GEORGE WATSON’S COLLEGE now command the top spot in the inspiresport National One Schools Conference under-18 table after achieving their fourth straight win of the competition with a 28-14 victory over hitherto undefeated Edinburgh Academy at Myreside.
In a much anticipated match, Watson’s, after being level at the break, pulled away in the second half to finish worthy winners at full-time. “This was a good win. The boys played well without hitting top gear so that was pleasing,” observed Watson’s coach, Mike Ker.
He added: “The holiday period clearly didn’t help cohesion and fitness. Our defence was solid again, against an Edinburgh Academy team which is very physical and powerful. We scored four excellent tries and that showed how dangerous we can be in attack when it clicks”.
But despite his side’s 100 per cent record in the Conference, Ker is guarding against any complacency setting in. He said: “It’s so competitive this year, I think any of the teams in our conference could beat each other on any given day. We are clearly pleased to be four from four but we know the challenges keep coming with Merchiston next weekend and then the cup looming in a few weeks”.
Watson’s tries were scored by flanker Henry Teall, winger Matthew Cingel (2) and centre Joshua Loukes, all four touchdowns converted by full-back Jack Brown, while for Edinburgh Academy Ollie Duncan and Charlie Lamond crossed for scores, both converted by Thomas Whyte.
Despite seeing his side lose, Edinburgh Academy’s coach, Chris Martin was enthused by the quality of the match, saying: “Another great game in which there was very little between the teams. I thought the defensive physicality from both teams was particularly impressive and both sets of players deserve huge credit for the commitment they played with.
“Ultimately, Watson’s deserved their win. With the scores at 14-14 just after half-time, we had a period of about 15 minutes where I thought we could have kicked on, but there were a couple of momentum changing moments that we were on the wrong side of and they’ll serve as good learning opportunities for us. Full credit to Watsons though. They have some x-factor players who got into the game at the right time and they defended well”.
After what has been a derth of matches in October because of mid term holidays, there is a positive plethora in the next few weeks as schools rugby attempts to make up for lost time. This weekend the top billing game will be Watson’s against Merchiston at Myreside.
Merchiston will come into Saturday’s clash having reached the final of their own Festival of Rugby in mid-October and this week having achieved a 50-7 win over Dollar Academy with an eight try performance. Scotland under-18 international Tom Currie celebrated his return to the side after injury with a try, the other touchdowns coming from Hamish MacArthur, Glen Crawford (2), Myles McLaughlin, Gordie Stephen, Ben Riley and Isaac Coates, the latter also kicking five conversions.
The other two top conference fixtures are at Inverleith where Stewart’s-Melville College take on Strathallan and at New Field where Edinburgh Academy face near neighbours Fettes College.
Below the top tier, West Conference leaders Hutchesons’ Grammar School maintained their excellent record this season with a 45-7 win over Glasgow Academy, while the second top side, St Aloysius College, were comfortable winners over Marr College with a 35-0 scoreline. In the East Conference, Dundee High School and George Heriot’s School drew 7-7 at Mayfield.
There was little activity, too, in the top tier of the Youth Conference last weekend. The only match that went ahead was at a wet Millbrae where Stirling County defeated Ayr/Wellington by 41-19 with tries from centre Stirling Haddow, No 8 Adam Elder, hooker Cameron Lawrence, centre Daniel Malcolm (3) and stand-off Baillie McGinley. Scrum half Tom Nodes kicked one conversion and Eoin O’Cinneide two.
“It was a bit of a mud bath in the end,” explained County’s director of youth rugby, Stewart Milne. “Given the conditions we were pleased we managed to play some good attacking rugby against a very physical Ayr team, one that forced us to make a lot of tackles in the game.”
Ayr’s coach, Colin Duck, while disappointed by the result, was nevertheless heartened by the way his players applied themselves.
“Another heavy loss for us but performance-wise we were actually pretty pleased overall, especially with the first half,” he said. “A very depleted squad (due to injury) and individual missed tackles cost us and result-wise it was disappointing, but our boys built on what we’ve been working on and are on the right track if they keep working as hard.”
Ayr’s tries were scored by Jake Shearer, Joe Mann and Yeadon Davie, with Lewis Duncan kicking two conversations
Unlike other competitions, the Borders Semi Junior League generally did not suffer too many interruptions during the holiday period. That said, the much anticipated clash between Peebles Colts and Morpeth was forced to be rescheduled because of the English half -term break.
One initiative that is doing much for the Borders Semi Junior League is Hawick Youth’s preference for Friday night fixtures at the Volunteer Park. These matches are becoming popular with players and supporters alike, the games attracting healthily large crowds. Last Friday, Selkirk YC had the privilege of playing in front of an enthusiastic and knowledgable crowd and according to their new mentor John Rutherford. the occasion inspired his charges to play some good rugby even if they could not match the power of the Hawick side, who finished winners by 38-7
The former Scotland and Lions stand-off, said: “The boys were very competitive against a much bigger side. The Selkirk YC front-row of Devan Oliver, Craig Cochrane and Shaun MacFarlane were especially impressive. But, really, all the boys put in a brave 70 minutes”.
“Finn Mallin, the stand-off, is growing into his new position,” added Rutherford, who might just know a thing or two about playing in the No 10 shirt. Mallin was among the Selkirk point scorers with the conversion of a try by Oliver McClymont.
But ultimately the night belonged to Hawick Youth, whose young squad is steadily recovering after a rebuilding phase at the start of the season. Hawick made a rapid start to the game to lead 26-0 after only 20 minutes but Selkirk’s spirited play then demanded trenchant tackling from the Hawick side.
“It was good to see our defence stood strong to hold them out in the first half,” noted Hawick’s team manager Paul McDonald. “In the second half, we emptied our ever growing bench including a couple of new additions up from Langholm, taking our squad up to 23 signed players which is great given we started the season with just 17.”
He added: “Whilst there is still much to work on, our coaches are pleased with the progress shown by this young squad again this week against a hungry and dogged opposition. It was also great to see some of the key positional changes we’ve made this season starting to really pay off.”
The try scorers for Hawick were winger Evan Tice, No8 Corbin Cumming, lock Damian Wargacki, stand-off Owain Gray and two from centre Eli Hamilton, four of them covered by Gray.
Hawick will again have a Friday night match this week when they face a Jed Thistle side who had a 14-13 win over Kelso Quins early last week, achieved by a touchline conversion from Aaron Weatherhead of Matthew Beaton’s try. Jed’s other try, also converted by Weatherhead, was scored by Kester Webster. For Quins, Harris Ross scored their only try converted by Angus Utterson, who also kicked two penalties.
Thistle, however, succumbed to Gala Wanderers four days later losing 18-6 at Netherdale.
Elsewhere, Melrose Wasps had a comfortable 46-0 home win over Carlisle Colts, much need after two untimely defeats, as their coach, Jerry Brett acknowledged. “After a disappointing couple of weeks the boys responded well with a hard fought win versus a committed Carlisle team,” he said. “The boys set themselves some defensive challenges so it was especially pleasing to see us not concede”.
Wasps ran in eight tries against the Cumbrian side, two from stand-off Matthew Gaston and one apiece by Ali Renton, Josh Wilson, Dylan Oliver, Robbie Gunn, Archie Anderson and Craig Sullivan.