EDINBURGH ACADEMY confirmed their early season form with a thrilling 29-26 victory over Merchiston Castle School at Colinton in a Conference contest that honoured in no small way the long history of this match, recognised to be the world’s oldest continuous rugby fixture.
The visitors trailed 10-26 at one stage but fought back to secure an end-loaded win. Edinburgh Academy’s director of rugby, Chris Martin praised all participants in making the game such a spectacle, saying: “Result aside, it was a pleasure to watch such a competitive and highly skilled game of under-18 rugby in what were really difficult conditions. I’d like to see these sort of games more visible to a wider audience. The excitement towards the end was theatrical.
“I thought Merchiston were fantastic, particularly their half-backs who caused us a lot of problems with their speed of ball. I have huge respect for Roddy Deans and what he does for rugby in Scotland and I’m hoping we can contribute to the national player base with performances like that.
“I’m so proud of all of our players. We were down 12-0 and then 26-10 and found a way to come back and win with some excellent tries. This is a marker of how much we’re improving. Charlie Lamond was gladiatorial in his performance under huge pressure. He couldn’t have given any more and thoroughly deserved to come away as the first winning captain in twelve years”.
Skipper Lamond was one of Academy’s try scorers, the other touchdowns coming from Ollie Duncan, Toby Edwin, Thomas Whyte and Eddie Murray, with Whyte also kicking two conversion goals.
Merchiston’s coach Deans was equally fulsome in his appreciation of the quality of rugby on view. He said: “Another cracking advert for schoolboy rugby, full of skill, commitment and passion. We managed to work ourselves into a 26-10 lead, scoring some lovely tries. All credit to Edinburgh Academy who then took full control of the game to score three unanswered tries. We had a chance at the end, but it wasn’t to be”.
For Merchiston, Lorne Wright, Glen Crawford, Teo Thom and Euan Robertson scored tries, three of them converted by Isaac Coates.
Edinburgh Academy now sit joint top of the under-18 Boys Nations One Conference table alongside George Watson’s College, who are likewise unbeaten following their 26-12 win over Stewart’s-Melville College at Myreside, thanks to tries from No 8 Harrison Wood, wing Fergus Ferguson, centre Max Clark and full back Jack Brown, who also succeeded with three conversions.
Watson’s coach, Mike Ker, suggested that his side had reacted to a less than top display against Strathallan four days earlier, saying: “I’m pleased that we played well after a really poor performance midweek. The boys understood what needed to change and our mindset was vastly improved.
“Our attack was more fluid and coherent with a desire to try and play with width whilst in defence we managed to stifle an expansive SMC side who play with good pace on ball,” added Ker.
For Stewart’s-Melville College, centre Benjamin Roger scored both their tries but for the most part the Inverleith side were kept in check by Watson’s high tackle rate, as Hayden Lingard, the visitors’ coach, confirmed. “We were suffocated by a well organised GWC defence and couldn’t get our game going,” he said. “We lost the territory battle and made too many mistakes to threaten GWC. They deserved the hard earned victory”
In the other tier one schools conference game, Dollar Academy achieved their first result this season with a 17-3 home win over Fettes College.
In the top game in the West Conference, Hutcheson’s Grammar School finished winners over their close rivals, St Aloysius College, by 10-0 to move to pole position in the table. Scrum-half and captain Robbie Baird scored all of the Hutchesons’ points from a try and conversion and a penalty.
“We dominated territory in the first half but St Aloysius are a class outfit who were dangerous throughout,” said Hutchesons’ coach, Craig Sorbie. “I was really proud of my players who showed grit and perseverance, grinding out a narrow win.”
Meanwhile, in club rugby, Boroughmuir finished the first part of their National Conference campaign undefeated after achieving a 33-10 victory over West of Scotland at Burnbrae, to make it five wins from five rounds for the Meggetland side.
“Horrible conditions for both teams particularly in the first half meant it was pretty scrappy for most of the first 35,” observed Boroughmuir’s coach, Richard Lockhart. “West are a very good side who defended well and put us under pressure with some good phase attack. However our boys defended superbly, particularly on our own line and maintained discipline well”
He added: “What was really satisfying about this week’s performance was how we remained composed, retained the ball, built phases and worked hard all the way with two scores coming late on. It’s testimony to the effort the boys have put in at training and in their extra conditioning sessions”.
Muir scored five tries in all, two from Euan McGeoch and one apiece by Zak Griffiths, Cameron Potter and Ollie Blyth-Lafferty with conversions from Gavin Lockhart and Jamie McCrae.
For West, whose tries were scored by No 8 Yousuf Shaheen and centre Pat Spence, this was their first defeat in this season’s competition. “Today was a tough, tough game played in some difficult conditions. All credit to Boroughmuir who took their chances well to get scores at key moments in the game to help keep momentum on their side. Our lads did very well and we will use this experience to help us grow as a squad,” predicted Steven Meenagh, West’s head coach.
Sitting in third place in the under-18 Conference after five rounds are Stirling County, who, after reclaiming lost ground following a tentative start, inflicted a heavy 50-5 defeat on GHA at Braidholm. “Good win for us against a tenacious GHA,” declared Stewart Milne, County’s director of youth rugby. “It was a patchy performance on our part but we are seeing things coming together. We’re now looking forward to the conference split and having a go at the cup.”
Top scorer for Stirling was scrum-half Tom Nodes with a try and seven conversions, and there was a hat-trick for wing Scott Shedden.
Also finishing the first stage of the National Conference with an emphatic win was Mackie, who had a 45-24 victory over Ayr at Millbrae despite a slow start which Andrew Buchanan, Mackie’s head coach, ascribed to the lengthy journey from Stonehaven. “The long bus trip and playing against the wind meant we started slow,” he said. “The second half saw us dominate far more and play much better rugby. Ayr defended well but a combination of the wind behind us and some well executed backs moves allowed us the win.”
For Mackie, Hugo Freeman, Jake De Jager, Hunter Littlejohn. Leo Peerless, Archie Frame and Angus Foubister scored their side’s tries, all six converted by Rory Buchanan. Ayr’s points came from touchdowns by Callum Hamilton (2), Dan McKinlay and Cameron McGill. Two of Ayr’s four tries were converted by Jack Craig. “Although the score suggests otherwise the teams were evenly matched but numerous simple mistakes at crucial times cost us,” stated Ayr’s head coach Colin Duck.
In the Border Semi Junior League, Peebles continued their unbeaten run this season by defeating Kelso Quins 36-0 with a six try tally that included a hat-trick from Cammy Boak, and one each from James Thomson, Ewan Hunter and Aidan McDowell.
At Netherdale, Gala Wanderers produced a high-scoring performance against Duns that ended in a 68-5 victory after running in ten tries, nine of these converted by stand-off Ethan Wilson, who was praised by Gala’s team manager Mark Moncrieff for “an immaculate kicking display and control of the game”. Gala’s tries were scored by Rory Litster, Adam Robertson, Ritchie Mitchell (2), Nairn Moncrieff (2), Danny Allison, Ben Young, Omar Darwish and Doddie Turner.
Also running in a bundle of tries was Hawick Youth, who had touchdowns from full-back Ryan Wood, scrum-half Riley Muir, winger Owen Mackie, stand-off Owain Gray, centre Eli Hamilton, winger Lewis Crowford, hooker Fergus Bell and centre Rory Stanger (2) in their 53-0 win against Carlisle Colts.
At Jedburgh, Jed Thistle looked sharp in winning 41-7 against Tynedale, scoring tries by Mark Glen (3), Louie Reid, Aaron Weatherhead, Matthew Beaton and Matthew Palmer, Weatherhead kicking three conversions, all adding up to a performance that pleased coach, Michael Hershaw. “Our set piece is improving and starting to provide quality ball for our backs who scored all the tries and everybody in the squad is becoming more comfortable in their roles within the structures we are putting in place,” he said.
Meanwhile, Melrose Wasps came away from their trip to Alnwick with that winning feeling after defeating their hosts 31-17, from tries by Hamish Derrick (2), Jay Johnston, McKenzie Power and Logan Kerr, who also kicked three conversions. As well as being a Borders Semi Junior League encounter, this match doubles as the Norrie Rutherford Cup in recognition of a player who had had an association with both clubs.
Elsewhere, Dumfries made it five wins from five rounds with a 57-7 victory over Kilmarnock to top the West Conference table two points ahead of Biggar who were 33-10 victors over Dunfermline.
in the Caledonia Conference, Highland and Ellon are in the driving seat after respective wins over Gordonstoun and Perthshire last weekend.
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