BACK in December 2019, Stewart’s-Melville College celebrated their Scottish Schools under-18 Cup win at BT Murrayfield; 27 months on, after a Covid enforced absence of Cup rugby, Stew-Mel return to the international ground at Scottish Rugby’s headquarters to attempt a successful defence of their title against this season’s challengers, Merchiston Castle School [6.30pm kick-off on the international pitch at Murrayfield].
Having gone through their season unbeaten in both Conference and Cup rounds, Stewart’s-Melville go into the final with the not-always-wanted tag of favourites. The consensus is that there might be little difference between the two sides and certainly there is not much that can be extrapolated from their one and only meeting five months ago when Stewart’s-Melville came out on top with a 7-3 result in a close match at Colinton.
Stewart’s-Melville head coach, Stuart Edwards, reckons that was the game that gave his side the steel they needed to win the Conference. “It was a pivotal moment in our season,” reflected Edwards, who is fully aware of Merchiston’s weaponry. “Merchiston have a lot of threats across the pitch. We know that Tom Currie at number 8 is a very strong ball carrier and that Isaac Coates at stand-off can control a game.”
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A slight difficulty for both teams is that they have had few games since the turn of the year other than the quarters and semis in the Cup. Edwards, however, has kept his charges at top fitness level and moreover two of his squad have been training with Heriot’s Super6, of which Edwards is the attack coach.
As to the strengths in his team, the Stew-Mel head coach believes his forward pack is a potent force. “In the game last October we took them on up front,” he explained. “I don’t think we have any weaknesses in our pack.” And by any standards it is a formidable eight, led by the Dunbar product Elliot Young at hooker. Like Young, the 6ft 7ins second-row and former Royal High School player, Alfie Maitland, came to Stewart’s-Melville College at the start of S5 and at 120kg he is most definitely a huge asset to the team.
Behind the scrum, play will be organised by the talented James Lewis at stand-off but there is no shortage of skill elsewhere in the back division and especially on the wing where Finn Macfarlane, a useful soccer player, has pace in abundance.
Stewart’s-Melville reached the final by defeating Glenalmond away in the quarters by 41-7 and then in the semi-finals they held off a late challenge by George Watson’s College to take victory by 10-7. For their part, Merchiston ended the Glasgow challenge with a 31-0 away win to St Aloysius College before defeating Dollar Academy 15-5 in the penultimate round.
While Stewart’s-Melville will be defending their under-18 Cup title, Merchiston will be looking to build on the success achieved by their Cup-winning under-16 team in December 2019. “There are quite a few boys in the current under-18 team who won the under-16 Cup but there are a number who are still in Lower Sixth, like Tom Currie and Isaac Coates” explained Merchiston’s head coach, Roddy Deans, who feels that his side have yet to produce their best.
“They’ve not really hit their straps yet. We’re looking to peak at the right time. We played very well against Dollar in the semi-final but we’re hoping to be more clinical on the ball. We know that Stewart’s-Melville are very well coached, have a physical pack and kick well. They’re unbeaten so they’ll be very confident.
“In a way, losing to Stewart’s-Melville in October was a blessing in disguise. You learn more when you lose and it’s good to go through that experience. I think this will be a cracking final decided on small margins,” predicted Deans, who last tasted Cup success back in 2018, when Jamie Dobie collected the man-of-the-match award. It was also the springboard for current Edinburgh Rugby centre Matthew Currie, who will surely be at Murrayfield to support his younger brother, Tom.
As to what will happen out on the field, Deans is looking for his team to be adaptable. “We have the ability to play different styles; we’ll try to play with pace. We’re all excited about the final but it’s important the boys don’t get tense about it. What I’ve said to them is: ‘have fun and express yourselves.”
Stewart’s-Melville College: M Dunlap; R Henderson, L Le Sueur, B Roger, G Macfarlane; J Lewis, J Burns; A Symes, E Young, J Limb, R Pratt, A Maitland, C Burns, F Douglas, G Thomson. Subs E Waugh, C Harte, J Spencer, K McMillan, C Ross, J Gordon, I Johnston
Merchiston Castle School: B Riley; A Callaway, L McCarroll, L Ferguson, J Farquhar; I Coates, M de Villiers; A McGregor, J Sibbald, R Deans, O Palmer, J Blair, T McGregor, G Crawford, T Currie Subs M Gray, G Stephen, C Macdonald, M Brown, J Wight, A Raza, D McCall Smith.
PRIOR to the showcase event, the under-16 Cup final also being played in the main amphitheatre at Murrayfield [kick-off 4.15pm]. Dollar Academy will face George Watson’s College in the younger age Cup final, both schools having been not infrequent players on this stage.
Watson’s, having defeated Merchiston 45-12 in the first of the semi-finals, will be favourites to lift the title this season. But Dollar, who defeated East A Conference winners, Stewart’s-Melville, by 22-19 with a late score in their semi-Final played at The Oriam centre last Friday, showed that they have the mettle required for Cup matches.
Both the Shield matches are being played at the Dam Health Stadium, home of Edinburgh Rugby. At under-18 level Loretto take on Queen Victoria School [4.45pm kick-off], whose stand-off Aminio Bogidrau is of interest to the Scotland under-18 selectors. For Loretto, prop Ross Brown, who played for Edinburgh in the recent Junior 1872 Cup at The Greenyard, will be a bulwark for the Musselburgh school.
It should have been the same line-up for the under-16 Shield [2.30pm kick-off] final only for Loretto to have been disqualified after violating competition rules by fielding an ineligible player. In the event, North Berwick High School, who lost to Loretto in the semi-final have had the result reversed and will take their place in the final to provide regular state schools rugby with a presence on finals day.
Under-16 Schools Cup Final –
Dollar Academy: F Disborough; G McKie, J Morton, R Arbuckle, T Hunter; A Crockett, F Keatch; G Tachtatzis, K Pritchard, R Purvis, H Staples, B Smallwood, J Hulme, A Dayman, A Jaffrey-Smith Subs: J Ritchie, A Lumsden, M Ross, F Cadell, S MacKay, A Pettigrew.
George Watson’s College: F Ferguson; M Cingel, J Thomson, J Loukes, L White; A Cameron, E Walker; D Brown, M Connor, C O’Reilly, M Fyffe, A Moran, C Geddes, H Wood, F McIntosh Subs: E Stewart, C Balfour, N Reid, R Lynes, P Sneen, D Maguire, D McKinnon.
Under-16 Schools Shield Final –
North Berwick High School: F Mitchell; H Dunkinson, C McIntyre, J Hunter, T MacKay; F Ryan, L Sinclair; JJ Wallace, T Finlayson-McCarthy, A Waddell, P Angel, M Barbour, A MacAskill, C Perry, W Martin Subs: M Seaton, C Masson, H Green, J Perry, A Gray, L Felton, A Smith.
Queen Victoria School: A Paterson; J Halofaki, J Osie-Bonsu, S Qalo, L Lewis-Bannis; S Leweni, C Scott; D Evans, J Pearson, S Limbu, J Knock, W Kurisaru, J Ferrier, D Rae, H Vono Subs: J Douglas, L Louden, D Young ,S Golea, F Jones, J Thapa, E Sim.
Under-18 Schools Shield Final –
Queen Victoria School: M Draunidalo; J Thomas, A Caqusau, T Natiri, R Gurung; A Bogidrau, B Main; S Gurung, R Gurung, M Pratt, A Skinner, J Ruickbie, E Lee, S Gurung, A Horsburgh Subs R Cordiner, E Jones, M Gothard-Olver, C Brown, L Andrews, J Long.
Loretto School: J Hastie; C Arthur, H Kerr, H Thomas, J Ferguson; H Edwardson, H Bone; R Brown, F Duraj, S Seenan, A Lang, J Arnold, M Ballantyne, J Lindsay, J Davis-Edwards Subs: G Pearce, T Shanks, R Day.
Well done to both Stew Mel and Merchie making the final
I cannot understand why Stew Mel consistently reach the
highest level of school rugby year after year and yet the “FP“
are only National 2, albeit lying third this year .
Can somebody please explain ?
This article is clearly bias (towards Stewarts-Melville). The writing form is also dreadful.
Why not produce your own article and submit it for publication?
Tremendous to read someone complaining about the “writing form” immediately after writing “This article is clearly bias”.
You have to laugh don’t you?
Good luck to all and special congrats to QVS. The cup/shield system, as is now, without teams dropping in (once knocked out pre 1/4 finals) from higher conferences is probably fairer. Though due to school size / investment it means no chance of a cup run or shield run ever for about a 14+ schools.
Seeing Lorreto were DQ for an overage plater need to raise this anomaly – the curious case of Calum Norrie.
On SRU the U20 prop (former lock) has a July 2002 h.o.b. https://www.scottishrugby.org/teams/scotland-u20/callum-norrie
yet he represented Strathallan and Scotland at age grades that would preclude that – several times.
Cut off at school would have been Sep 1 and for national representation the following January 1.
One has to assume SRU have dob correct as would jeopardise international qualifications etc so then how did these prior appliances occur? Special allowance or mistaken dob on record via a parental “error”?
it matters as the player was always vastly bigger than all his peers and and as such on physical dominance alone was always selected. So the extra 6 – 18 month age advantage not really required and risked DQ for School or Representative side.
This is not the fault of the player but this is inconsistent and there must be some kind of explanation?
The SRU page of often very wrong regarding DoB, positions etc for the U20s, its a bit of a disgrace. This year they have most of the props the wrong way round in terms of loosehead and tightheads, plus they have backrow players Gordon and Brown listed as looseheads, as well as missing a number of players in the squad. So i wouldn’t take Norrie’s DoB at face value based on the information on that site.
I can confirm they have the dob very wrong on the SRU website. I’m his Mum…. Dob 02/01/2004 so actually an U18. Hope that clears that one up for yuh all.
Thanks for this comment, Mandy. Sorry that it reached the stage that you needed to get involved. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to monitor comments on this site 24/7 so some slip through the net. I’m glad the situation was clarified quickly.
Alas, it is unlikely be the last time Callum experiences this sort of stuff as he works his way through the ranks. It’s an unfortunate fact of Scottish rugby [modern life] that he will face uninformed stone chucking from time to time. However, having had the pleasure of chatting to him by Zoom after yesterday’s u20s team announcement, I am in no doubt that he will take this sort of external noise in his stride and keep his eye on the prize.
All the best,
I can supply his birth certificate that will clearly show no issues with any of the age-grade rugby that Callum played and no parental “error” as you suggest. Maybe a little fact checking wouldn’t go amiss before you start to make unfounded accusations against a player or his parents.
Think you need to check your facts before posting….
Callum Norrie only turned 18 in Jan of this year and is the youngest member of the U20 Squad.
There’s your explanation
The Curious Case of Callum Norrie
A laddie born on the 2nd January 2004. A wee bit of size on his side, who has worked tirelessly in the gym and with his coaches to move from Lock to Tight Head, and now helping anchor the scrum for the u20s. With 2 more 6 Nations in him…..
Only in Scotland do we want to put folk down