EDINBURGH ACADEMY and defending champions Merchiston Castle School will contest the final of the Boys National under-18 Schools Cup at Murrayfield next Wednesday. Meanwhile, in the Boys under-18 National Youth Cup, which will be played three days later on Saturday, 10th December, Peebles Colts will make a first ever appearance in the showcase final when they face the title holders, Boroughmuir.
In the schools competition the away teams came out top in the semi-finals, Edinburgh Academy defeating last season’s runners-up Stewart’s-Melville College at Inverleith, and Merchiston coming out top at Forgandenny in their semi against Strathallan.
The former Scotland international ground at Inverleith was certainly buzzing with excitement as Stewart’s-Melville faced Edinburgh Academy but in the event it was Academy who prevailed with a 26-19 win to book their place in the Murrayfield final after dominating in the early stages of the match.
“It was a great game on Saturday morning and I just loved being part of such an exciting occasion for both schools,” reflected Academy’s coach, Chris Martin.: “The noise from the stand was electric and that was due to how well both sets of players played, sharing seven tries in a brilliant match
“For us, it was as close to the perfect start to a game as we could have hoped for, scoring four times and not conceding. We knew Stew Mel would come back into it and they did, looking lethal whenever they got the ball, particularly towards the end of the second half. Our players have worked incredibly hard and I’ll be really excited to see them run out at Murrayfield next week,” added Martin, whose side’s tries came via two by Toby Edwin and one apiece from Angus Larkin and Thomas Whyte, the latter converting twice. Academy’s other conversion came from Munro Lawrie.
For Stewart’s-Melville, their strong finish almost produced a draw but it was not to be. “Conceding 26 unanswered points in the first half left us with too much work to do,” admitted the Stew-Mel coach, Hayden Lingard. “We clawed our way back into the match and had a chance to draw the game at the final whistle, but ultimately we were too inaccurate when it mattered, and full credit to Edinburgh Accies for their performance.”
Stew-Mel’s tries came from wing Hamish Limb, full-back Cammy Ross and hooker Dan Smith, two of them converted by stand-off Jamie Cain.
At Forgandenny, Merchiston, after scoring three tries with no reply, had to defend trenchantly against a resurgent Strathallan but in the end the Perthshire school could not score the all important third try leaving Merchiston winners by 19-14 result. Afterwards Merchiston’s coach Roddy Deans admitted that their semi final had required his side to show character in the later stages of the match.
“Strathallan is never any easy place to go and credit to them for coming back into the game,” he said. “We were leading 19-0 and then Strathallan came alive. Again, we had to dig deep and we are proud of the boys for weathering the storm. This was a real squad effort, however, we must credit Tom Currie for his strong performance He’s a real leader for us and it’s great to see him hitting some form after a long injury lay off.”
Currie, the younger brother of the Edinburgh centre Matthew, scored a hat-trick of tries, two of them converted by stand-off Isaac Coates. For Strathallan, Archie Rankin began their fightback with a try under the posts, the other touchdown coming from Carlos Aija one minute from full time.
Despite losing out to Merchiston, Strath’s coach, Nick Hill, praised his team for their ability to hit back. He said: “Our boys’ efforts and commitment to keep going to the very end has been a great trait of this team throughout this season. The players should be proud of their performance and were a credit to our school by never giving in. We were pipped at the post by a very good Merchiston team.”
If the schools Cup competition presented a familiar cast then the Youth Cup semi finals was all about the new boys on the block, and in the event Peebles Colts showed why they deserve to be in the final after achieving a 33-5 win over last season’s runners-up, West of Scotland.
Articulating the thought’s of the Borders club, team manager Jamie Lawson said: “We’re absolutely delighted with the win and the opportunity for a very talented Peebles Colts team to play in the National Cup Final at Murrayfield for the first time in our history. We’re hoping that there will be a big travelling support to cheer the lads on. It is a huge honour and testament to all the effort that the club, players, coaches and volunteers have put in to develop a vibranT, strong and healthy youth section over the last number of years.”
Peebles’ tries were scored by hooker Ruaridh Smith (2), second-row Callum MacRoberts, wing Louis Whyte and replacement Dylan Greens, four of them converted by stand-off Ross Wolfenden. while West No 8 Pat Spence scored his side’s points with a try.
West of Scotland’s coach Steve Meenagh recognised that his side was up against a talented Peebles team, saying: “They’re a very good squad. It’s always tough losing in a semi-final. However, I am proud of the boys’ journey so far and the steps we have taken. Some better discipline would have certainly allowed us to build more pressure! But congratulations to Peebles who played very well.”
In the second of the under-18 Club semi-finals, defending champions Boroughmuir faced familiar adversaries in Stirling County. The result followed the pattern of this season’s National Conference with Boroughmuir achieving a substantial 40-14 win at Meggetland.
Muir’s coach, Richie Lockhart, suggested his side’s win was down to a strong opening quarter. “We had a great start to the game with strong carries, support and handling getting us off the mark well and into a 21-0 lead. We lost a wee bit of control and let our discipline slip with a few silly penalties that gave Stirling territory and, as per the rest of the game, they worked hard to get a well deserved score in the first half.
“Our defence was excellent and we managed to turn ball over and then build phases to score some great individual and continuity based tries throughout the match. Some areas to work on for the final but we know what they are and we’re looking forward to a big test against Peebles.”
Boroughmuir’s tries were scored by Ben Malcolm, Ollie Blyth-Lafferty, Euan McGeoch, Lewis Veitch, Alex Grohmann and Cameron Potter, with four conversions from Gavin Lockhart and one from Jamie McCrae.
Meanwhile in the under-18 Shield semi-finals, Melrose Wasps squeezed out their Border rivals Kelso Quins with a 12-5 win and as a result will face Ayr/Wellington in the final, the Millbrae side having defeated an out-of-form Hawick Youth team 33-3 at Millbrae.
Wasps’ points came from tries by Andrew Kirk and Rory Anderson, and one conversion by Matthew Gaston.For Kelso Quins Aaron Ford scored a try.
Jerry Brett, the Wasps coach admitted it was a narrow win, saying: “Saturday was a close run thing with Kelso battering away at our line in the final few minutes. Whilst we weren’t very happy with how we played, the boys’ belief is growing each week after some recent hard fought encounters.”
For Ayr Wellington, flanker Callum Hamilton scored a hat-trick of tries, the other touchdowns coming from fellow back-row Joe Mann and tight-head prop Jake Shearer, with Jack Craig converting four. Ayr coach
Colin Duck commented: “The boys have worked hard all season despite some bad results, so it was nice for it to come together on Saturday for large parts of the game and they earned the win. Lots to work on so they’ll keep focused for the next two weeks and give it a crack in the final.”