HOWEVER severe the eviscerating effects of asynchronous half term holidays on the youth and schools rugby programme, there was minimal disruption in Scotland’s most southerly competition, the Borders Semi Junior League, which, in contrast to the void elsewhere, had a full card of fixtures last weekend.
That said, Alnwick had to concede their match with Hawick Youth, who claimed the points on offer and as such move up to third place in the Borders Semi Junior League table behind leaders Peebles Colts and second-placed Morpeth Colts.
Peebles Colts remain undefeated this season, their eight wins from eight rounds of the BSJL ensuring that they go through to the quarter finals of the National Cup. Last weekend they strode to a healthy away victory by 33-0 over a physical Tynedale side at Hexham, their skilful play generating five tries, two from Cammy Boak and one apiece by Dylan Greens, Andy Dawson and Liam Forsyth.
This weekend Peebles face a much stiffer task when they take on Morpeth Colts, whose powerful forwards have caused problems for their opponents this season. Morpeth, enjoying a good run, have lost just once this season, when they were defeated by Kelso Quins.
Last Saturday Morpeth showed their all-round strength when overwhelming Melrose Wasps to record their biggest home win this season. Wasps appear to have suffered from an erosion of confidence after their last two matches, as their coach Nick Alston acknowledged, saying: “Saturday was a massive disappointment. We ended up losing the game 64-12 versus a decent Morpeth team.
“Collectively we were miles off the pace and unrecognisable as a Melrose team. For some reason or another the guys have lost some confidence in recent weeks – I think because physically we have been dominated by both Peebles and Morpeth and so therefore we’re now operating within ourselves and allowing the opposition to stamp their mark on the game earlier than us.
“We need to pick ourselves up and regain some faith – we play Selkirk and Duns in coming weeks to decide on the league positions but it’s tightly contested between us, Kelso Quins, Gala Wands and Jed Thistle for that second spot and cup qualification,” warned Alston.
Wasps despite being physically dominated by Morpeth still managed to eke out two tries, both scored by Jay Johnston, one of which was converted by Matthew Gaston.
In the other cross-border match, Kelso Quins were much too strong for struggling Carlisle Colts, achieving an away win by 49-0. Knowing that Carlisle have been the whipping boys of the BSJL, Kelso took the opportunity to play some of the younger squad.
“They showed up well against a gutsy home team,” suggested Quins’ team manager Keith Green. Kelso’s tries came from Finlay MacLean, Mackenzie Shaw and Josh Sullivan before the break and in the second half from Ewan Graham, Archie Barbour, Harris Ross and Angus Utterson, the latter converting all seven touchdowns.
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This is proving to be a good season for Kelso Quins but whether they qualify for the National Cup quarters depends not only their results over the next two weeks against Jed Thistle, Duns and Gala Wanderers. “We shall definitely be in the Shield but will probably require Melrose to slip up if we are to qualify for the Cup alongside Peebles Colts,” opined Green.
At Netherdale, Gala Wanderers ran in four tries to defeat Selkirk Youth by 26-7 with touchdowns from Jon McLean, Aaron Mclaren, Luke Scott and Rory Lister, three of them converted by Ethan Wilson. Selkirk’s try was scored by Archie Morris and the conversion by Finn Mallin.
The remaining match between Duns Colts and Jed Thistle resulted in a 30-7 win for Jed, whose tries were scored by Robbie Duff (2), Matthew Palmer (2), Zander Mactaggart and Aaron Weatherhead. “Duns put up a really dogged fight but we retained the ball through multiple phases without losing shape, scoring some really well constructed tries. We’re learning not to overplay in our own half as well which is really pleasing,” observed Jed’s coach, Michael Harshaw.
Meanwhile schools conference rugby resumes this weekend when in the top tier Edinburgh Academy take on George Watson’s College. Both sides are undefeated in conference rugby this season with three wins from three rounds. Next Tuesday, Merchiston, comparatively fresh from finishing runners-up in their own National Festival, should be well primed to take on a Dollar Academy side that has not quite clicked this season.
In the East Schools Conference, Dundee High School entertain George Heriot’s School at Mayfield, while in the West Conference there is greater activity with Marr College facing St Aloysius College and table leaders Hutchesons’ Grammar School playing Glasgow Academy.
At club level, Ayr/Wellington who took part in the Merchiston Festival are at home to Stirling County while GHA sign off their conference programme by facing West of Scotland at Braidholm.
In the Caledonia Conference, travel will not be a problem for Dundee who play Perthshire, the other game in this section being Highland v Moray/Huntley.