BOROUGHMUIR’S hopes of being put through a tough test ahead of the defence of their u18 Youth Cup title on Sunday at Scottish Gas Murrayfield were frustrated after their final round Conference match with GHA was called off because of what is officially recorded as ‘insufficient players home’.
Not only did this personnel problem deny Boroughmuir a good preparatory work-out but GHA’s inability to field a team must raise more general concerns both at the Braidholm club and in the inner sanctum of Murrayfield. “Incredibly frustrating given the final is next Sunday” was the reaction of Boroughmuir’s head coach, Richie Lockhart.
“It would have been great to get a run out. No issue with the GHA coaches who are great guys, but it does beg the question why a club can win the u16 cup one year then not field a team at u18 the next season,” he added.
It is surely a matter that Murrayfield must internalise but in the absence of any official reaction Lockhart poses the concomitant question: “Is the conference structure right?” That, however is a debate for another, but not too distant, day.
Also missing the opportunity of a competitive dry/wet run was Boroughmuir’s opponent’s in Sunday’s Cup Final on the international pitch, Stirling County, whose game against Mackie at Stonehaven was cancelled because of a waterlogged pitch.
The only match in the final round of the tier one club conference that did go ahead was the clash between West of Scotland and the Shield U18 finalists, Ayr/Wellington, at Burnbrae. In the event, West, edged out of the Cup in the semi-final by Stirling County, came from behind to win 27-14.
West’s coach, Gavin McGreish, admitted: “We were very passive in the first half, and were stifled in attack by a strong Ayr defence, which left us going in at half time 5-14 down. In the second half we came out fighting with much better aggression and hunger for for ball”.
The Burnbrae side were helped hugely by the performance of their half-backs, as McGreish acknowledged, saying: “Euan Collin at nine and Christian Ward at ten, had fantastic second halves, the pairing working well to distribute the ball accurately and with pace to the wide channels, creating gaps in Ayr’s well drilled defence. Overall, that second half performance was a great way to finish off the first half of the season”.
West’s tries were scored by flanker Calum Cairns, full-back Rory Caldwell, hooker Alistair Padmanabhan, second-row Connal Haig and centre Aaron Bell.
Despite losing the second half, Ayr can take much out of this match from their performance before the interval. Head coach, Colin Duck, reasoned the turnaround in fortunes after half-time was due to several factors. “We felt comfortable and in control but a combination of West coming out stronger in the second half and us making a lot of changes at half-time to give all the boys game time before our Shield Final next week meant the picture changed in the second half,” he reasoned.
“While we feel we let this game go, we suffered no injuries and will go into the final next week at full strength” added, Duck, whose side’s tries were scored by Sandy Hay and Dan McKinley both converted by Cole Graham.
In the Shield u18 Final, Ayr will face Hawick Youth, who gave themselves a confidence boost last weekend with a 33-17 victory over Tynedale at the Volunteer Park. “It certainly was a good win as Tynedale are a much improved unit compared to last season,” observed Paul McDonald, the Hawick u18 team manager. “Importantly we got through the match without any injuries”.
In all, Hawick scored five tries, one each from Luke Scott, Mikey Swailes, Boyd Hughes, Riley Muir and Filip Kubicki, four of these converted by Greig Cartner.”
Elsewhere in the Borders Semi Junior League, Gala Wanderers, were 26-0 winners over Jed Thistle at Netherdale, with tries scored by Jamie Bell (2), Fraser Hume and Rowan Chalmers, two of these converted by Rory Wilson.
“It was a good all round performance in poor conditions” was coach Bruce Chalmers’ assessment. He continued “After a tough few weeks it was great to get a morale-boosting win in a fairly dominant fashion. Despite the weather we succeeded in playing some nice rugby and were solid defensively in keeping a feisty Jed Thistle team at bay” .
The top match in the BSJL between Peebles Colts and Kelso Quins was postponed because of weather related issues while at Alnwick the game between the Northumbria club and Melrose Wasps was abandoned minutes into the second half because of deteriorating conditions and concerns about player welfare.
Wasps’ coach, Nick Alston, explained: “I conceded the match shortly after half-time. The pitch was totally unplayable from the outset and we probably shouldn’t have played. Come half-time, my boys were dangerously cold and wet and I was seriously worried there was a heightened chance of injury and/or hypothermia. The boys were not in a good way. So I abandoned the match – which the referee agreed was the right call.”
Meanwhile, in the second tier National Club Conference, Dumfries Saints continued their unbeaten run with a convincing 47-14 win over Biggar at Hartree Mill to stay top of the u18 table ahead of Currie Chieftains, who made sure their journey up the A9 to Inverness was worthwhile after defeating Highland 34-19.
In schools rugby, Merchiston Castle finished their Conference season on a high with a 26-12 win over Strathallan at Colinton to draw level at the top of the league table with George Watson’s College, much to the satisfaction of head coach, Roddy Deans.
“We are delighted to finish the Conference with this manner of performance and very proud of the response after the semi-final loss,” he said. “We challenged the boys to deliver and they certainly did that. The conditions made for a very physical contest.
“I felt we took our chances well and our driving maul proved a strong weapon in the rain. Our game changers were Hamish Macarthur and Isaac Foley who both controlled the game tactically and used their rugby intelligence to get us into the right areas”.
Macarthur finished the game with an eleven points tally from a try and three conversions. The other Merchiston tries came from Ross Smart and Alistair Bamberry.
The other top tier Schools Conference game played last weekend resulted in a 32-31 win for Fettes College over Edinburgh Academy. “This was a very competitive game between two closely matched teams,” reflected the Fettes coach, Duncan Harrison.
“Academy kicked well and put us under a lot of pressure,” he added. “We were perhaps a bit too ambitious in trying to attack from wrong areas of the field but kept in the game and got some really good long range tries. This is a really good group of boys playing the game the way it should be played. I was delighted they got some success in the final game of what has been a strong season and a strong Conference.”
For Fettes, Rory Brogan finished with a hat-trick of tries and there was one each from Jayden Agyei, Dara Omotowa and Hugh Ross with one conversion by Jack Adams, while for Edinburgh Academy there were tries from Oliver Joyner, Jamie Riach, Sammy Ghiradello, Matthew Marshall and Oliver Finlayson-Russell, three of these converted by Munro Lawrie.
“That would have been a great game to watch as a neutral,” stated Chris Martin, the Edinburgh Academy coach. “I was delighted with how we played, particularly against a side who had the emotion of their final game motivating them.”
He added: “It was disappointing to lose after being 19-5 up, but Fettes did score a couple of crackers via an electric winger, so fair play to them. Our boys haven’t been up by more than a score in the first half yet, so this is more good experience for them as we move into the next phase of our season, building towards our away fixture against Millfield in March.
“We’re in a good place, and I hope to see a few of our players involved in Junior 1872 Cup and National Age Grade Rugby after Christmas. Overall, it’s been a good first half of our season, but we probably should have won two more games at 1st XV level,” suggested Martin.