Boroughmuir Bears 31
Future XV 19
GARY HEATLY @ Meggetland
BOROUGHMUIR BEARS ended their disappointing Super Series Championship campaign on a high and gave co-captain Craig Keddie a good send off with a bonus-point triumph over the Future XV.
The Futures led 19-10 at the interval under the Friday-night lights in the rearranged regular-season fixture, but the Bears overpowered them in the second period and scored 21 unanswered points.
It means that the Bears – who had not won since August before this – finish sixth in the table on 17 points after three victories and nine defeats.
Keddie, the back-rower, has been a great stalwart for Boroughmuir in the ‘old’ Premiership and the Bears in Super6/Series and this was his last game for the Edinburgh outfit.
For the Future XV, this was a 12th defeat from 12 in their inaugural Championship campaign and they finish bottom of the standings on three points – having had three points deducted just to really rub it in.
There is no doubt that the 70-plus young players they have used in the last few months have given their all, but regularly being on the end of reverses must have hit some of them hard and Scottish Rugby will need to take a look at this ‘project’ and where it goes next in the cold light of day.
“It was quite an entertaining end-of-season game and it was certainly a game of two halves,” Bears head coach Graham Shiel said. “The Futures were more urgent and more accurate in the first half, they took their chances and we didn’t.
“In the second half, especially in the first 20 minutes after the break, we were much more physical, we were much more accurate and we played at tempo and did what we wanted to do.
“I’m really pleased that we have managed to send Craig Keddie off with a win as that was a big focus for us because he has been a great servant to the Boroughmuir club and the Bears and he has been a great guy to work with.
“Overall, there is no getting away from the fact that it has been a frustrating season for us. We have shown some good things at times, but that’s been punctuated by inaccuracies and mistakes and at this level they get punished.”
Like last time out versus Watsonians, the Futures started brightly and kicked a penalty to touch after two minutes. However, the lineout did not go to plan in the Bears 22 and the chance was lost.
In the seventh minute their back-three players Kerr Johnston, Jack Hocking and Finn Douglas all had good breaks in Bears territory before a turnover. The Futures charged down the resultant clearance-kick attempt, though, and, a few phases later following a lineout, back-rower Freddy Douglas showed good strength to bat away a couple of defenders and score a try. Stand-off Matt Urwin converted and it was 7-0.
The Bears had not got into this one at all yet and it took a strong run from hooker Corey Tait in the 15th minute to warm up the home support for the first time on a cold evening. Sadly, for their team, the ball was lost forward during the next phase of play and the momentum was stunted.
Not for too long though and, in the 19th minute, second-row Kieran Westlake went over from short range for a try after a tap penalty and some quick hands. Stand-off Andy McLean’s conversion hit the upright and it was 7-5.
That score brought much more zip to the Bears’ play and they were testing the Futures, but a combination of good defence and inaccuracy in attack meant that by 10 minutes later the score remained the same.
In the 33rd minute it was the Futures who extended their lead. They had been in the Bears 22 and won a couple of penalties and when they disposed of pick and goes and went for wide play, a long, looping pass aiming for Johnston on the right touchline was swatted down by Bears full-back Euan Muirhead. Referee Finlay Brown clearly felt the youngster had deliberately killed the ball because he awarded a penalty try and yellow-carded him too.
With 14 men the Bears fought back three minutes later. From a lineout drive on the stand side Tait went over for an unconverted effort to make it 14-10.
Ashton Asante, the Kelso man, then came on for a Future XV debut in the front-row in place of Ollie Blyth-Lafferty and they scored next. No 8 Ollie Duncan showed good footwork and strength to go over for an unconverted score and it was 19-10 to them at the break.
Munroe Job, the Selkirk product now at the Southern Knights, came on for a Futures debut at the start of the second half, but it was Boroughmuir who scored first. With Muirhead back on and up to 15 players again, Tait ran a good line to go over for his second try with McLean converting to make it 19-17 after 45 minutes.
Four minutes later things got worse for the Futures when their skipper Finlay Burgess was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on when the ball was being shipped wide. Almost straight away the Bears’ bonus-point fourth try came from back-row Scott McGinley and McLean’s conversion made it 24-19.
With 15 minutes to go the Bears scored their fifth try to kill things off. Tait fed co-captain Scott Robeson and he ran a hard angle to dive over with McLean converting for 31-19. Either side of that score Doddie Weir’s son Ben had come on for a Futures debut, but sadly it only lasted four minutes as he appeared to suffer an arm injury and was forced off.
The game fizzled out in the last few minutes and afterwards Future XV co-coach Scott Forrest said: “It’s another frustrating result for us. In the first half we put a big emphasis on our kicking game and playing in the right areas, because we knew that if we did that and got deep into their half then we’d find our flow and at times we did.
“We executed things that we had spoken about before the game well in that period, but ultimately what has killed us is our own discipline.
“In our last game I think we gave away five penalties over the whole 80 minutes, but here we gave away five in the first 30 minutes and that ill-discipline continued when the Bears were on the front foot in the second half. When you give away regular penalties it is hard to stay in games and after half-time we were always on the back foot and up against it.”
Boroughmuir Bears: E Muirhead; M Cullen, R Kerr, S Robeson© (A Thom 69), C Ramm; A McLean (G Paul 69), J Beveridge (B Clark 72); C McFeat Smith (C McGregor 72), C Tait (Z Griffiths 76), M McGinley (L Alessandri 66), J Fisher, K Westlake, C Keddie©, S McGinley (A Allen 58), T Andrews.
Future XV: J Hocking; K Johnston, J Ventisei (F Watson 63), K Yule, Finn Douglas (A Caqusau 57); M Urwin, F Burgess©; R Deans, J Blyth-Lafferty, O Blyth-Lafferty (A Asante 36, C Norrie 57), R Burke, R Hart, C Nolan (M Job 41), Freddy Douglas (M Brogan 57), O Duncan (B Weir 63, J Shearer 67).
Referee: Finlay Brown
Boroughmuir Bears: Tries: Westlake, Tait 2, S McGinley, Robeson. Cons: McLean 3.
Future XV: Tries: Freddy Douglas, penalty try, Duncan. Con: Urwin.
Scoring sequence (Boroughmuir Bears first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 5-14; 10-14; 10-19 (h-t) 15-19; 17-19, 22-19; 24-19, 29-19; 31-19.
Yellow cards –
Boroughmuir Bears: Muirhead (32 mins)
Future XV: Burgess (49 mins)
Player-of-the-Match: For the Future XV, Freddy Douglas and Ollie Duncan carried well and Kerr Johnston had his moments, but given the way the Bears came back it has to be one of their players who takes the award. Co-captains Craig Keddie and Scott Robeson were consistent, but Corey Tait was excellent all evening. The young hooker scored two tries, set up one for Robeson and was just generally a handful.
Talking point: Where does the Future XV idea go from here? Brought in by Scottish Rugby to prepare the best young players for the under-20 Six Nations, those who make the wider squad for the showpiece age-grade competition early next year will now be meeting up in a few weeks with their tails between their legs after a really tough few months. Whether this bruising experiment has been good preparation for facing the likes of England, France and Ireland remains to be seen.