Steep learning curve for Scotland Under-18s against English counterparts

Young Scots will benefit from bruising defeat as they build towards Six Nations Festival

Scotland Under-18
Image courtesy: Scottish Rugby

Scotland Under-18   0

England Under-18 64


AFTER performing well against Wales seven days earlier, Scotland Under-18s were given a reality check by a strong England Under-18 side made up of the cream of the Aviva Premiership academy system on Sunday.

The match was scheduled to be played at Bridgehaugh but a heavy covering of snow resulting from the Baltic conditions on Saturday night rendered the Stirling County pitch unplayable.

Initially, the match was announced as cancelled, but after hastily arranged discussions with Scottish Rugby’s events group the match was switched to the international pitch at BT Murrayfield.

In the event, England’s delight at playing on a first-class surface translated into a massive 64-0 victory for the visitors.

“The players were pretty excited when they found out they were playing at Murrayfield, it’s a big pitch and that suits the way we want to play,” said John Fletcher, the England Under-18 head coach.

But it was not all one-way traffic insisted Scotland under-18 head coach Iain Monaghan.

“We put in a spirited performance in the first half but we missed a couple of good opportunities in their 22-metre area,” he said. “We had a reasonable share of territory but when you’re playing against an England age-grade team you’re playing against some of the best young players in the world. England were very, very clinical. When you experience something new you tend to get scars.”

Of course, given the resources of English rugby at all levels and the strength of the Aviva Premiership academy system, there was always the likelihood of a mismatch and not for the first time in the history of this fixture the score-line reflected exactly that. “The pace of the game really stretched the boys,” conceded Monaghan.

For Scotland, this was still an important preparatory game ahead of the Six Nations Festival in South Wales starting at the end of March. The Scots fielded a side showing a number of changes from the team that played against Wales, giving the coaches a chance to assess player performances before they select the squad of 26 to travel to South Wales.

Monaghan indicated that there is the possibility of back rows Rory Darge and Conor Boyle being recalled from the Scotland Under-20 squad to play in the Six Nations Festival.

The young Scots will play three matches over eight days, their first game being against England, again, on 31st March; before completing an exacting schedule with matches against France on 4th April and Ireland on 8th April.

Teams – 

Scotland Under-18: R  McLean (Merchiston Castle School) CAPTAIN; F Sofolarin (Dulwich College / Harlequins), O Smith (Strathallan School), R McCallum (Loretto School), J Blain (Stewart’s Melville College); N Chamberlain (Bristol / SGS College), J Dobie (Merchiston Castle School);  A Maxwell (Brooksby Melton College / Leicester Tigers), S Clelland (Ayr), D Gamble (Merchiston Castle School / Kelso RFC), J Barker (Gosforth Academy), K Watt (Watsonians), J Hill (Sedbergh School / Sale), A Smeaton (Yorkshire Carnegie / Hymers College), C Brown (Keslon).

Replacements: E Kelman (Loretto School), M Wilson (Duns), T Jeffrey (Peebles), A Ferrie (Newton Stewart), G Wilson (Dumfries Saints), K Kay (Stowe School / Wasps), D Lancaster (Yorkshire Carnegie / Bishop Burton College), C Hudson (St Peter’s, York).

England Under-18: J Hodge (Newcastle Falcons/Sedbergh School); H Barlow (Harlequins /Cranleigh School), C Doherty (Sale Sharks/Kirkham Grammar School),  J Reeves (Gloucester Rugby/Hartpury College), J Morris (Gloucester Rugby/Hartpury College); M Vunipola (Saracens/Harrow School), S Maunder (Exeter Chiefs/Blundell’s School); B Rodd (Sale Sharks/Sedbergh School), S Ma’asi (Northampton Saints/St Josephs), C Ford (Sale Sharks/Sandbach School), G Martin (Leicester Tigers/Brooksby Melton College), W Montgomery (Newcastle Falcons/Kirkbie Kendal School, R Capstick (Exeter Chiefs/Exeter College), JJ Tonks (Gloucester Rugby/Hartpury College), R Tuima (Exeter Chiefs/Exeter College)

Replacements: A Barbeary (Wasps/Bloxham School), L Holsey (Worcester Warriors/Solihull School), J Bartlett (Gloucester Rugby), R Farrar (Newcastle Falcons/Sedbergh School), T Leatherbarrow (Sale Sharks/Kirkham Grammar School), B Boyland (Bristol Rugby/SGS College), T Curtis (Sale Sharks/Sedbergh School), W Simonds (Wasps /The Henley College)

Scorers –

Scotland: No Scorers

England: Tries: Reeves 2, Barlow, Doherty, Barbeary 3, Tuima, Boyland, Morris; Cons: Hodge 8.

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About Alan Lorimer 360 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.