Schools/Youth rugby round-up: clubs book their place in National Cup semi-final

Boroughmuir, Stirling County, Peebles and West of Scotland all book their places in last four of U18 competition

Peebles booked their place in the last four of the U18 National Youth Cup with a big win over Mackie. Image: Peebles RFC
Peebles booked their place in the last four of the U18 National Youth Cup with a big win over Mackie. Image: Peebles RFC

TITLE holders, Boroughmuir, booked their place in the semi-final of the National Youth Under-18 Cup after securing victory over Gala Wanderers at Meggetland. But their  20-6 win was achieved only after the Edinburgh side managed to up their game in the second half against a Gala side that mounted a serious challenge to the defending champions. 

“Not our best performance particularly in the first half,” admitted Boroughmuir’s coach, Richie Lockhart, adding: “Gala were really aggressive in defence and worked incredibly hard all game so huge credit to them for their effort throughout. I think we just didn’t look after the ball well enough and our discipline wasn’t great – we were down to fourteen men twice – so that’ll be better next time.  We eventually started building a few phases and scored a couple of tries which settled us down. All in all, a bit of a classic hard fought cup tie which we’re glad and relieved to win.”

Boroughmuir’s tries were scored by Zak Griffiths, Brodie MacGruer and Gavin Lockhart, the latter also kicking a conversion and a penalty, while for Gala Wanderers, stand-off Ethan Wilson kicked two penalty goals.


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Gala Wanderers’ team manager Mark Moncrieff was understandably disappointed but not downhearted by the final score after his side had led 6-5 at the break.

“We were intent on putting in a good performance against last year’s cup winners and the young maroons did not disappoint,” he said. “We led at the break after an immense effort in defence against a strong Boroughmuir team, then succumbed to two quick-fire tries in the second half but Gala came away knowing that they left nothing out on the paddock and collectively gave their best performance of the season.”

Boroughmuir will face Stirling County at Meggetland in the semi-final scheduled to be played on Saturday 26th November. County reached the last four by defeating the West U18 Conference winners, Dumfries Saints, 24-18, at Park Farm in a tight game that went down to the wire.

“It was very close with eight minutes of play remaining but Stirling scored right at the death and that settled the game,” explained the Dumfries coach, Stuart Clanachan, whose team’s points came from two tries by stand-off Alex Brydon and two penalties and a conversion by scrum half Keir Patterson.

Stirling’s director of youth rugby, Stewart Milne, admitted that the Bridgehaugh side had been forced to work hard for the win.  He said: “It was a good result off the back of a poor performance on our part. We were put under pressure by Dumfries, who played some excellent rugby, but we didn’t play to our strengths and coaches and players alike recognised at the end of the match that we’ll have to step up significantly in the semi-final.”

For County, centre Dan Malcom scored a brace of tries, the other touch downs coming from Adam Elder and Ruari Fraser with a conversion each from Tom Nodes and Eoin O’Cinneide.

 

Defending champions Boroughmuir face Stirling County in the last four of the U18 National Youth Cup. Image courtesy: Boroughmuir RFC
Defending champions Boroughmuir face Stirling County in the last four of the U18 National Youth Cup. Image courtesy: Boroughmuir RFC

 

The other semi-final is between Peebles Colts and West of Scotland. Peebles were again in rampant form, winning 62-12 against a Mackie side that has experienced a dip in form. Over the piece Peebles ran in ten tries, four from Frey Maciver, a brace each from Ewan Hunter and Cammy Boak, and one each by Dylan Greens and James Hodgkiss, with Maciver converting six of his side’s touchdowns.

“A strong performance from the whole squad,” reflected the Peebles coach, Njord Maciver, adding: “The forwards made many of the tries by dominating their opponents at set-piece and phase play, and the backs finished off with pace and accuracy. A very pleasing win, but there will be more work to do for the semi final”.

Peebles team manager, Jamie Lawson, praised the efforts of the Colts side, saying: “I was delighted with the full team performance. The whole Peebles squad contributed to a great game of heads-up rugby with all the players wanting to ensure they put markers down for automatic team selection.”

Mackie’s head coach Andrew Buchanan acknowledged the quality play of the Borderers. “Peebles were a really well drilled and controlled team. They were well organised and were deserved winners and we wish them well. We gave away too many penalties and they never let us into the game,” he conceded. For Mackie, Jonny Cadden and Ruaridh McHardy scored tries and Rory Buchanan kicked one conversion.

In the fourth of the U18 quarter finals, last season’s Cup runners-up, West of Scotland, travelled to Inverness to face a resurgent Highland side. In the event West, who have had some impressive results this season, emerged winners by 34-19, after being held to a 12-12 draw at half time.

Highland’s head coach John Maclennan knew that his side had to step up against their Tier One opponents but in the end West’s experience of playing in a higher league proved the decisive factor. “It was a competitive match and our toughest test of the season so far.  I thought West just upped the tempo at the start of the second half, which gave them the edge and set them up for the win’,” said Maclennan, whose side scored tries though Bobby Russell, Lewis Hildrey and Lochlan Hodge, two of them converted by Fergus Riach.

West’s team manager David Taylor echoed Maclennan’s overview of the game, saying: “The boys put out a strong second half performance after a very tight first half. It was good to see some strong scrummaging and line-outs after a lot of work in training”.

For West, their tries were scored by wing Ewan Russell, flanker Emin Thaqi, centre Yousuf Shaheen, wing  Jaheem Thomas, hooker Angus Cameron and prop Adam Young. Stand-off Stewart Black kicked two conversions.

 

In the National U18 Shield, three Borders Clubs progressed to the semi-finals. Kelso Quins defeated Ellon 43-7 while Melrose Wasps had a walkover against GHA, who not for the first time this season were short of numbers. That was also the case for Jed Thistle, who conceded their tie against Ayr/Wellington.  If that added to little action then the Hawick Youth versus Biggar game provided compensatory thrills, with the young Greens eventually winning 34-32.

“It was a completely absorbing game of rugby and both teams had their chances to win. With Biggar eights points in front with five minutes to go, it looked like it was all over for Hawick but they dug deep and clinched victory with a late try which Owain Gray converted with the last kick of the game,” said Hawick’s team manager, Paul McDonald.

Hawick’s captain and hooker Fergus Bell scored a hat-trick of tries and there was one each by centre Owen Mackie and stand-off Gray, who also kicked three conversions and one penalty.

For Biggar, Ryan Whitefield, Connor Murray, Cameron Colquhoun, Isaac Cullen and Conor Davidson scored tries, one of them converted by Ander Harrison. “A bitterly disappointing end to a game that Biggar’s forwards dominated. Our attacking play in the open field delivered perhaps the try of our season. However, some crucial lapses of discipline in Hawick’s 22 let them off the hook and ultimately allowed them to snatch victory with the very last play of the game,” reflected Graeme Watson, Biggar’s U18 director.

Hawick will travel to Ayr for their semi-final while other semi is between Kelso Quins and Melrose Wasps.

Hawick also provideD a nail biter in the U16 Cup, beating Boroughmuir 22-21, and will now face Ellon, winners over Mackie by 29-12, in the last four. The other U16 Cup semi-final is between Dumfries Saints who edged out West of Scotland by 8-5 in the quarters with a try by Fraser Dodd and a penalty from Fergus McEwan, and GHA, who were decisive winners over Kelso Quins by 53-3.

 

Meanwhile in schools rugby, the National One U18 conference was concluded last week with Stewart’s-Melville College defeating Edinburgh Academy 17-10 at New Field and Merchiston Castle School achieving a 33-12 victory against Strathallan School at Forgandinny.

For Stewart’s-Melville Struan Daly, Jake McGlynn and Cammy Ross all scored tries and there was one conversion from stand-off Jamie Cain.  “This was a high pressure game in regards to determining final conference positions and the National Cup quarter final draw,” said the Stewart’s-Melville coach, Hayden Lingard, adding: “I was pleased how we handled the pressure after a slow start. We managed the game well and adapted well to the difficult conditions. Our defence in the second half was well organised to keep out a determined EA team”.

Edinburgh Academy, whose tries were scored by Cameron Welch and Toby Edwin, were in the game until half time as their coach, Chris Martin, confirmed.

“We started with some of the best rugby we’ve played this year and probably could have been a bit further ahead, but full credit to Stew Mel who scored a couple of very well taken tries to level things up,” he said. “The second half was incredibly tough playing into a very strong wind. Stew Mel played very smart rugby, kicking long, knowing we’d have to run the ball out such was the strength of the wind. I thought our ability to keep going until the end was brilliant in what was such a stop start second half, including a bizarre six minute period of scrum resets which I haven’t seen in a youth game before”.


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About Alan Lorimer 276 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.

8 Comments

  1. Aye, there are some school coaches who are clearly much more interested in coaching their club sides in the afternoon, for whom they are righty passionate – than the kids in the morning, that is clear.

    Coaching youth requires different skills; curiosity, patience and above all empathy.

    A really good school or club coach is worth between 5-20 points every match our club/school blend ones do that with great success half are coach qualified /PVG’d parents, half are teachers. A good model.

  2. I was delighted to see a notable number of State Schools doing well in the quarter finals of this years Schools Cup/Shield/Bowl. Marr U16’s beating Merchiston, Howe of Fife/Bell Baxter U16s beating Robert Gordon College, North Berwick High U16’s beating High School of Glasgow. It would be good for the media to perhaps change their focus from the usual top 6 Independent Schools and give these fine State Schools some much deserved air-time. It also demonstrates that State Schools can be competitive at the highest level (at U16) before the sixth form sports scholarship factor takes hold.

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    • It is not rocket science. If the teams put in the time and effort the results will come. It has very little to do with State Vs independent (as is very often implied); most of the the 100 independent schools in Scotland are no better than any other school or rugby club. The 10 or so independent school teams that do well on a regular basis have a focus on rugby, so not surprisingly they do well.
      It’s time we stopped with the State/independent nonsense and look at the reasons for the success and look to replicate that.
      It’s one of the reasons why I believe the development focus should absolutely be on clubs and NOT schools.
      There will be like minded kids, supportive and committed coaches, economies of scale (there are simply too many schools for Scotland’s junior rugby base).
      Scottish schools are not set up to adequately develop football teams never mind rugby.

      • Aye, there are some school coaches who are clearly much more interested in coaching their club sides in the afternoon, for whom they are righty passionate – than the kids in the morning, that is clear.

        Coaching youth requires different skills; curiosity, patience and above all empathy.

        A really good school or club coach is worth between 5-20 points every match our club/school blend ones do that with great success half are coach qualified /PVG’d parents, half are teachers. A good model.

  3. Yes between unfulfilled fixtures and shockingly biased (non SRU/Society) “refs” in cup games we will do well to keep youth in game.

  4. Incredibly worrying that teams in National QTR finals can’t get 15 players out. We aren’t talking about small remote clubs either.

    • In GHA’s case I imagine it’ll be related to losing players to schools- their U16s this year seem very strong and they won the U16 Cup last year as well.

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      • yes Walking W and as consequence St Al have no U16 at all and Hutcheson’s barely a side and GHA U16 have loads of players who don’t get a game so any given weekend there around 50 lads playing no rugby at all…, Slow hand clap everyone.

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