WITH semi-finals in Cup, Shield, Plate and Bowl taking place this weekend for both clubs and schools, last Saturday was a chance for teams to sharpen themselves in preparation for what all will hope results in a trip to Murrayfield for finals day, on 17th December for the youth competitions and 6th December for the schools equivalents.
Defending Youth Cup u18 champions Boroughmuir took to the road for their Conference match against Mackie and in the event achieved a 15-12 win with a much-changed side. Boroughmuir’s head coach, Richie Lockhart, conceded that his side’s win was very much down to a number of less-experienced players stepping up. “A really tough game against Mackie,” he said. “Very slippy underfoot, fairly wet and at times windy conditions really affected handling for both sides. That said, all of the lads on the pitch worked hard for the whole match so huge credit to both squads.
“We made quite a few changes this week, and while some of our decision-making wasn’t great, our general work-rate and defensive effort was immense. Overall, we’re pleased with the performance, with some lads making selection decisions a lot harder – which is a nice problem to have,” suggested Lockhart.
For Boroughmuir, Reuben Black and Ollie Deane scored tries, the other points coming from a conversion by Murray Armstrong and a penalty by Gregor Hoole, while for the Stonehaven side there were tries from Fergus Robertson and Landen MacGregor.
Mackie’s ability to run Boroughmuir so close certainly pleased the Stonehaven side’s head coach, Ross Foubster. “I’m really proud of the lads, huge effort from start to finish … the teams very equally matched, but ultimately we fell one score short. However I’m really pleased with the performance and progress,” he reflected.
At Millbrae, Ayr/Wellington finished winners by 20-12 against Stirling County after scoring tries by Dan McKinlay and Euan Doak, plus two conversions and two penalties by Cole Graham, the latter’s kicking accuracy proving crucial to the home side’s win.
Ayr’s coach, Colin Duck, acknowledge that there was little in it between the two teams, saying: “It was a very close game with only five points in it until a penalty with the last kick of the game made it safe for us. On one view, it was a great game, very hard fought and could have gone either way and the boys had the desire, focus and work ethic to get through. On another view, we made a lot of naive mistakes so we need to play with a bit more maturity, especially in wet conditions, in the coming games.”
Stirling’s coach, Stuart Imrie, echoed the opinion of his Ayr counterpart. “It was a good contest that could have gone either way. Credit to Ayr and I thought their front five were impressive in the conditions. Really pleased with the effort my boys put in, it couldn’t be faulted,” he said. County scored tries through Robbie Truesdale and Callum Stanners. Tom Nodes kicked one conversion.
With an eye to the Cup semi-final, West of Scotland gave themselves a boost with a 41-21 win over GHA at Burnbrae. However, West’s coach, Gavin McGreish, was quick to point out that the final points difference did not do justice to GHA’s effort.
“The scoreline flattered West’s performance today, and wasn’t a true reflection on how close the game was,” he said. “West freshened up the squad with lads who hadn’t featured in the previous couple of games, making sure we had as many as possible fit and ready for selection for the semi-final next week. A few good performances from some will give selectors a lot to think about.
“The game never really got into a good flow, maybe due to the poor conditions, but when West attacked in the right areas of the pitch we could see some great rugby being played. West’s defence was lacking at times, and some quick, clever play from GHA took full advantage where West left gaps in the defence – something we’ll need to concentrate on this week”.
For West tries were scored by stand-off/centre Christian Ward who ended ip with a hat-trick of touchdowns, hooker Ali Padmanabhan, second-rows Ashton Young and Conall Haig, and full-back Aaron Bell.
In the second tier Conference, which at this stage has split into upper and lower sections, Currie Chieftains and Dumfries Saints continued to mine their current rich seam of form, Currie winning 56-17 against Biggar and Dumfries Saints achieving a 15-0 win over over Highland, a result that will do much for the south west club’s confidence ahead of their Cup game this weekend against Boroughmuir.
Meanwhile, in the Borders Semi Junior League, Kelso Quins continued their impressive form this season with a 38-28 victory over Gala Wanderers. “Very pleased with the win as Gala have been a bit of a bogey team for Quins in recent seasons,” said the Kelso team manager, Keith Green. “Our line-out and scrum functioned well in comparison to Gala and this allowed us to build up a 38-7 lead with 15 mins left. At that point a mixture of complacency and too many subs resulted in Gala scoring three converted tries which took a bit of gloss of an otherwise sound performance.”
Quins’ try scorers were Harry Grant, Jack Utterson, Fraser Murray, Lewis Malone and Murray Jackson, who also converted all the tries and added a penalty. Kelso Quins are one of the favourites to lift the Plate title this season but Green is playing down any sense of job already done. “There is cautious optimism for our semi with Biggar as we’re beginning to re-find our early season form and the return of a few key injured players is helping. However, having fallen at the semi final stage last year we’re not counting our chickens,” he warned.
As for Gala’s version of events, their coach, Bruce Chalmers, acknowledged that their late flurry of points was not all down to skilful play. “The scoreline probably flatters us a bit – we scored three converted tries in the last ten minutes. We lacked a bit of experience in key areas and at times, from our perspective, possibly were a bit naive against a Kelso Quins team who were certainly up for the game, aggressive and played, mostly, with more intensity. Positives for us is we never gave up, stayed in the fight and finished the game the stronger team,” he said.
The other important domestic match in the BSJL was at The Greenyards where Melrose Wasps succumbed to their perennial rivals Hawick Youth, losing 9-29. “The game was really won in the first half as we made nine changes in the second to give other boys some game time,” explained Paul McDonald, the Hawick Youth team manager.
“Try scorers for Hawick Youth were winger Jardine Vevers, centre Luke Scott, prop Connor Crawley and our social media sensation scrum-half Aaron Common with two. The extras were added by Greig Cartner with two conversions”.
For Melrose Wasps, whose try scorer was Caspar Denne, it was another difficult game for what is a young team already looking ahead to next season. Wasps’ coach Nick Alston suggested that his side’s defence had been somewhat porous, saying: “Hawick played well enough to merit the five tries to one victory. Having said that, we opened every door for them to waltz through and score five unanswered tries in the first half. I suppose we can be happy(ish) about winning the second half but, to be honest, it wasn’t pretty.”
Alston knows that picking up his side after yet another defeat will be difficult and doubly so knowing that they have to face Hawick again this week in the semi-final of the Shield. “I’m hoping for a big reaction in training this week to really put our best foot forward against Hawick,” he added.
Elsewhere in the BSJL, Jed Thistle did well to hold league leaders Morpeth to a seven points margin in their 24-31 defeat to the Northumbrian side. Meanwhile, Peebles Colts were too strong for Carlisle Colts, in their 34-7 away win and Selkirk YC triumphed 31-11 against Alnwick.
In schools rugby there were two top Conference games played last Saturday. Conference under-18 leaders Merchiston proved too strong for Fettes College to post a 33-18 away win in their final match of the competition with tries from Luca Mathieson, James Rutherford, Teo Thom, Hamish MacArthur, Myles McLaughlin and Callum Henderson.
For Fettes, Rory Brogan, Dara Omotowa and Kurush McLeod crossed for tries and there was a penalty goal by Connor Steele. Despite his side’s loss, Fettes coach, Duncan Harrison, was reasonably satisfied with the way his charges took the game to Merchiston. “Our speed in attack and movement of the ball really put a good Merchiston team under pressure,” he said.
Meanwhile,Stewart’s-Melville College finished winners away to Dollar Academy by 33-26, with tries from flanker Callum Robertson (2), hooker Dan Smith, wing Struan Daly and replacement James Page, with stand-off Howie Offord kicking four conversions.
“In tough conditions we traded scores with a physical Dollar team, before edging ahead in the last quarter. Our forward pack were excellent and came up with some big plays. It was pleasing to secure the Grant Mackenzie Cup for another year,” reflected the Stewart’s-Melville u18 coach Hayden Lingard.
- See the full Schools and Youth Cup/Shield/Plate and Shield draw by clicking HERE.