ALAN LORIMER @ Oriam
Hawick Youth 17
IN the first of the semi finals, GHA took on Hawick Youth and up until the the break it looked as though the Braidholm side had more than met their match, with the young Greens leading 17-10 at half time.
GHA opened the scoring with a try by their No 8 Daniel Lizzeri from close-range pressure on the Hawick line. Hawick’s No 8 David Murphy Clark answered in similar style to tie the scores and when stand-off Charlie Welsh finished off clever approach work that had started with a neat kick by scrum-half Ben Scott, the Borderers were seven points clear.
The Braidholm side had repeatedly showed their exceptional handling skills and when they spun the ball to Luca Bardelli the full-back showed marvellous footwork and pace to race in for his side’s second try. But just before half time, Hawick struck again after Scott changed the direction of attack to the blindside to lay on a try for winger Clark Graham, the younger brother of Darcy.
But that was to be the end of Hawick’s points scoring as GHA gradually took a grip of the game in the second half. Bardelli again showed his impressive pace when he followed up his own kick to score in the corner.
GHA brought on replacement scrum half Rory Blackwood and the sub made an immediate impact with a lightening break that gave flanker Scott Carmichael a try and his side the lead.
The Glasgow outfit were not finished and when centre Jacob Peacock put in a neat kick, Bardelli gained possession before putting Blackwood in under the posts for a try which he, himself, converted for a 27-17 final score and a place in the final.
It had been a fully justified win for GHA, whose classy backs were ultimately too quick for Hawick. Hawick can take credit for their dogged defence but they will have absorbed the lesson that securing set-piece ball is a necessary component of winning.
GHA’s coach, Craig Brown, was entitled to be pleased with his side’s performance even if it he had to wait until the second half to see his boys take control. “In the second half we adjusted our approach and started moving the ball better,” he said. “We’re a very effective team with ball in hand. The encouraging thing is that we can improve. We have some very good players. And we’re lucky having a large squad.”
Hawick’s coach Rocky Johnstone was magnanimous in defeat. “Our set piece was costly,” he reflected. “But their backs were very good. They could really shift the ball. We were winning that quite easy in the first half, but in the second half we lost too many line-outs and too many scrums and never got the go-forward. They were clever in what they did. They managed to kick the ball in behind our defence.”
GHA: L Bardelli; D Subushimike, J Peacock, G Little, L Foulds; M Noble, G Fraser; H McKenzie, F Overend, L McLardie, Z Simpson, E Darroch, D Dunn, S Carmichael, D Lizzeri. Subs: R Blackwood, M Tollan, T Reid, G Fisher, D Mukulumani, R Campbell, S Faulds.
Hawick Youth: J Chelley; A Harkness, E Stanger, C Jeffrey, C Graham; C Welsh, B Scott; L Graham, S Cook, H Scott, P Porter, W Young, S Frizel, C Sutherland, D Murphy Clark. Subs: R Borthwick, M Forbes, B Swailes, T Huggan, C Garden, E Cameron, A Antonacci.
IF the first of the semi-finals had tested nerves to fraying point then the second of the penultimate round matches between Jed Thistle and Ayr/Wellington went the full distance.
The smart money was on Ayr, who went through the top tier Shogun Conference unbeaten at under-18 level and it looked as though that would have been the sensible bet when the west coasters created an overlap try for wing Danny White, and stand-off Richie Simpson added the conversion.
A fire alarm and the subsequent evacuation of Oriam caused a hiatus in play but when the game restarted Ayr resumed where they had left off, again showing good handling skills to engineer a second try for the quick-footed White.
Jed Thistle had not entirely allowed Ayr to walk over them and appeared to be gaining more than parity in the forward battle, the reward for which was a penalty goal by stand-off Ross Nichol. Then when Thistle drove a line-out Ayr took down the maul and immediately conceded a penalty try leaving the Millbrae side with a narrow 12-10 lead at half time.
The lead was extended after the interval with a Simpson penalty goal followed by a fine solo effort from full-back Aidan O’Connor, whose sheer pace gave him the try of the match. Jed quickly replied with another maul try and the conversion by Nichol took the Borderers within five points of their opponents.
Then, with Ayr looking increasingly nervous and penalty prone, Jed kicked to the corner yet again and once more used their weapon of choice, the maul, to attack the line. And for the second time in the match Ayr stopped a score by collapsing the moving maul, resulting in another penalty try and with it handed a 24-22 win to their opponents.
It may go down as the result of the season but it was deserved. Jed, a side which their coach Scott Nichol admits “does not have superstars but players who work for each other” identified Ayr’s one weakness and went for it ruthlessly.
“For the boys to dig so deep was fantastic,” added Nichol. “At one stage Ayr looked as though they were going to run away with it but we found a weakness in their defence and exploited it. Full credit to the boys, it was a big performance.”
Jed Thistle: L Smith; J Fender, C Douglas, A Bambrick, M Cullen; R Nichol, C Patterson; A Stewart, C Moffat, S Anderson, B Howe, K McGeown, J Wieczysty, K Grieve, G Williams. Subs: D Riddell, T Cromarty, G Middlemiss, P Fishwick, L Elder, K Hayes, F Falconer.
Ayr/Wellington: A O’Connor; H Evans, D Wilson, E Caldwell, D White; R Simpson, A McGowan; M Lafferty, R Ward, C Rae, P Mulrainey, A McMillan, R Bulloch, C Muir, C Young. Subs: L Shinn, M Crossan, J Lynch, B Johnstone, L Storie, K Halliday, M Thomson.