BOROUGHMUIR remain undefeated in the inspire Boy’s National 1 Club u18 Conference but their supremacy in the league was seriously challenged last weekend by a West of Scotland side currently experiencing an upward performance trajectory.
At the end of a truly competitive match at Burnbrae, the two sides were tied on try count with three touchdowns apiece but ultimately it was Boroughmuir’s three conversions to West’s two that gave the visitors their 21-19 victory.
Muir’s head coach, Richie Lockhart, conceded that his side had been tested fully, saying: “Definitely our toughest game of the season against a very physical West side who defended really well for the entire game. The boys were hugely disappointed with their performance, despite the win, which is a good thing. There’s no complacency in the squad and there is a determination to tighten up on silly errors and soft penalties for next time.”
For Boroughmuir, Kyle McMillan, Fergus Jones and Ed McAree scored tries, all three of them converted by McMillan, while stand-off Christian Ward, flanker Callum Cairns and No 8 Elliot Weir accounted for the Burnbrae side’s trio of touchdowns.
West’s performance against Boroughmuir was helped by the presence of several returning players as Alan Louden, the backs and specialist skills coach, explained. “We’ve had a bad run of injuries lately so it was good to see some of those boys coming back in for some game time, particularly against Boroughmuir who’ve been the premier team at this level for a number of years,” he said.
“The game was a really good advert for under-18 club rugby – two sides going at each other for the full 70 minutes. It could’ve gone either way – we missed a penalty near the end of the game – but credit to Boroughmuir, they were physical in the carry and well-organised across the field. We’re looking forward to the coming weeks as our injured players begin to return to action, with a couple returning for this weekend’s quarter-final [Cup match against Peebles Colts].”
If West’s game against Boroughmuir was tight then the clash between GHA and Stirling County at Braidholm went the full way with the match ending in a 36-36 draw.
“It was probably a great game for the neutral fan,” suggested the Stirling coach, Stuart Imrie. “I’d imagine GHA are disappointed not to win having led 21-5 at half time. Then for us after coming back to lead 29-36 we left disappointed having conceded in the last play of the game.”
Stirling’s tries came from a brace each by Daniel Casserly and Robbie Truesdale, and single contributions from Alastair Banks and Layton Bryce, scrum-half Tom Nodes kicking three conversions.
GHA’s coach, Shane McElhinney, was pleased that his side had the better of the first half. He said: “After conceding an early try, we settled down and were able to put pressure on Stirling. We were able to keep the ball, go through a few phases and scored three good tries leading into half time.
“Stirling had a strong bench and came back hard at us in the second half putting us under more pressure, but we showed good fight and determination to get a converted score to level things up with the last play of the game.”
In the other top tier Conference game, Ayr/Wellington continued their recovery with a 40-19 win over Mackie with a six try performance, four of the touchdowns scored by Dan McKinlay. Ayr’s other tries came from Jamie McAughtrie and Euan Doak, the remainder of their points scored by Cole Graham with five conversions.
In National 2, Dumfries Saints defeated Ellon 45-5, Currie Chieftains won 41-12 against Highland and Biggar boosted their points bank with a 62-7 away victory over Perthshire.
Dumfries face a much stiffer test this Saturday when they play Currie Chieftains in the quarter-final of the u18 Cup. Boroughmuir, meanwhile, are at home to Gala Wanderers in their Cup game, while in the other two Cup games, Stirling and GHA play each other again and West take on last season’s runners-up, Peebles, at Burnbrae.
Peebles will go into the Cup quarters buoyed by their 41-14 result against Gala Wanderers in the Borders Semi Junior League, with a performance that earned praise from their coach, Njord Maciver. He said: “We were particularly pleased with the momentum that our forwards gave us with a combination of big carries and offloads. We were also much better disciplined at breakdowns which enabled us to recycle clean ball quickly.”
The try-scorers for Peebles were Cameron Grant, who had two touchdowns, Andy Duncan, Harris Stoker, Rory McHattie, Kell Maciver and Dylan Greens. Innes Cormack kicked three conversions.
For Gala Wanderers, this was not the result they wanted ahead of their Cup visit to Meggetland this coming weekend. Wanderers’ coach, Bruce Chalmers, admitted that his side were below their best, saying: “We were off the pace and always second best. We have a big week of training ahead to prepare for next weekend’s challenge in the Cup”. Gala Wanderers tries were scored by Kerr McConnell and Jamie Bell, Rory Wilson succeeding with one conversion.
Meanwhile Hawick Youth made a successful cross-border raid, defeating Carlisle Colts 57-19, despite trailing 10-12 at the break. “We scored to take the lead just two minutes into the second half which was to prove the turning point in the game. We were really pleased with our squad’s superior fitness levels and a hunger to keep the scoreboard turning right to the end of the match,” observed team manager Paul McDonald.
In all, Hawick scored nine tries that included hat-tricks from Filip Kubicki and Greig Cartner, single efforts from Riley Muir, Jardine Vevers and Luke Scott, and Cartner kicking six conversions.
Elsewhere in the BSJL, Jed Thistle with tries from Aaron Weatherhead, Matthew Beaton and Aidan McKechnie had a close 21-15 win over Selkirk YC.
After what seems an overlong gap, Schools Conference Rugby returned to the u18 programme last weekend, the star-billing of which was the historic meeting of Edinburgh Academy and Merchiston Castle School, a near continuous fixture that has been in existence for well over a century and a half.
In the event, Merchiston took the honours in the 2023 edition with a 22-17 win over Edinburgh Academy to keep them top of the u18 Conference table. The two schools, who met in the final of last season’s u18 Cup at Murrayfield, were closely matched as the Merchiston coach, Roddy Deans, acknowledged.
“Similar to last year, a very competitive and emotional contest between two proud schools,” he said. “Both teams tried to play in tricky conditions, the score changing hands numerous times. With the game locked at 17-17, we managed to capitalise on a line break and after some sustained goal line pressure, we scored in the dying moments”
Merchiston’s tries came from Teo Thom, Oliver Gordon, Myles McLaughlin and Isaac Foley with one conversion from Hamish MacArthur.
For Edinburgh Academy, Oliver Finlayson-Russell scored a brace of tries , the other touchdown coming from Jamie Calder. Munro Lawrie kicked one conversion, and coach, Chris Martin, believes that the game could have gone either way.
“There wasn’t much between the teams and it was another exciting match which went down to the wire,” he said. “Our boys are hurting. They played well enough to win but know they weren’t accurate enough in a couple of game areas, but we have to move on quickly as it’s Cup week and we’ve got a tough game this weekend.”
At Forgandenny, four penalty goals by Howie Offord gave Stewart’s-Melville College a 12-9 win over Strathallan. Stew-Mel’s coach, Hayden Lingard, admitted that in conditions that mitigated against fast open play, his side had to “grind out a hard fought win”.
“We controlled territory and applied our game plan well, albeit with a conservative approach,” he said. “Credit to Strathalan who defended their goal-line well and denied us of a couple try-scoring opportunities. In the end it was penalties that decided the game in the wet conditions”.
In the other National One Conference game played, Fettes College edged past Dollar Academy for a 22-17 victory. “It was great for the boys to get success,” said Fettes head coach Duncan Harrison. “We started confidently and were 12-0 up but Dollar hit back and led by one score only for us to clinch the game with a late try by Jayden Agyei, the other touchdowns coming from Rory Brogan with a brace and Jack Adams. Connor Steele kicked one conversion.”
For their part, Dollar had the handicap of having to play a postponed Conference game four days earlier when they just lost out to Edinburgh Academy by 37-35 at Newfield.
Down a tier in the West Conference, Strathendrick/Balfron High School ran St Columba’s close before losing 22-24, while Hutchesons’ Grammar School were 33-19 winners over Helensburgh/Lomond.
In the equivalent East/Caledonia Conference, a resurgent Dundee High School defeated Morrison’s Academy 24-3, North Berwick HS edged out Robert Gordon’s College in a 27-26 thriller, and Howe of Fife/Bell-Baxter HS achieved a 22-7 win over George Heriot’s School.
Howe of Fife will compete in the quarter finals of the Cup this weekend, when they take on Edinburgh Academy in Cupar. In the other Cup matches, George Watson’s College face Strathallan at Myreside, Stewart’s-Melville College clash with near neighbours Fettes College at Inverleith, and in another historic fixture the defending champions Merchiston play Loretto at Colinton.