BIG hitters Boroughmuir and Stirling County went head to head in the top tier of National League Conference U18 rugby at Meggetland, where the match ended in a narrow 17-14 win for the home side and confirmation that both clubs are showing form at the right time of the season.
“Overall it was a decent performance in difficult conditions but maybe we’re a bit disappointed with the chances we didn’t take and the number of penalties we gave away,” observed Scott Anderson, Boroughmuir’s head coach.
Muir’s tries came from back-rows Euan Smart and Liam McConnell, and scrum half Brodie Clark, with centre Greg Anderson kicking one conversion goal. Meanwhile, for County, prop Jay Richards and wing Ben Isgrove touched down, and there were conversions by full-back David Kyle and replacement Murray Johnson.
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“The defensive effort of the players against a very good Muir side, who’ve been scoring a lot of points, was absolutely superb, and with a lengthy injury list the leadership of some of the older players and the step-up of the younger players was fantastic,” suggested Stewart Milne, County’s director of youth rugby.
In the other top tier match played, tries from centre Carlos Aija, full-back Jake De Jager and flanker James Brown, all three converted by stand-off Craig Strachan, gave Mackie a 21-7 win over GHA at Stonehaven to give the North East club a flying start in their conference.
Meanwhile, Gala Wanderers demonstrated a steeliness in the race to secure the second qualifying place in the Scottish under-18 Cup quarter-finals by coming from behind to pip their close rivals Earlston HS/Melrose Wasps in a thrilling contest played in difficult conditions at the Battery Field in Melrose.
Wasps, playing attractive rugby even in the conditions, looked to be on course for victory after building up a 26-14 lead early in the second half with tries by prop Robbie Robinson, second-row Arran Kennedy, full-back Finn Douglas and stand-off Luke Townsend, who kicked three conversions, only for the young Maroons to score two second half tries through their dynamic hooker James Glendinning, adding to earlier touchdowns from second-rows Fraser Wilson and Jordan Corrie to tie the scores.
Then, in the final few minutes, Wanderers stand-off Russell Kerr added to his three conversions with two penalty kicks to secure a Gala victory by 32-26.
“The wind was a big factor in the first half when we trailed. But credit to the boys they stuck in and never folded,” said Gala’s coach, Tom Weir.
Opposite number Gerry Brett said: “Well done to Gala. But I’m very proud of our boys. They played some of our best rugby of the season and stayed very composed in really challenging circumstances”.
Gala’s win means that Wanderers move into second place, one point ahead of Wasps, in the Borders Semi Junior League from which only the top two will progress to the National under-18 Cup. Heading the competition is Hawick Youth, who made sure of their place in the National Cup quarter -inals with a 12-7 win against Kelso Quins, with tries from hooker Fergus Bell andwinger Finlay Douglas, plus one conversion by stand-off Owain Gray. For Kelso, Logan Edgar scored a try converted by Archie Barbour.
The victory over Kelso keeps Hawick Youth undefeated this season but the young Greens’ momentum will be on hold during the next fortnight as manager Paul McDonald explained: “Unfortunately we’ve got a couple of fallow weeks looming now due to fixture issues with Jed next week and Tynedale the week after, but hopefully we can get a friendly before we play Gala Wands on 27th November at Hawick.”
Elsewhere in the Borders, past Cup winners Selkirk YC achieved a notable 41-17 win over Carlisle Colts with tries from Finlay Mallen, Finlay Wheelans, Cameron Boak, Sam Mclymont, Lachlan Ferguson, Blake Cullen and Liam Forsyth, and three conversions by Cameron Easson.
In Inverness, there was a 26-24 result in the National Conference D match for visitors Perthshire against Highland, 19 of their points coming from scrum-half Ben Cameron with three tries and to conversions, Shire’s other touchdown scored by Bartek Kaminscy.
Meanwhile, in schools rugby, historians would have been quick to remind followers of the game at this level that the match between Merchiston Castle School and Edinburgh Academy is the longest running series of fixtures in world rugby.
In the event, Merchiston ran out winners by 25-3, with tries from Tom Currie (2), Oliver Dunlop, Joseph Farquhar and Amaan Raza. “We were pleased with our intent to play, particularly with the poor weather,” said Roddy Deans, the Merchiston coach. “In the second half we managed to control the territory and took our tries well after building pressure.”
For Academy, scrum half and captain Ross Cadzow kicked a penalty goal. “I know we only scored three points, but we have a very young team who are still learning about the game at U18 level and I couldn’t have been prouder of the effort and tenacity they showed against a very good Merchiston team,” ” reflected director of rugby, Chris Martin.
“It was an amazing occasion for a school match with a large and noisy crowd. What an experience it must have been for the boys involved. It was a real privilege to be involved in such a historic fixture and both sets of players played it in the right way.”
The win by Merchiston puts the Colinton school third in the under-18 table behind the two unbeaten sides, Dollar Academy and Stewart’s-Melville College. Dollar, who face Merchiston this coming Saturday, continued their successful run this season with a 45-5 win over Fettes College, with tries from scrum-half Evan Rennie, wing Aonaich Peden, flanker Sam Wallace, wing Lyle Hunter (2), centre Angus Hunter and back-row Bruce Shearer, five of them converted by Wilfie Timney.
In the other two East Conference A matches, Stewart’s-Melville made it four wins from four games with a 41-0 victory over George Heriot’s School, while George Watson’s College were 22-13 winners against Strathallan.
At the other end of the M8, Glasgow High School achieved their first win this season with a 36-32 victory against Kelvinside, but the much anticipated match between Hutchesons’ Grammar School and St Aloysius College was postponed until this week. The other postponement was the Marr College versus Glasgow Academy game which will now go ahead on 17th November.
Elsewhere in schools conference rugby, Queen Victoria School produced a 29-21 home win against Glenalmond College, Dundee High School were 59-17 victors over Howe of Fife/Bell Baxter HS,and Morrison’s Academy defeated St Leonards by 47-14.
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Great to see such a high standard of club rugby being played in the club conference leagues. Tight games and some great team and individual performances demonstrate that the standard of rugby is improving year on year.