Stewart’s Melville 7
Merchiston Castle 20
ALAN LORIMER @ Murrayfield
MERCHISTON CASTLE SCHOOL are this season’s Scottish Schools Under-18 Cup champions after defeating title holders Stewart’s-Melville College by a 4-1 try margin in a quality match that showcased the extraordinarily high standard of skill levels these two schools have reached.
Conference winners, Stewart’s-Melville came into the match as slight favourites, but on the night Merchiston’s exciting backs displayed pace and accuracy in attack complemented by a brave and determined defence that kept the Inverleith side at bay and which, over the piece, looked to have the edge in fitness.
Merchiston were also able to withstand the close range attacks from Stew Mel’s potent forward pack among whom No 8 Gregor Thomson, skipper and hooker Elliot Young and prop Aidan Symes were impressive. But Merchiston, too, carried threats up front, notably from their outstanding No 8 Tom Currie, the younger brother of Edinburgh Rugby’s centre Matthew, and tight-head prop Robbie Deans.
Behind the scrum, Merchiston’s Isaac Coates posted a polished performance with a display of astute kicking from hand and clever distribution to his outside backs among whom Lachlan Ferguson was incisive at inside centre.
Merchiston’s head coach, Roddy Deans, praised his side for an excellent performance, saying: “I’ve been involved in many games of rugby but that was the best yet. We came in as underdogs because Stew-Mel had won the conference and were unbeaten all year, and they beat us earlier in the year.
“We knew that if we could get someway quick ball we could play and we did that tonight and scored some incredible tries. We came here to play and that’s what we did. We wanted to get the ball wide. We’ve been working on our attack for weeks and weeks and were lucky that it’s paid off.”
The feelings of Stew-Mel’s coach Stuart Edwards were understandably less ecstatic but he was quick to praise his victorious opponents. “We’re disappointed but absolutely no complaints,” he said. “Merchiston deserved that win. They just fired a bit sharper than we did. We just never quite got going.”
Enjoyed this article? Quality journalism like ours is made possible by readers like you. If you value our in-depth coverage of Scottish rugby at all levels and want to see more, please consider supporting us with a subscription or donation. It helps us keep delivering the news you love. Thank you for being a part of The Offside Line community!
Stewart’s-Melville looked the hungrier in the opening exchanges and it was they who created the first scoring chance with a break by Benjamin Roger and support from scrum-half Jake Burns ultimately leading to a penalty. They opted for the scrum only for the backs to spill the ensuing possession with the line beckoning. From the resultant scrum, Coates removed the danger with an elegant 50 metre touch finder.
Then, from a penalty-created line-out, Merchiston moved the ball wide, using their blindside wing to create extra space and then showing clever handling skills to send Amaan Raza over for an unconverted try in the corner.
Having scored on the left flank, Merchiston applied their attacking skills to the opposite side, again with slick back play and then a forceful run by flanker Glen Crawford that set up a try for Alex Callaway, sending his side into the half time break with a 10-0 advantage.
Clearly rattled by ending the first half in arrears, Stew-Mel imposed their powerful forwards on the game and came close to scoring when Young was held up over the line. Then, having worked out where their advantage lay, Stew Mel used their heavy ordnance once more, this time resulting in a try for Symes with the conversion by James Lewis.
Merchiston quickly quelled any sense of a Stew-Mel surge by again moving the ball cleverly for Ferguson to score wide out for his side’s third unconverted try to put the Colinton school two scores ahead again.
It was becoming clear that Merchiston were dominating the battle of the backs as yet another wide handling move brought a further reward with a second try in the corner for Raza.
Merchiston then suffered what might have been a game changing moment when Currie was shown the yellow card for a tip tackle, ruling the outstanding back-row out of contention for the man-of-the-match award.
In the event, Stew-Mel tried to make their one man advantage tell and looked to have scored when replacement wing Isaac Johnston touched down in the corner only for the final pass to be ruled forward. It proved to be their last chance of staging a come-back and as the clock showed 70 minutes it was Merchiston who were celebrating a deserved victory.
Meanwhile, Loretto romped to a 43-8 win over Queen Victoria School in the Under-18s Shield Final.
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, A Raza; 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, T Robertson, D McCall Smith.
Referee: J Perriam
Stewart’s-Melville College: Try: Symes; Con: Lewis.
Merchiston Castle School: Tries: Raza 2, Ferguson, Callaway.
Scoring sequence (Stewart’s Melville first): 0-5; 0-10 (h-t) 5-10; 7-10; 7-15; 7-20.