven points,” reflected Michael Harshaw, the Thistle coach.

Wasps’ tries were scored by Cameron Kirk, Logan Kerr, Caspar Denne, Ross Christie and Harry Riddell, Christie kicking four conversions.  The five try-haul will have given Melrose much encouragement, confirmation of which, albeit with caveats, came from  their coach, Nick Alston, who said: “We are definitely getting better. But we need to stop gifting teams two or three tries as a head start. We have to learn how to impose ourselves on the opposition earlier and not ‘wait and see’ what they’re going to be like before we get stuck in!

“We have enough in the attack locker to trouble a team’s defence. But we need to be braver (and smarter) in what we do when we don’t have the ball. Nonetheless, a fantastic comeback from us and we’ll take a lot from that going in to the next few weeks,” concluded Alston.


Boys National u18 Cup Quarter Final Draw

  • QF1: West of Scotland v Peebles
  • QF2: Dumfries Saints v Currie Chieftains
  • QF3: Stirling County v GHA
  • QF4: Boroughmuir v Gala Wanderers

Boys National u16 Cup Quarter Final Draw

  • QF1: Ayr/Wellington v Dumfries Saints
  • QF2: Peebles v West of Scotland
  • QF3: Stirling County v TBC
  • QF4: Hawick Youth v Earlston HS/Melrose

Boys National u18 Shield Quarter Final Draw

  • QF1: Hawick Youth v Ellon
  • QF2: Mackie v Ayr/Wellington
  • QF3: Perthshire v Earlston HS/Melrose Wasps
  • QF4: Dunfermline v Highland

Boys National u16 Shield Quarter Final Draw

  • QF1: Dunfermline v Gala
  • QF2: Ellon v Highland
  • QF3: GHA v Mackie
  • QF4: BYE to winner of Boroughmuir v Currie Chieftains (match being played this week)

Boys National  u18 Plate Quarter Final Draw

  • QF1: Dundee v Selkirk Youth
  • QF2: Kelso Harlequins v Aberdeen Wanderers
  • QF3: Biggar v Strathmore
  • QF4: Jed-Thistle v Moray/Huntly

Boys u16 National Youth Plate Quarter Final Draw

  • QF1: Orkney v Whitecraigs
  • QF2: Jed-Thistle v Hamilton
  • QF3: Kirkcaldy v Deeside
  • QF4: Dundee Rugby v Selkirk

Boys u18 National Youth Bowl Quarter Final Draw

  • QF1: Whitecraigs v Cartha Queen’s Park/Cambuslang
  • QF2: Orkney v Hamilton/Strathaven
  • QF3: Deeside/Garioch v Kirkcaldy
  • QF4: Dalziel v East Kilbride

Boys u16 National Youth Bowl Quarter Final Draw

  • QF1: Biggar v winners of Garioch or Aberdeen Wanderers
  • QF2: East Kilbride/Strathaven v Renfrewshire Raiders
  • QF3: Moray/Huntly v Falkirk
  • QF4: Kelso v Strathmore

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About Alan Lorimer 369 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.