ALAN LORIMER @ BT Murrayfield
STRATHALLAN came into the Scottish Schools’ Cup Under-18 Final as overwhelming favourites and in the event the school that has produced a string of professional players in recent seasons fully justified that tag, dominating their Perthshire neighbours Glenalmond to claim their first national title at this age level.
Strathallan play in the top tier conference whereas Glenalmond are in the second layer. Moreover, they had shown their Cup form with victories over last years’ winners Stewart’s-Melville and George Watson’s, the winners for four years on the trot before that, in the previous two rounds.
The difference in competitive intensity was apparent throughout the match. Strathallan were able to control both the set-piece and the contact areas through their physically stronger forwards, allowing their backs to run off a plethora of quality possession.
For their part, Glenalmond defended gamely for long periods but against a side containing a number of very promsing individual players their resistance could not be sustained.
Outstanding for Strathallan were wings Tom Clark and Finlay Laird, centre Angus Vipond, who was voted man-of-the-match, back-rows Alex Marsh and Yannick Sutcliffe, and second-row Cameron Henderson.
Glenalmond may have spent much of the game on the back foot but they didn’t ever lose their desire to probe their opponents whenever possible with the ball in hand, most notably through stand-off Rafe Houston and full-back Ben Morrison.
The Glenalmond pair combined excellently in the opening minutes with Houston cutting through the middle before throwing out a long pass to Morrison for a sensational opening score.
“We got a wee bit of a fright in the first minute,” conceded Strathallan captain Murphy Walker afterwards. “But we managed to get ourselves back together and get everybody focused, and eventually we started putting points on them.”
“There were some nice tries. It was a good day for the backs. The weather, however, changed at half time. We saw that it was wet and gusty so we changed our game-plan a bit and started battering up the middle with our forwards.”
“It’s massive for the school,” he added. “We’ve come short in semi-finals in previous years but we managed to get past that hurdle this year (against Conference champions Watson’s) and it will be good having a Cup sitting in the cabinet.”
After that sensational start by Glenalmond, the reply by Strathallan was instant, with a series of quick passes ending with full-back Calum McKeown racing over and Vipond converting. Then, after a series of close range attacks, second-row Struan Robertson surged over, and Vipond again added the extras.
Strathallan’s try scoring machine was now at full throttle, confirmed when they worked a move from a set scrum that gave left wing Laird a try in the right-hand corner. Vipond was faced with a difficult conversion but the centre is a Real Gone Kid and goaled from the touchline.
Glenalmond briefly hit back with a penalty goal by Morrison but Strathallan wasted little time reasserting themselves with a try by winger Tom Clark and then a close-range effort by Alex Marsh, once again converted by Vipond, to make it 33-8 at the break.
The second half had barely resumed when Laird came through midfield to score his side’s sixth try, Vipond again making it a seven pointer. Vipond then bagged his first try under the posts, giving himself with an easy conversion.
Thereafter, Strathallan, having made a number of changes, were less fluent but they did achieve one further breakthrough when Ollie Smith touched down for the final points of the game.
In the Under-18 Shield Final, Hutchesons’ Grammar defeated Kelvinside Academy 25-15; Lomond & Helensburgh were 42-29 victors over Marr College in the Plate Final; and Ross High ran up a 58-5 score-line against Linlithgow.
Glenalmond: B Morrison; T Roynon-Brown, B Porter, W Laird, M Kinge; R Houston, T Godfrey-Faussett; R Orr Ewing, F McCarthy, G Breese, J Houldsworth, A Fitzpatrick, T Porter, C Bullard, J Stodart. Subs: W Weir, J Morrison, J Denton, H Marlow, L Kinge, R Leader, W Arnot.
Strathallan: C McKeown, T Clark, O Smith, A Vipond, F Laird; R McCorkindale, A Brennan; H White, G Clunas, M Walker, S Robertson, C Henderson, L Webster, Y Sutcliffe, A Marsh. Subs: C Ramsay, E Murray-John, R Bayne, L Louden, J McCaig.
Glenalmond: Try: Morrison; Pen: Morrison.
Strathallan: Tries: McKeown, Robertson, Laird 2, Clark, Marsh, Vipond, Smith; Cons: Vipond 6
Scoring Sequence (Glenalmond first): 5-0, 5-5, 5-7, 5-12, 5-14, 5-19, 5-21, 8-21, 8-26, 8-31, 8-33 (h-t) 8-38, 8-40, 8-45, 8-47, 8-52.
Referee: I Kenny