Stewart’s Melville 24
George Watson’s 14
DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield
SUPERIOR discipline and defence gave Stewart’s Melville a decisive edge as they overcame their great Edinburgh rivals George Watsons to claim their fifth Scottish Schools’ Cup title.
“We knew from minute one that it would be a forwards battle,” said victorious head coach Stuart Edwards afterwards. “Watson’s have a very straight-forward game-plan, they are going to batter you up-front, they are going to get penalties and then they are going to go to their maul. So, that’s something we looked at: forcing them to go beyond 10 phases.
“The first half was outstanding, the second half we spoke really clearly about exiting and how we were going to get out of their half, but we did everything we didn’t want to do – but in terms of our attitude, desire, defence, I couldn’t be any prouder of these boys. They are the best set of kids that I have ever worked with.
“It sounds cheesy, but we’ve got a motto: not to be outworked. Whether we get beat, we draw or we win, nobody works harder than us. We’re not really meant to be a defence-based side – I’m an attacking kind of guy – but we’ve managed to flip that so that the boys are excited about defending to get the ball back.
Stewart’s Melville took an early stranglehold of both possession and territory, and that was soon reflected on the scoreboard with second-row Dominic Gray and hooker Duncan Hood powering over after some impressive driving play, to make it 10-0 with 17 minutes gone.
Watson’s battled their way back into it, and although second-row Archie Watters couldn’t quite keep a grip of the ball as he burrowed for the line, they kept their foot on the gas and finally get their reward with Max Raitt claiming the try. Euan Maguire nailed the tricky conversion to make it a three-point game.
That seemed to stun Stewart’s Melville back into life and after a couple of promising line-breaks – including a bullocking run from loose-head Mike Jones – they re-established their lead when centre Matthew Russell scooted under the posts and then slotted the conversion himself.
It was end-to-end stuff at this point, and Watson’s spent the final few minutes of the half camped on the Stewart’s Melville line, but they couldn’t make it count. They did, however, draw first blood at the start of the second half when Conor Myles propelled himself over from close range and Maguire added the conversion.
For a while it looked like all the momentum was with Watsons but Stewart’s Melville once again weathered the storm and when tighthead prop Kayson Davidson powered in for his team’s fourth try with just over 15 minutes to go, and Russell sent home the touchline conversion, it felt definitive.
To their great credit, Watson’s battled hard to the very end, and they will perhaps feel hard-done-by that they did not get a penalty try when a driven line-out which was thundering towards the line at breakneck speed mysteriously went down. In the end, they couldn’t find a way back into the match.
“I thought Stew-Mel defence and discipline was outstanding,” said Watson’s head coach Ally Donaldson. “We had a lot of chances and they kept us out. To not get a penalty in the game for 55 minutes says a lot about them.”
Stewart’s-Melville: 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 T Marcus, C Affleck, M Robertson, R Chisholm, J Burns, D King, A Morris.
George Watson’s: D Brown; C Milligan, A Cousin, E Maguire, R Daley; R Stephen, B Young; C Myles, M Cantle, G Scougall, M Raitt, A Watters, T Holmes, C Hardie, E Henderson Replacements B Lynes, J Ryan, B Gale, L Musat, C Scullion, A Hastings, Z Neil.
Referee: Samuel O’Neill
Stewart’s Melville: Tries: Gray, Hood, Russell, Davidson; Cons: Russell 2.
George Watsons: Tries: Raitt, Myles; Con: Maguire 2
Scoring sequence (Stew-Mel first): 5-0; 10-0; 10-5; 10-7; 15-7; 17-7 (h-t) 17-12; 17-14; 22-14; 24-14.
Man-of-the-Match: Stewart’s Melville’s loose-head Mikey Jones had a big game in the tight and the loose, scoring the second try for good measure.
Talking point: Usually the West Stand at Murrayfield is a riot of noise with supporters of both schools determined to shout, roar, scream and chant their team on to victory, but the Stewart’s Melville ultras were strangely subdued – despite their team leading from the third minute until the last. Was there internal school ASBOs handed out at morning assembly?
U18 Schools Bowl Final: Hawick High /Jed Grammar 17-12 Hutchesons’ Grammar School
U18 Schools Plate Final: Gordonstoun School 5-26 Earlston High School
U18 Schools Shield Final : George Heriot’s School 10-26 Merchiston Castle School