Dollar Academy 5
Merchiston Castle School 41
ALAN LORIMER @ Murrayfield
MERCHISTON CASTLE SCHOOL powered past Dollar Academy to win the Scottish Schools’ Under-16 Cup on the international pitch at Murrayfield with a margin of victory which was more than most pundits had anticipated.
However unpalatable for the losing side, the simple fact was that Dollar came up against a Merchiston side that was physically stronger in most positions but most notably at No 8 where Rudi Brown, who has played most of his rugby this term at 1st XV level, was a constant threat both in try-scoring and try-creating.
Merchiston also had exceptional pace in winger and man-of-the-match, Amaan Raza, who, like Brown, finished with a brace of tries. The winning side was also well served by the kicking skills of scrum-half Matthew De Villiers, who converted all of Merchiston’s five tries in addition to succeeding with two penalty kicks for a sixteen points tally.
“This is a really strong set of boys. They’ve worked really hard for the last couple of years as a group. They’re very well coach by Stephen Douglas [email protected] @dollar_rugby @Scotlandteam , and they’ve really come on tactically as a team,” said Merchiston’s Director of Rugby, Roddy Deans. “We were disappointed that our 18s didn’t make it to the final this year. That was a blow for us. But these guys are a team coming through. There’s a real culture in the school where the boys just love their rugby.”
The size of the defeat was a psychological blow for Dollar, whose coach, Niall Gallagher articulated his players’ feelings. “They’re absolutely gutted because they know they can play a lot better,” he said. “They do feel disappointed in the way they performed.”
It was Merchiston who struck first, with a penalty goal byDe Villiers, the reward for non-stop pressure from the kick-off. Dollar , however, were showing gritty resistance and after fifteen minutes made their first incursion into the Merchiston half.
After winning a penalty, Dollar kicked to the corner and used the resultant possession intelligently to engineer a try in the corner for full-back Robert Disborough.
But before half-time, Merchiston hit back effectively as first their No 8 Brown proved unstoppable from five meters, and then Raza took an inside pass before sprinting clear, both tries converted by De Villiers for a 17-5 half time lead.
Merchiston quickly extended their advantage with a second try by Raza, again converted by De Villiers, from Brown’s pass, and then a close range effort by flanker Tom Currie, both converted by De Villiers.
The Merchiston scrum-half increased his contribution with a penalty goal and then the conversion of a second try for Brown, this time galloping in from 30 meters, to sign off a sizeable win.
Dollar Academy: R Disborough; A Peden, L Hunter, A Kelly, L Cheng; J McKillop, E Rennie; J Bery G Garcia, A Licence, R Walker, B Forshaw, C Sharpe, S Wallace, B Shearer Replacements G Lumsden, J Weir, Z Jones, T Smith, A Tilsey, J Walker, O Williams.
Merchiston Castle: D McCall Smith; A Coyne, L McCarroll, A Callaway, A Raza; F Connolly, M de Villiers; A Scanlan, J Sibbald, R Evans, G Crawford, F McLean, L Ferguson, T Currie, R Brown Replacements J Warner, M Gray, J Hay, E Hunter, M Brown, C Brown, G Tasoren.
Referee: G Stephen
Dollar Academy: Try: Disborough.
Merchiston Castle: Tries: Brown 2, Raza 2, Currie; Cons: De Villiers 5; Pens: De Villiers 2.
Scoring Sequence (Dollar first): 0-3; 5-3; 5-8; 5-10; 5-15; 5-17 (h-t) 5-22; 5-24; 5-29; 5-31; 5-34; 5-39; 5-41.
Man-of-the-Match: Merchiston winger Amaan Raza added sparkle to a contest that for much of the match was dominated by forward exchanges.
Talking point: Merchiston and other private schools have raised the bar in rugby at this age level. The challenge for Murrayfield is to achieve similar standards beyond the small group of high performing independent schools.
U16 Bowl Final: Morrisons Academy 17 – 24 Hawick High School
U16 Schools Plate: Queen Victoria School 44-0 The Royal High School
U16 Shield Final: Dunbar Grammar School 48-0 Hutchesons’ Grammar School