IT will be an all Edinburgh set of semi-finals in the Scottish Schools u18 Cup with defending champions Merchiston Castle travelling to Inverleith for their tie with Stewart’s-Melville College and George Watson’s College at home to last season’s runners-up, Edinburgh Academy. And to add to the capital’s dominance, the same four schools make up the semi-finalists at u16 level and moreover replicate the u18 Cup draw.
Title holders Merchiston reached the last four with a 26-13 win over Loretto at Colinton from a performance that was very much about respect for the Musselburgh school’s displays this season. “Loretto’s results have been very impressive, so we knew it was going to be real contest” revealed Merchiston’s head coach, Roddy Deans.
He added: “They came out the blocks and executed their game plan very well, and fully deserved their 10-5 lead at half time. After the break we managed the game better and played in the right areas. This then allowed us to build pressure through our multi phase attack which resulted in three quality tries. Our senior group don’t panic when behind and keep finding different ways to win. Hopefully we can maintain this”.
Hamish MacArthur scored two of the Merchiston tries, the others coming from Lewis Kerr and Myles McLaughlin.
Loretto’s coach, Andrew Binikos, felt that his side had performed well, saying: “We played a good brand of rugby that gave us the lead at half time. A few errors in the second half put us on the back foot, eventually conceding points. However, we are a small school and extremely proud of our boys, who took pride in representing our school and being a showcase example for our community and the rest of the school.”
At Myresidem George Watson’s College had to work hard to prevent a late surge by Strathallan, after producing a whirlwind start to the game. Watson’s coach, Mike Ker, was happy with his side’s first half performance but less so with the display after the break.
“The boys have learnt a lot from the second half – they need to be more composed, to not always play at 100 mph and to control the game through field position. Although we practice these areas, they are young boys who are making their way in the game and need these experiences to grow both mentally and emotionally in games,” suggested Ker.
Watson’s did well to overcome being down to 14 late in the game. “We hung on during a 15 minute spell of constant pressure through sheer grit and heart and earned the victory the hard way, eventually getting some field position with three minutes to go and seeing it out.
“Strath are a strong team who really challenge you physically at contact time. Overall it was a close game that easily could have gone either way” added Ker, whose Watson’s team scored tries through No 8 Harrison Wood, hooker Michael Connor and wing Daniel Kelly, all three converted by stand-off Andrew Cameron.
Strathallan’s head coach, Andrew Douglas, was far from disheartened by the result. “The game was a great quarter-final with both sides playing some fantastic rugby,” he said. “Both sides played with width and accuracy in attack. We had our opportunity to take the win in the last few minutes of the game but the GWC defence was very good even when they were reduced to 14 players.”
At Inverleith, Stewart’s-Melville College were too strong for their near neighbours Fettes College, winning 34-5 with tries from wing Struan Daly (2), wing Joel Bennet, centre Ruaridh Cavin and replacement Conall Burns. Stand-off Howie Offord kicked three conversions and one penalty goal.
“Our lads played some good rugby in the first half, varying our attack well, and managed to take control of possession and territory against a good Fettes team that came to play” reflected the Stewart’s-Melville coach, Hayden Lingard. “Credit to Fettes for their ambition and style of play as the score line didn’t reflect their part in an entertaining match.”
Fettes coach, Duncan Harrison, admitted that his side never really challenged: “We didn’t really get our foot in the game. We made silly mistakes and it didn’t help that we lost our vice-captain in the warm-up. Credit to Stew-Mel; they capitalised on our mistakes and put us under pressure.” The Fettes points came from a try by Dara Omotowa.
In the fourth of the quarter finals, Edinburgh Academy had to use all their experience gained from playing in the top tier to defeat Howe of Fife/Bell-Baxter HS at Cupar by 24-12 , their tries scored by Ollie Finlayson-Russell, Matthew Marshall, Munro Lawrie and Ewan Simson, with two conversions from Lawrie.
Edinburgh Academy coach, Chris Martin, was returning to his roots having been as a member of the Howe of Fife/Bell-Baxter side which achieved the Schools and Youth Cup double back in 2007, but his focus this time was on his current charges, who duly delivered a win. “The boys put in a really disciplined performance away from home against a good Howe/Bell Baxter side,” he said. “I was really pleased with the cohesion we showed, particularly with some key players missing through illness.”
For Howe of Fife/Bell-Baxter HS, full-back Ruari Barr and scrum-half Ben Curtis scored tries and there was one conversion from centre Ross Maitland. Howe’s coach Gav Anderson was encouraged by what his side produced against a top tier Conference team, declaring: “The squad put in a fantastic effort against what was a relatively well drilled Edinburgh Academy team.
“We perhaps made a bit of a nervy start that allowed Edinburgh Academy to get a foothold in the first half. Our scrum was immense and we managed to use this as a platform to attack from. We got more into the game in the second half despite our line-out starting to misfire after making some personnel changes. Overall, I think the scoreline perhaps doesn’t reflect the closeness of the match,” stated Anderson.
In youth rugby, the u18 Cup semi-final draw has paired Boroughmuir with Dumfries Saints at Meggetland while West of Scotland will face Stirling County at Burnbrae.
Undoubtedly the top tie in the quarters was at Burnbrae where West just managed to outgun Peebles Colts with a 31-24 scoreline with tries from Cameron Louden (2), Ethan Reilly, Rory Caldwell and Callum Cairns.
“West took the lead but Peebles were close on our heels the whole game. They defended well, with aggressive line speed, and didn’t allow us to play our usual fast and wide game,” noted Gavin McGreish, the West coach, adding: “West held their nerve, showing real grit to finish the game with a well deserved win”.
Peebles coach, Njord Maciver, agreed that despite West’s forward strength, his side was in the game right up to the final whistle, saying: “We came close on Saturday, but ultimately made too many mistakes which they capitalised on fully. They are a good team with a big set of forwards, who played well. No complaints on our side; our boys kept in the game until the end”. For Peebles, Andy Duncan scored a hat-trick of tries and Dylan Greens one, with two of the touchdowns converted by Rory McHattie.
Meanwhile, at Meggetland, Boroughmuir showed why they could be on their way to a successful defence of their Cup title after overwhelming Gala Wanderers by 50-0. “The boys really hit top form in attack and ran in some excellent tries with good interplay and ball retention,” stated Richie Lockhart, the Boroughmuir coach. “Less positive was our discipline where we again leaked silly penalties and three yellows. At one point we were down to 13 men but managed to hold our width in defence really well.
“Gala handled the ball well and never stopped trying to play with some great release options and slick attacking rugby. However, I’m pleased with the way the boys held them out, which bodes well for future games.”
The try scorers for Boroughmuir were Fergus Jones, Scott McCann, Luke Whitaker, Hugo Stewart, Hayden Leitch and Kyle McMillan, with conversions Kyle McMillan and Gregor Hoole.
For Gala Wanderers’ coach, Bruce Chalmers, the result was a blow for a team that has performed reasonably well this season. “A disappointing result but no lack of effort particularly by our forwards,” he said. “We picked up a few injuries so had to reshuffle on the go a fair bit. Our defence in the wider channels let us down and we made it too easy for Boroughmuir’s strong running backs to score.”
Meanwhile, in the south west, Dumfries Saints emerged winners by 31-19 against Currie Chieftains in the quarter-final Cup tie between the only National 2 Conferences clubs to reach the last eight. Try scorers for Saints were Fraser Dodd, Joe Graham, Oliver Clanachan, Matthew Hind and Charlie Scott.
“A good result against a Currie side that never gave up. We attacked well and scored a few well worked tries. Currie came back into it in the second half but we showed good resilience to score another try to put the game to bed. A few areas to work on ahead of the Semi final,” was the summation by Euan Mack, the Dumfries Saints coach.
For Currie Chieftains there were tries from Cammy Gettenby and Jamie Morton (2) plus conversions from David Brydon and Ayden Dow in a display that showed the Malleny Park side have learnt from their recent league defeat by Dumfries, as their coach Neil Bruce recognised.
“We were pleased with a much improved performance from the squad compared to a fortnight ago when we visited Dumfries in the league fixture,” he said. “At 27-19 with five minutes to play we had an opportunity to make it a tight finish. However, Dumfries showed their quality by getting the try that put them out of sight”.
When it comes to Cup competitions, Stirling County always seem to figure in the later stages. In this season’s edition, they faced a re-match with GHA at Bridgehaugh, the two sides having met seven days previously in a Conference game.
In the even,t County made sure of their place in the last four with a 60-12 win against GHA scoring tries by Alasdair Banks (4), Mickey Kesson (2), Andrew Lawrence, Layton Bryce, Ross McKay and Baillie McGinlay, with conversions by Tom Nodes (3) and Eoin O’Cinneide (2)
“I was really pleased with our concentration in defence, especially first half against a spirited GHA team,” commented Stuart Imrie, the Stirling County coach. “We worked really hard in training and the boys have been really focused. It’s a squad game and again all 22 player made positive impacts on the game. We know what we need to work on but the squad is excited for the next game.”
The result and County’s margin of victory was not what GHA had hoped for after a recent close game between the two sides. Coach Shane McElhinney reflected: “Stirling started strongly and got an early try, but we showed a bit of resolve and got back into the game scoring two tries in the first half, trailing 19-12 at the break. The second half was much more one-sided with Stirling recognising our weaknesses and having the ability to exploit these. We couldn’t match their pace or power and we fell away as the half progressed.”
For GHA full back Bobby Currie and centre Mathew Murphy scored tries and there was one conversion from Ben MacDougall.
Schools’ Cup draws –
- U18 National Schools Cup
- SF1: George Watson’s College v The Edinburgh Academy
- SF2: Stewart’s Melville College v Merchiston Castle School
- U16 National Schools Cup
- SF1: Stewart’s Melville College v Merchiston Castle School
- SF2: George Watson’s College v The Edinburgh Academy
- U18 National Schools Shield
- SF1: St. Aloysius’ College v High School of Dundee
- SF2: Dollar Academy v Kelvinside Academy
- U16 National Schools Shield
- SF1: Hutchesons’ Grammar School v North Berwick or Strathallan
- SF2: Fettes College v The High School of Glasgow
- U18 National Schools Plate
- SF1: St Columbas’ School v Balfron HS/Strathendrick
- SF2: Gordonstoun School v Queen Victoria School
- U16 National Schools Plate
- SF1: Dunbar Grammar School v St Columba’s School
- SF2: Lomond & Helensburgh v Lathallan Schools
- U18 National Schools Bowl
- SF1: Dalkeith Rugby v Hills Rugby
- SF2: Musselburgh Youth Rugby v Oban High School
- U16 National Schools Bowl
- SF1: Queen Victoria School v Oban High School
- SF2: Lenzie Academy v Gordonstoun School
National Youth Cup draws –
- Boys U18 National Youth Cup
- SF1: Boroughmuir v Dumfries Saints
- SF2: West of Scotland v Stirling County
- Boys U18 National Youth Shield
- SF1: Earlston HS/Melrose Wasps v Hawick Youth
- SF2: Ayr/Wellington v Highland
- Boys U18 National Youth Plate
- SF1: Biggar v Kelso Harlequins
- SF2: Selkirk Youth v Jed-Thistle
- U18 National Youth Bowl
- SF1: Dalziel v Kirkcaldy
- SF2: Hamilton/Strathaven v Whitecraigs
- U16 National Youth Cup
- SF1: Currie Chieftains v Peebles
- SF2: Ayr/Wellington v Hawick Youth
- U16 National Youth Shield
- SF1: Gala Red Triangle v Boroughmuir
- SF2: Highland v GHA
- U16 National Youth Plate
- SF1: Jed-Thistle v Winner of Orkney v Whitecraigs (19/11)
- SF2: Deeside v Dundee
- U16 National Youth Bowl
- SF1: Falkirk v East Kilbride/Strathaven
- SF2: Aberdeen Wanderers v Kelso