George Watson’s College 26
Stewart’s Melville College 21
DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield
IT really could have gone either way. In the end a minor lapse in focus from Stewart’s Melville immediately after they went 21-19 ahead midway through the second half handed a Watson’s side which had been under the cosh for most of the previous 20 minutes a route back into the game, which they ruthlessly capitalised on.
“We’ve spoken a lot about going to dark places and digging deep when we are under the pump, so to be able to hold out and show that resilience was huge,” said victorious head coach Joe Reynolds. “We knew that set-piece, maul and their big ball carriers in the pack would be their strength, but the heart that the boys showed was unreal.
“The forwards were under the pump and it was a full pack effort to stand up and be counted, including the subs who came on,” he added. “I thought Danny Sutherland was unbelievable at blindside flanker, making hits and getting back off the ground to go again, Lewis King as well, and our captain Rueben Philp has got a head on him like he’s been an All Black for 10 years with the way he chats and holds the boys together.
“All eight as a unit [were] probably under-rated in terms of size but our big thing this year has been work-rate and fighting for your brothers and they showed that tonight.”
Behind the scrum, Oliver Beresford-Jones chipped in with two long-range tries which kept Watson’s in the game, while Angus Robson at stand-off has been earmarked as a player with serious potential.
“That man can run!” said Edwards, of Beresford-Jones. “We try to get the ball to him as early as we can to give him space, and he backs himself. He’s grown in confidence all year and he showed tonight that he’ll finish it off if the boys do the hard work to give him that chance.
“Angus has been massive for us this season with the way he holds himself, his game-management, his physicality and he’s got an unbelievable skill-set. He’d tell you himself that tonight was probably not his best game, but that’s because he holds himself to really high standards. Just his presence on the pitch gives confidence to the boys, and his leadership is brilliant.”
Wats0n’s raced into an early lead through a King try following a close-range tap penalty, with Robson adding the conversion, but Stewart’s Melville bounced right back when powerhouse second-row James Dalrymple pounced on a charged down clearance inside the opposition’s in-goal area, and Calum Jessop slotted the extras.
And Dalrymple thought he had scored again a few minutes later with a rampaging run down the right touchline only to discover the whistle had already gone for a squint line-out.
With Dalrymple, second-row partner Ciaran Geddes, open-side Ronan Tierney and No 8 Angus Abel leading the charge, Stewart’s Melville dominated most of the rest of the remainder of the first half, only to find themselves falling behind again just before the break when Watson’s attacked from their own half off the back of a retreating scrum, eventually getting the ball to Beresford-Jones on the right wing, who had the gas to run it home from 30-yards.
Stew-Mel started the second half in purposeful fashion, but nearly suffered a major setback when Callum Lee picked off Jessop’s adventurous cross-kick and found himself sprinting into 70-yards of open field, but the Watson’s winger didn’t get a chance to test his pace because play was called back for a maul penalty earlier in the passage of play.
From the kick to the corner, a clean line-out take created a maul from which Tierney piled over the try-line, with Jessop slotting a fine conversion from wide on the left to put his side ahead for the first time.
Now it was Watsons’ turn to bounce back, with some lovely hands featuring full-back Ewan Johnston and outside-centre Rory Dall giving Beresford-Jones another chance to showcase his impressive pace and power on his way to the line.
Stewart’s Melville returned to their line-out maul and when a 20-yard rumble collapsed in a heap, Philp was sent to the naughty step. Inevitably, the penalty was kicked to the corner to set up another driven assault for the Inverleith side, only for Tierney to be held up over the line on this occasion.
However , there was no escape at this stage for Watson’s, and after five more minutes of Stewart’s Melville pressure – which featured a couple more barnstorming carries from Dalrymple – the dam finally burst, with loose-head prop Robert Ferguson the beneficiary of yet another dominant maul.
Jessop then nailed the tough conversion with something to spare to give his team a slender two-point advantage with 15 minutes still to play.
But Watson’s were in no mood to lie-down and after working their way to within range to kick a penalty to the corner, they deployed a pick-and-go strategy to find their way over the try-line, with Brodie Wright providing the final thrust.
Stewart’s Melville mounted late charge for glory, but were held out by some heroic try-line defence, before Watson’s earned a jackal penalty which secured the win.
“I think there were a few wee moments – decisions that we didn’t quite get right – which swung things away from us,” reflected Stew-Mel coach Stuart Edwards. “When we went 19-21 up, if we had exited a bit better rather than try to play too much in our own half and getting turned over, then I think it probably would have gone the other way.
“It was too really well matched teams, and I’m just disappointed for the players because they prepared really well and generally did what we set out to do, but Watson’s probably had a little bit extra at key moments which we weren’t able to deal with.
“Fair play to Watsons, they are a good side – really good at 10 and 12 – and it’s 15-year-old boys playing on a big pitch on a big occasion, so wee moments really matter.”
Stewart’s Melville College: G Hamilton; J Penny, Z Mathieson, C Jessop, L Munro; J Healy, A Le Sueur; R Ferguson, C Cameron©, F McLean, C Geddes, J Dalrymple, C Edwards, R Tierney, A Abel. Replacements:G Rhodes, A Terrell, G Bailey, R Kretzschmar, C McCallum, H Welsh, O Forrest.
George Watson’s College: E Johnston; O Beresford-Jones, R Dall, L Anderson, C Lee; A Robson, H Charman; R Tait, B Kinghorn, A Loudon, A Loukes, T Dixon, D Sutherland, L King, R Philp©. Replacements: D Milligan, O Stones, B Wright, R White, M Finlay, G Simon, H Turner.
Referee: Fergus Hollins
Stewart’s Melville College: Tries: Dalrymple, Tierney, Ferguson; Con: Jessop 3.
George Watson’s College: Tries: King, Beresford-Jones 2, Wright; Con: Robson 3.
Scoring sequence (Stewart’s Melville first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 12-7 (h-t) 12-12; 12-14; 17-14; 19-14; 19-19; 19-21; 24-21; 26-21.
Yellow cards: Philp (49 mins)