ALAN LORIMER @ Inverleith [on Sunday 26th February]
Scotland under-19s … 7
Scottish Students … 24
SCOTTISH STUDENTS gave a timely reminder of their too-often forgotten presence by defeating Scotland under-19 at Inverleith in a match that served as a reality check for the age-grade side ahead of their progress into the under-20 programme.
“We wanted to show to Scottish rugby that there are some quality players out there in the student game,” said Scottish Students head coach, David Ross.
Student rugby is often a neglected sector of the national game but against Scotland under-19 it had the opportunity to showcase its strength by playing an attractive and effective style to build what turned out to be an unassailable 24-0 lead at half time.
“We wanted to play a support-heavy and off-loading game and we felt that if we could get into the spaces we would would stretch them. The boys did just that in the first half,” stated Ross. “We tried to do that in the second half but the conditions were against us and the errors crept in.”
Outstanding for Scottish Students were second-rows Finlay Simpson and Theo Nwosu-Hope, both of whom ran and defended like three-quarters aside from their chore work in the middle of the scrum. Behind the scrum centres Morgan Ward and Toby Hall were effective in finding gaps in the Scotland under-19 defence and contributed to the Students’ first half haul of four tries.
Sadly this is the only representative fixture this season for Scottish Students but Ross is ambitious to see more such matches. “Hopefully we can expand next season into a bigger programme of matches,” he confirmed.
For Scotland under-19 this was a reality check. For those players who are selected to play for Scotland under-20 next season the experience of playing against Scottish Students will be a useful guide to the physicality of the next level, and above all of playing in the under-20 World Championship.
Scotland under-19 were forced into defensive mode for most of the first half against a Students side that attacked with pace, precision and not a little panache. But after making several changes they found their attacking rhythm to take the post interval honours.
Scrum-half Gary Munro, doing a second-half shift, impressed; as did his half-back partner Kyle Brunton. Among the forwards, replacement Shaun Gunn, orginally from Caithness, posted a strong performance.
Scottish Students made a dramatic start to the match with both of their industrious second-rows heavily involved. The move was triggered by Simpson and then converted into points by Fraser Christie’s charge and the intelligent support of try-scorer Nwosu-Hop. Stand-off Scott Docherty added the conversion.
The Students very nearly double their try tally two minutes later when wing Adam Greig cut clear. His pass fell to the feet of flanker Nick Stephen and the Edinburgh back-row was just beaten to the touch down.
The lively students maintained the momentum with a break by Ward but the under-19s defence was able to scramble back to douse the danger .
Then after pressure by the under-19s on their opponents’ line, Scottish Students broke away once more with both second-rows again involved in a territory-gaining attack. From five metres out, scrum-half Sam Bullock sniped before flanker Rob Lind got hands to the ball for his side’s second try, this time unconverted.
The try tally for the Students continued to increase when forward pressure on the under-19s’ line ended with winger Adam Greig slipping over in the corner. From the touchline Docherty judged to perfection in adding the extras.
The first half damage was completed with the Students’ fourth try of the match, scored by wing Robbie Kent from a powerful break by flanker Nick Stephen to give the University men a 24-0 interval lead.
Playing with the stiff breeze behind them and having made several changes to their side, Scotland under-19 looked livelier after then break, with much of their heightened intensity due to the introduction at scrum-half of Jed-Forest man Munro.
The game was forced into a temporary halt following an injury to one of the Students’ front-row but when it resumed it was Scotland under-19 who appeared to have profited from the break in proceedings as replacement Robbie Yourston ran a good line in carving out a route to the whitewash for his side’s first try, converted by Ben Appleson.
The under-19s were handed another scoring chance when a dropped passed allowed replacement wing Ben Enyon to hack the ball over the line, only for the Students cover to respond at lightening speed to emphasise their all-round skills in the final action of the match.
Scotland Under-19: B Appleson (Edinburgh Accies); K Rowe (Falkirk), J Hennessy (KCS Wimbledon/Harlequins), W Hunt (Preston Grasshoppers), L Trotter (Stirling County); K Brunton (Hawick), H Warr (Ayr); F Hobbis (Stewart’s-Melville), J Samuel (Cardiff Met Univ), F Richardson (Edinburgh Accies), D Roger (Edinburgh Accies), J Hodgson (Stewart’s-Melville), D Marek (Currie), A Hinton (Merchiston), H Henderson (Stirling County). Subs: B Clements (Jedburgh), S Gunn (Edinburgh Accies), J Ross (Northumbria University), Andrew Horne (Hawick), K Baretto (Glenalmond College), G Munro (Jed Forest), R Yourston (Jed Forest), B Enyon (Glasgow Hawks), J Paterson (Edinburgh Accies), P Anderson (Melrose).
Scottish Universities: J Price (Edinburgh); R Kent (Edinburgh), M Ward (Edinburgh), T Hall (St Andrews), A Greig (Aberdeen); S Docherty (St Andrews), S Bullock (Glasgow); L Archer (Strathclyde), J Spence (Glasgow), A Whittingham-Ingram (Glasgow), T Nwosu-Hope (Glasgow), F Simpson (Strathclyde), R Lind (St Andrews), N Stephen (Edinburgh), F Christie (Glasgow). Subs: C Simpson (Edinburgh), A Marawa (Aberdeen), A Squires (St Andrews), H Browne (Edinburgh), F Murphy (St Andrews), J Loomes (Strathclyde), R Walker (St Andrews).
Referee: I Kenny
Scotland Under-19: Try: Yourston; Con: Appleson.
Scottish Students: Tries: Nwosu-Hope, Lind, Greig, Kent; Cons: Docherty 2.
Scoring Sequence (Scotland Under-19 first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-17; 0-19; 0-24 (h-t) 5-24; 7-24,
Man-of-the-Match: Second-row Finlay Simpson showed why he was good enough to play for Hawick as a teenager. The big lock made a number of telling breaks and displayed good pace and ball skills.
Talking point: Playing against an older and physically more mature side was a necessary reality check for Scotland under-19, who will face this kind of muscle and strength when they become next season’s under-20 team.
Image courtesy: Scottish Rugby/SNS Group