George Watson’s College 3
Strathallan School 21
ALAN LORIMER @ Myreside
STRATHALLAN achieved their long-held ambition to play in the final of the Scottish Schools’ Under-18 Cup by defeating George Watson’s College in the semi-final at Myreside last night after a powerful second half performance that ultimately yielded three tries.
The Perthshire school, who will meet their close neighbours Glenalmond in the final at Murrayfield on 6 December, won the game through the work of their bigger forwards and in particular the ball-carrying of up-and-coming prop Murphy Walker and talented second-row Cameron Henderson.
Once the Strathallan big men had smashed holes in the Watson’s defence their fast outside backs benefitted with two scores in the last five minutes of the match.
Up until that point, the match had been finely balanced as the 0-0 half time score suggested. Both defences were accurate and a breakthrough seemed unlikely. But then in the second half, Strathallan changed their tactics and as they had done against Stewart’s-Melville College in the quarter final, used their strength up front to dominate in the final quarter.
“We’ve got a group of boys who can stick to a plan and who work for each other. The second half typified what we can do,” said Andy Henderson, the Strathallan director of rugby.
For Ally Donaldson and his Watson’s team the result was a huge disappointment after such an imperious season.
“When we took the lead in the second half we thought we had them on the ropes but they came back and that’s a real credit to them,” he said. “We had chances but didn’t quite take them. Our boys were magnificent again. They punched well above their weight as they’ve done all year. They’ve had an amazing season, winning the conference and beating Palmerston North – they should be proud of that.”
It was not until the second minute of the second half that the game’s first points were scored, a penalty goal by Watsons centre Paul Cunningham. It looked as though the home team would build on their lead but Strathallan’s pick-and-drive game and clever off-loads soon changed the balance of the match, creating the first try of the contest for number eight Alex Marsh, with centre Angus Vipond adding the conversion.
Then, when the Strathallan forwards again used their strength, the ball was spun wide for wing Finlay Laird to crash over, and Vipond nce again kicked the conversion.
With Strathallan in the ascendancy there was time for one further score and again it was the forwards who softened the Watson’s defence before centre Ollie Smith took a short pass to skip over for his side’s third try, leaving Vipond to have the final say with his third conversion.
George Watson’s College: C Henderson; B Grant, C Hoffie, P Cunningham, J Stephen; C Scott, T Urquhart; E Craig, R O’Brien, J Cantle, R Aitchison, B Marshall, H Morris, M Tink, J Millgan. Subs: F Mealyou, C Ye, A Hoggarth, D Ryan, G Jackson, A Harley, B Clark.
Strathallan School: C McKeown; T Clark, O Smith, A Vipond, F Laird; R McCorkindale, A Brennan; H White, G Clunas, M Walker, S Robertson, C Henderson, L Webster, Y Sutcliffe, A Marsh. Subs: C Ramsay, E Murray-John, R Bayne, L Louden.
Watson’s: Pen: Cunningham
Strathallan: Tries: Marsh, Laird, Smith; Cons: Vipond 3.