National Youth League Cup Under-18 Final: Stirling County power past Ayr

Bridgehaugh boys retain title with muscular performance

Stirling County Under-18s
Image courtesy: Bryan Robertson

Stirling County Under-18 – 29

Ayr Under-18 – 5

ALAN LORIMER @ BT Murrayfield

STIRLING COUNTY claimed their second National Youth League Under-18 Cup title in two seasons to confirm their top position in Scottish rugby at this age level after defeating a competitive Ayr side on the international pitch at Murrayfield. 

Physically stronger and with additional weaponry at their disposal in the shape of a quality bench, Stirling were never in danger of losing the game – but at times they had to use their strong defence to keep Ayr at bay.

Outstanding for Stirling were props Lachlan Mackay, who looks a player to feature in senior rugby, and Ben Mace. Both front-rows were effective in the loose, each contributing significantly in the build-up to two of County’s five tries.

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Also impressive for Stirling were the centre pairing of Craig Jardine and Calum Campbell. The two midfielders defended solidly and when scoring chances arose, their transference of the ball was sharp and accurate.

Stirling were expected to win but the opponents’ approach to the game made the final a genuine competition.

“Ayr stepped up to the challenge and made it a good game. We were probably a bit rusty today due to the lack of games since Christmas,” suggested Matt McGrandles, the Stirling coach.

For Ayr, Scotland Under-18 hooker Scott Clelland always tried to lead from the front, but his cause was frustrated by playing against a side which held the trump cards in terms of physicality.

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Ayr put in a performance

Ayr came into the game as underdogs having lost twice to Stirling in the Shogun Conference and so cannot be too disappointed at the outcome.

“I was quite pleased with the guys’ performance today. Despite leaking five tries, they defended very well and their work in the contact area was really good. Stirling were very clinical in taking their opportunities. We perhaps left a few scores out there,” said the Ayr coach Stuart Fenwick.

“The good thing for us is that a fair number of these boys will be eligible to play next season at under-18 level. They will have taken a lot from this match and will have realised how well conditioned the Stirling boys are. That’s something they need to take on board and make sure they work hard on over the summer.”

Man-of-the-match Tommy Johnson opened the scoring for County with a try from a move ignited my Mackay’s surge. Next on the score-sheet was Stirling’s livewire scrum-half Adam Shaw whose repeated sidesteps took him to the line.

Fortunately for the game, Ayr recovered from these early set-backs and looked to have scored when prop Jack Mcdougall crashed over. The referee ruled the ball to be held up but from the ensuing scrum Ayr moved the ball wide for wing Chris Easton to dive in at the corner.

County, looking sharp at the beginning of the second half, extended their lead with a try by Campbell from good ball transfer and following a tackle-breaking run by Mace.

A Mackay try and the conversion by Campbell put County further ahead before number eight Andrew Rutherford barged over from close range, with replacement Jonny Cook’s drop-kick conversion sealing a fine win.


Teams –

Ayr Under-18: C Black; C Easton, T Lanni, H Lynch, J Jacobsen; J Rennie, J Gaw; J Mcdougall, S Clelland, C Miller, D Bryce, J Burns, M Wyllie, O Mossie, K Borland. Subs: M Field, J Finnie, B Cree, D Tucker, J McIntyre, A Morrison, R Maiden

Stirling County Under-18:  J Manners; R Reid-Kay, C Campbell, C Jardine, T Johnson; M Mackinnon, A Shaw; R Muir, J Martin, L Mackay, C Keys, F Macdonald, S Lang, D McLaren, A Rutherford. Subs: B Mace, N Teahan, A Morrison, D Sneddon, J Cook, K Singleton, E Paton.

Referee: M Todd


Scorers –

Stirling County:  Tries: Johnson, Shaw, Campbell, Mackay, Rutherford; Cons: Campbell, Cook.

Ayr: Try: Easton

Scoring Sequence (Stirling first): 5-0; 10-0; 10-5 (h-t) 15-5; 20-5; 22-5; 27-5; 29-5


Man-of-the-Match: County winger Tommy Johnson came in as a late replacement and stamped his mark on the game with Stirling’s opening try. Thereafter he always threatened with ball in hand.

Talking Point: Both Stirling and Ayr admitted to being a tad rusty after having had little rugby since the turn of the year. Is it time therefore that club rugby got the same treatment as schools’ rugby and had their final pre-Christmas?


Stirling County winger Tommy Johnson is presented with his man-of-the-match award by Edinburgh pros Callum Hunter-Hill and Jamie Ritchie
Stirling County winger Tommy Johnson is presented with his man-of-the-match award by Edinburgh pros Callum Hunter-Hill and Jamie Ritchie ***Image courtesy: Bryan Robertson


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About Alan Lorimer 339 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.