Stewart’s-Melville College 59
Marr College 0
ALAN LORIMER @ Inverleith
STEWART’S-MELVILLE COLLEGE powered into the final of the Scottish Schools Under-18 Cup by over-running Marr College at Inverleith with a display of total rugby that produced a nine-try tally.
Marr were simply unable to compete against the sheer pace and physicality of Stewart’s-Melville, who confirmed their readiness to contest the final, scheduled for 4th December on the international pitch at BT Murrayfield, against the winners of tomorrow’s second semi-final between George Watson’s College and Edinburgh Academy.
This match exposed the difference in standard between schools such as Stewart’s-Melville, who can train every day of the week indoors and outdoors, and Marr College, whose coaches see their charges twice a week in evening sessions, a point acknowledged by the winning side’s mentor, Stuart Edwards.
“Unfortunately, there is a big gulf between the conferences and we’re lucky to be exposed to the likes of Watson’s, Merchiston and Dollar every week,” he said. “That told today. But we were still happy with our win. We challenged the boys to keep ball. Perhaps the start gave us extra impetus and we were helped a lot by the crowd.”
That gulf showed in the pace at which Stewart’s-Melville operated both in attack and defence and the intensity with which they played throughout the match, that gave Marr little chance to show their skills. The difference also showed in the visitors’ difficulties in executing basic skills under pressure.
“Ultimately it was a game too far for us,” reflected Gregor Ness, the Marr coach. “I was happy that the boys rolled up their sleeves in the second half. We had one or two opportunities we didn’t take but it wouldn’t have made any difference, Stew-Mel were just too good.”
For Stewart’s-Melville, the presence of Christian Townsend at stand-off contributed greatly to the Inverleith side’s flowing game, the former Earlston High School pupil’s vision and his accuracy in passing being a key factor in centres Matt Russell and Aidan Boyle being able to showcase their skills.
The Inverleith side were also well served by a mobile back-row that had a hunger for the line, with No 8 Robert Gordon and flanker James Mather (2) accounting for a third of their team’s tries.
In the Marr College side, second-row Harry Murray and prop Scott Rodger showed up well in the forward pack, while behind the scrum Calum Inglis at stand-off distributed well and centre Nairn Calder made a telling second half break.
Stewart’s-Melville were quickly into their stride with a try by Aidan Cross from a set-move, and when the right wing took an inside pass it was try number two for the Inverleith side. Thereafter in the first half, Russell, Gordon, Mather and Bruce McNulty ran in tries for a 38-0 interval lead.
Gordon bagged a second try at the beginning of the second half and when Townsend ghosted through for his side’s eighth try it was 50-0. A third try for Cross, and Russell’s seventh conversion completed the scoring.
Stewart’s-Melville College: J Thompson; B McNulty, A Boyle, M Russell, A Cross; C Townsend, F Campbell; M Jones, D Hood, K Davidson, A Robertson, D Gray, J Mather, L McGrigor, R Gordon Replacements M Dennis, C Affleck, M Robertson, R Chisholm, J Burns, D King, A Morris.
Marr College: D Craig; L Cotter, N Calder, S Toner, K Davidson; C Inglis, S Grassom; L Morrison, B Nicholl, S Rodger, C Mackenzie, H Murray, J Affleck, T Miller, K McCann Replacements A Blyth, G Murray, J Dunsmuir, S Stirton, S Smith.
Referee: N Muir
Stewart’s-Melville College: Tries: Cross 3, Gordon , McNulty, Townsend, Mather 2, Russell; Cons: Russell 7.
Marr: No scorers
Scoring Sequence (Stewart’s-Melville first): 5-0; 10-0; 12-0; 17-0; 19-0; 24-0; 26-0; 31-0; 33-0; 38-0 (h-t) 43-0; 45-0; 50-0; 52-0; 57-0; 59-0.
Man-of-the-Match: Stewart’s-Melville centre Matt Russell, playing very much in the role of a second five eighth, was at the heart of his side’s attacking game and with a haul of seven conversions and a try he finished top scorer with 19 points
Talking point: Marr did well to reach the semi-final but the difference in the level of rugby they play compared to that of Stewart’s-Melville was plain to see. It is the old problem of state school versus private school. State school rugby is run largely by local clubs. The challenge for Murrayfield is to come up with a formula that raises the standard of club-supported state school rugby and finding a way of bringing the best under-18 clubs sides into the top schools conference might just be a good starting point.