South District Union reprises representative team for Border Park clash

Team selected from players who competed in the Border Junior League this year will play at Riverside Park tonight

James Delaney and Fin Douglas are two of seven Hawick representatives in the South District Union team to take on a Border Park Invitational XV at Riverside Park tonight. Image: Malcolm Grant
James Delaney and Fin Douglas are two of seven Hawick representatives in the South District Union team to take on a Border Park Invitational XV at Riverside Park tonight. Image: Malcolm Grant

A SOUTH DISTRICT UNION development team, made up of players who have competed in the recently reprised Border Junior League [BJL] and the Border Junior Cup this season, will take on a Border Park Invitational XV at Riverside Park in Jedburgh this [Friday] evening, as the latest step in a strategy to reinvigorate grassroots adult male rugby in the region.

South District Union matches were a regular feature of the Borders rugby landscape during the pre-professional era, but fell away when the structure shifted towards the ‘junior’ XVs in the bigger rugby playing towns operating in the national league set-up.

Ahead of the current season, the Border League announced that it was going to facilitate a shift back towards the traditional BJL structure in the belief that the convenience of less travel, the flexibility to organise mid-week games and the buzz of more local derbies could reverse the trend of declining player numbers.


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“We managed to get both a Border Junior League and a Border Junior League Cup completed,” explained Iain Heard, a ‘weel-kent’ local referee, who chaired the steering group which has organised this game. “Although admittedly there were more games not played than we would have liked, the level of rugby and crowds were in general very good.

“At the start of the season a working group was set up comprising one rep from each club and myself from the Referee Society wh0, as the neutral agreed to chair the group, for the first season. Our aim was to get two competitions played which we achieved and to start looking into the possibility of a select side to mirror the old SDU team.

“We realistically expected this to happen in season 2024-25 but thanks to a lot of hard work we have managed to get a fixture against a side playing under the banner of Border Park RFC, who many people will remember played a lot of games in the Borders in the 1990s. They folded but a group got them back together and restarted the club back up in 2016, playing occasional games as basically an invitational side. Their initial squad has players from Tynedale, Langholm, Jed, Newcastle University, Ashington, Alnwick and a few others.

“We have appointed coaches Callum Anderson and Nick Bevan from Melrose, with Kenny Colville of Hawick and Dave Howieson from Kelso as team managers. They all watched games during the BJL Cup and we invited 35 players to a training session last Wednesday from which a match-day squad has been selected.

“There have been a number of negative comments about the Borders looking to ‘go their own way’ but we firmly believe that, at least at 2nd XV level, the lack of travel, Friday night games and good competition are a positive way of keeping people playing rugby and hopefully encouraging more back to the game,” Heard added.

“Our ultimate goal going forward is to resurrect the District Union games in the same way the IDC [playing against similar sides from Edinburgh, the Caledonia region and Glasgow & the West]. Ideally games being played as curtain raisers to the IDC games wherever they may be scheduled next season.”

As BJL table-toppers and BJL Cup winners, Hawick Force naturally have the biggest representation in the squad with seven players, including captain Murray Renwick and vice-captain Bailey Donaldson, but all seven of the clubs who have been involved in the two competitions have contributed to the match-day 23.

South District Union (versus Border Park Invitational XV at Riverside Park on Friday @ 7.45pm):  H Makowski (Melrose Storm); F Douglas (Hawick Force), J Delaney (Hawick Force), B Donaldson (Hawick Force), B Irvine (Jed-Forest A); R Kerr (Gala A), S Clark (Melrose Storm); R McFadzen (Selkirk A), F Bell (Hawick Force), A Kirk (Melrose Storm), M Renwick (Hawick Force), R Murray (Selkirk A), H Stenhouse (Jed-Forest A), H Donaldson (Hawick Force), J Coltman (Peebles Reds). Replacements: R Smith (Peebles Reds), H Derrick (Melrose Storm), L Copeland (Peebles Reds), D Main (Selkirk A), A Sweenie (Kelso Sharks), O Gray (Hawick Force), E Eyre (Gala A).

Border Park: T Helliwell (Ashington); T Glanville (Alnwick), J McNickle (Ashington), M Searle (Novocastrians), M McGregor (Newcastle University/Kelso); J Devereux (Tynedale), J Turnbull (Tynedale); J Williams (Border Park), A Hay (Percy Park), R Briggs (Jed-Forest), H Robson (Ponteland), J Crosby (Border Park), C Richards (Tynedale), J Richards (Tynedale), B Bell (Tynedale). Replacements: A Telfer (Border Park), P Scandle (Tynedale), D Batey (Border Park), J Duffy (Langholm), F Taylor (North Ribblesdale), R Grey (Border Park), J Dixon (Border Park), J Northwood (Border Park), J Appleton (Blaydon), J Clark (Tynedale), J Cotton (Northern), C Sinclair (Alnwick), M Anderson (Gosforth).

 


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About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

6 Comments

  1. Brilliant idea! All the Districts had junior Union sides and played each other just like the senior district sides.

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  2. This type of initiative should be applauded. Take responsibility and see it through.

    More of this in Scottish rugby please.

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  3. Well done the South. Looking to what other Districts are planning in developing local pathway initiatives.

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    • Excellent idea and something to bring more frequent fixtures throughout the season well done heardy!

      Only negative and I appreciate the small preparation window, but perhaps a bit stiffer opposition going forward rather than tonights opponents who are more of a social team (I can’t stress enough that this means no disrespect to border park).

      Great to see the SDU coming back and this can only be a good thing for reserves Rugby in the borders!

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  4. It’s not a case of the Borders going their own way it’s more a case of the Borders showing the way that all districts should follow to progress the game of rugby away from it’s present pathway of decline.
    Needs must as they say especially with the SRU continually neglectful of grassroots rugby.
    Good luck to the South boys at Riverside tonight !

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