Schools’ Under-18 Cup semi-final: Glenalmond edge tense encounter against Fettes

Image courtesy: Mark Nichols

Glenalmond College 6

Fettes College 3

DAVID BARNES @ Glenalmond

A COMBINATION of a heavy downpour just before kick-off which continued as a steady drizzle throughput the match, plus a thickening mist, created treacherous conditions for two teams hoping to play adventurous rugby – but both sides stuck to their principles to create a contest far more entertaining than the final score-line suggests.

Glenalmond adapted slightly better tactically, however, and deserved the win after dominating territory and possession through their hard-working pack in which hooker Finn McCarthy, second-rows James Houldsworth and Angus Fitzpatrick, and number eight Jock Stoddart were exceptional.

The intelligence of stand-off Rafe Houston and full-back Ben Morrison in making sure the game was played in the right areas of the park was also key.

Fettes couldn’t get their dangerous backs into the game and really stayed in the contest thanks to a courageous 15-man defensive performance – although they did start the livelier of the two teams and almost scored in the opening minutes through Jonnie Brydon, but the scrum-half lost control of the ball as he stretched for the line.

Harry Paterson gave the visitors the lead with a penalty a few minutes later, but that was quickly cancelled out by Morrison, and that’s how it stayed until the final play of the match when Glenalmond were awarded a penalty after a high tackle.

A large and loud home support suddenly fell into an eerie silence, but Morrison shrugged off the tension of the occasion to step forward and kick the winning points – prompting euphoric celebrations from the players on their park and a mini pitch invasion from their delirious schoolmates in the crowd.

The result was fair but it was a painful way for Fettes to lose a game they had started as favourites.

“Full credit to Glenalmond, they put us under a lot of territorial pressure in the second half and when you are in those positions you get the breaks. We are bitterly disappointed but we never really got enough field position. We defended far better than we attacked,” said Fettes head of rugby Duncan Harrison.

“We were probably a little bit naive to think that we could just pull out the party tricks and get through, so the weather did play a part in our demise but that’s not an excuse because we should have adapted.”

“We haven’t got much time to get too down about it. We’ve got Merchiston at the weekend so we just need to bounce back. It will be a quiet bus on the way home but I think these guys are pretty resilient in that respect. Tomorrow is another day and we’ve just got to get on with it.”

Opposite number Graham Smith paid tribute to his forwards, and insisted his team have nothing to fear when they take on their old Perthshire friends and rivals Strathallan in the Final at Murrayfield on 6th December.

“It’s a solid pack. A great bunch of guys. They are very honest and work very hard,” he said. “This means a massive amount to the school. It is the first time in 12 years we have been to a semi-final and we’ve never been to a final at Murrayfield in the Cup before – so it is huge.”

“We’re a small school with less than 400 pupils here so we push out one team in each age-group and two in the seniors, but we aim to develop boys the best we can.”

“I’ve heard a few people saying that the other semi-final [between Watson’s and Strathallan] should have been the final, so we’re the underdog – but we’ll just go there and work hard as we have done all season.”

Teams –

Glenalmond College: B Morrison; W Arnot, H Marlow, L Kinge, M Kinge; R Houston©, T Godfrey-Faussett; R Orr Ewing, F McCarthy, G Breese, J Houldsworth, A Fitzpatrick, J Morrison, T Porter, J Stodart. Subs: W Weir, C Lai, H Rowley, B Humphries, T Roynon Brown, G Manson, B Porter.

Fettes College: H Paterson; G Petrie, M Harley, F McCarville, H McMIllan; G West, J Brydon; A McNicol, H Campbell, A Thompson, N Edgerton-King, S Kearney, B MacLeod, E Li, T Adeola. Subs: F Bolton, R Weissen, N Miller, D Sinclair, A Goold, C Fagan.

Scorers –

Glenalmond: Pens: B Morrison 2.

Fettes College: Pen: Paterson.

About David Barnes 3963 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.