by ALAN LORIMER @ Colinton
Merchiston Castle School 13
Stewart’s-Melville College 33
STEWART’S-MELVILLE completed the line-up for the Scottish Schools under-18 Cup final after defeating Merchiston Castle School at Colinton in the penultimate round. They will play Dollar Academy in the final on the international pitch at BT Murrayfield next Wednesday.
The large margin of victory was perhaps unexpected but fully reflected the second half dominance by Stewart’s-Melville, who played clever attacking rugby helped by impressive individual performances from winger Jack Blain and back-rows Connor Boyle and Callum Rowberry.
“I was delighted with the way the boys played their rugby in the second half and the amount of width they got in their game,” said the Stewart’s-Melville coach, Bryn Lockie. “We were down at half-time so it shows the character of this team that it hit back so effectively.”
In defeat Merchiston’s coach Roddy Deans was generous in his praise of the winners. He said : “It was a cracking game of rugby. Two very balanced sides. Stew-Mel have some real quality in their side. They played rugby in the right areas of the field and executed very well when they had their chances. They were clinical.”
Yet it was Merchiston who looked the likely winners early in the match as stand-off Ronan Dowds turned possession into points with a penalty goal. Then when centre Matt Davidson intercepted in his own half, a try seemed certain, only for Blain to track back and put in a vital tackle.
Merchiston, however, continued to exert pressure and extended their lead with a second penalty by Dowds before converting a try by full back Rufus McLean after blind side wing Hamish Scanlan had cut through midfield.
But that was to be the end of Merchiston’s points accumulation. Towards the end of the first half Stewart’s-Melville showed their strength as their powerful forwards repeatedly drove at their opponents line. Then from a tap penalty, the visitors went through the phases before the ball was spun wide for winger Jacob Lineen, son of the former Scotland centre Sean Lineen, to score in the corner, leaving his side trailing 5-13 at the break.
With their confidence raised, Stewart’s-Melville made a dynamic start to the second half and quickly registered more points with a try by centre Cameron Sykes. Stand-off Ross Thompson missed the conversion attempt but minutes later put over a penalty goal to level the scores.
A second try for Lineen from excellent movement of the ball, and the conversion by Thompson, put Stewart’s-Melville into the lead for the first time in the game and thereafter there was no way back for Merchiston. A second Thompson penalty and then a try by replacement Nathan Brown from a clever Blain kick was merely another turn of the screw, the damage completed as Brown struck again from a break by Blain to complete the scoring and seal a comprehensive win.
Merchiston : R McLean; L MacPherson, M Davidson, H Clarkson, H Scanlan; R Dowds, R Greenshields; C McKay, C Yuille, F Richardson, H Fisher, K Watt, C Pearce, T Thomas, A Hinton. Subs K McDonald-Rose, L Scullion, J Henderson, S Yuille, J Boyd, B Vessey, C Bell
Stewart’s-Melville: F Smith; J Blain, C Symes, R McPherson, J Lineen; R Thompson, C MacDonald; R O’Hara, E Kelman, T Petiau, F McIlwraith, C Murchison, B Dollery, C Boyle, C Rowberry Subs R Mountford-Smith, P Ritchie, F Fraser, A Douglas, N Brown, T Hughes
Merchiston: Try: McLean; Con: Dowds; Pens: Dowds 2.
Stewart’s-Melville: Tries: Lineen 2, Brown 2, Symes; Con: Thompson; Pens: Thompson 2.
Score sequence (Merchiston first): 3-0, 6-0, 11-0, 13-0, 13-5 (h-t) 13-10, 13-13, 13-18, 13-20, 13-23, 13-28, 13-33
Man-of-the-match: The Stewart’s-Melville wing Jack Blain was defensively strong in the first half and inspirational in attack after the break.
Talking point: Stewart’s-Melville have been the team of the season at under-18 level and deservedly booked the place in the Cup final with an all-round performance that will make them favourites to win the Murrayfield showcase final next Wednesday.
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