Schools/Youth Rugby: Under-18 Cup Final line-ups confirmed

There was controversy at Hawick as hosts knocked out by yellow-card count-back rule

Stewart's Melville booked their place in the Scottish Schools Under-18 Cup Final with a win over George Watson's at Inverleith. Image: Ian Mair
Stewart's Melville booked their place in the Scottish Schools Under-18 Cup Final with a win over George Watson's at Inverleith. Image: Ian Mair

MERCHISTON CASTLE SCHOOL will face reigning champions Stewart’s-Melville College in the final of the Scottish Schools under-18  Cup while in the National Youth Boys Under-18 Cup, favourites Boroughmuir will take on West of Scotland. 

In difficult gale-force conditions at Colinton Merchiston defeated their close rivals Dollar Academy 15-5 with tries from Johnny Blair and Torin McGregor, plus a conversion and penalty goal by Matthew DeVilliers, against a Dollar side that did not give an inch, as the Merchiston coach, Roddy Deans, acknowledged.

“Huge credit to Dollar who threw everything at us and never gave up,” he said. “We were hanging on in defence at times, but displayed real grit and attitude to halt their free-flowing attack. I thought we managed the conditions well and capitalised on field position when we had the opportunities. We still have plenty to go away and work on.  We are also well aware of the challenge SMC will bring our way – another Edinburgh derby which will no doubt be a cracker of a match”.

Dollar coach, Don Caskie, conceded that the final scoreline reflected the game. “It was tough but fair result,” observed Caskie, whose side scored through centre Archie Kelly.

Merchiston Castle had to battle hard for their win over Dollar
Merchiston Castle had to battle hard for their win over Dollar

At Inverleith, Stewart’s-Melville College had to work hard to overcome a strong George Watson’s College team. The home side utilising the strong wind scored all their points in the first half to take a 10-0 interval lead with tries from centre Louis Le Sueur and second-row Robin Pratt.

“I felt our boys controlled the game and probably deserved to win but GWC were really gritty and fought hard at the breakdown,” reflected Stuart Edwards, the Stewart’s-Melville College head coach. “James Lewis [stand-off] controlled the game with his kicking from 10 and our forwards were outstanding at scrum and maul, and with their physicality in attack and defence. The wind was a huge factor which made it difficult for both teams to fire”

Watson’s scored their points three minutes from full-time with a try by centre Jamie Littlefield and the conversion from full-back Jack Brown. “Very close, a real game of two halves, with the wind a clear factor in both teams’ performance,” commented Mike Ker, the Watson’s coach. “On balance I think SMC deserved the win.  We weren’t accurate enough when in their 22, we also struggled to get any real pace on the ball in wide channels which is where our strength lies as the wind made passing at pace difficult.

“However, I was absolutely delighted with the defensive effort, not least from our back row, against a much larger and physically imposing SMC side who kept the ball really well in difficult conditions. We stuck in the whole way, and i’m really proud of the boys attitude throughout the day.”

There was a full stand at Inverleith for the Stewart's Melville versus George Watson's College Schools' Cup semi-final
There was a full stand at Inverleith for the Stewart’s Melville versus George Watson’s College Schools’ Cup semi-final. Image: Ian Mair

In the National Youth under-18 Cup Hawick Youth were left frustrated after drawing 17-17 with West of Scotland but then losing the semi final on a technicality. Cup rules deem that in the event of a draw the side with the least number of yellow cards is declared the winner and with Hawick having had a player sent to the bin for an innocuous offence it meant that they were out of the Cup.

West made their greater physicality count in blustery conditions that limited Hawick’s chances of playing their trademark free-flowing handling game. “I was really pleased the way the team started the game and put Hawick under pressure and we should have scored a couple more tries in first half plus we give them a try in first half and one second half from our own mistakes but a pleasing performance away from home,” said West coach Millan Browne.

The former Scotland A prop added: “I do feel for the Hawick boys as it’s a horrible way to go out: sport can be cruel sometimes. But they will come back stronger for it. We will go to the final as underdogs and will have to be at our best to compete with Boroughmuir”.

Hawick Youth manager, Paul McDonald, thought that his team had been sucked into a close contact game that in many ways is alien to their style of play. He said: “We were dragged into too many breakdowns and think we over committed at times. I know both teams had to play in the very windy conditions but West coped better than we did.

“However, it was still such a disappointing way to be knocked out of the cup on a yellow card especially as it wasn’t that kind of game. There has to be a better way to decide on the outcome of the game, especially at a semi-final stage, so maybe the SRU will reflect on that.”

“On reflection, there are still a lot of positives to take from the game, particularly in our work-rate without the ball. I suppose we do bow out of the cup undefeated: now we set our sights on winning the Border League and our tour to Wales at the end of next week to play at Glynneath. We wish West of Scotland all the best in the final against Boroughmuir.”

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There was no such controversy at Meggetland where Boroughmuir posted their best performance of the season in defeating Stirling County 38-0, their tries coming from centres Nick Adler (2) and Ben Somerville, wing Oz Canakaivata, hooker Jerry Blyth-Lafferty and prop Jamie Brooks, four of them converted by scrum-half Greg Anderson.

“I was really pleased with our overall performance and we controlled the game from the start,” said Scott Anderson, the Boroughmuir head coach. “We dominated the set-piece areas and that gave a great platform for our backs to play. The structure and game management was excellent and we have been working hard in those areas of late. We scored some really well structured tries and maybe even left a few tries out there, but I’m delighted for the boys in getting to the final again.”

Stirling’s director of youth rugby, Stewart Milne, said: “Boroughmuir were very physical and I was impressed by their 10 today who moved the ball well. We struggled a bit around the breakdown and weren’t quite able to contest there as we would have liked. We didn’t get our platform right and never really fired in attack as we can, certainly with any consistency. In saying all that I’m very proud of the effort and determination of our boys.”

Boroughmuir ran out comfortable winners against Stirling County in the Youth Cup. Image: Steve Langmead
Boroughmuir ran out comfortable winners against Stirling County in the Youth Cup. Image: Steve Langmead

The National Youth U18 Shield final will be between the two Borders rivals, Gala Wanderers and Melrose Wasps, who both registered substantial and almost identical scores in their respective semi-finals against Dumfries Saints and Whitecraigs. Wanderers ran in eight tries, including a brace by Gregor Collins for a 44-7 win, while for Wasps’ Robbie Robinson was also a double try scorer in the Melrose side’s 43-7 victory.

In the Schools Under-18 Shield, bad weather conditions forced the postponement of the Queen Victoria School versus Morrison’s Academy semi-final which will now be played this coming Saturday morning, on the same day as the Loretto versus Preston Lodge HS tie.

In the Girls Under-18 Cup quarter-finals, which is in fact two pools of four and five teams, only one game appears to have gone ahead this weekend, with Stirling County eating Edinburgh Harlequins 48-14.

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About Alan Lorimer 328 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.