SCOTLAND U18s … 24
ENGLAND U18s … 45
SCOTLAND ended their involvement in the inaugural Five Nations Under-18 Festival in Wales with a third consecutive defeat, but should take heart from a spirited second-half comeback against England on Saturday.
England raced in to a 31-3 half-time lead thanks to tries from Ben Earl, Gabriel Ibitoye (2), Ben Loader and Dino Lamb-Cona, plus four Jacob Umaga conversions, against a solitary penalty from Scottish winger Ben Appleson.
England started the second-half as they had finished the first, and Earl scored his second and his team’s sixth try of the game to extend their lead to 38-3.
However, Scotland deserve great credit for battling on, and they got the reward their perseverance deserved when captain Cameron Hutchison went over and Appleson converted to reduce England’s advantage to 38-10.
That gap was reduced again ten minute later when replacement scrum-half Harry Warr touched down under the posts after an electrifying break.
Any slim Scottish hopes which might have existed of achieving a miraculous comeback to overhaul England disappeared when Levi Davis grabbed try number seven for the men in white, with the conversion by James Grayson [son of England World Cup winner Paul Grayson] taking the score-line to 45-17.
A third try for Ally Donaldson’s troops, scored by Callum Cruikshank and converted by Appleson, gave the final score-line a level of respectability that the plucky Scots undoubtedly deserved.
“A lot of players have put their hands up to move on further in the game in Scotland and they will all be a lot better for this experience,” said Donaldson.
“It’s the biggest learning experience these guys will have ever had. To play three games at that level, with such a short turnaround is hard going.
“Our mistakes in the first half were punished ruthlessly by England, who had pace and physical strength in their team. But it was difficult for us because we were playing our third match in eight days whereas for England it was only their second game in nine days.!
“We scored three tries today and could possibly have scored one or two more. It was encouraging that the boys were able to hit back after the break. That speaks volumes for this group of boys, five of whom will be eligible for next season’s under-18 side.”
Whilst clearly proud of the effort his team had put into the match, Donaldson also suggested that the season structure at the moment is not helping Scotland’s best young players when it comes to competing and winning at international level.
“We’ve got to look at bridging the gap between school/youth level and the international game. I’d also like us to start the programme a bit earlier and perhaps have more warm-up games,” he said.
Scotland U18 starting XV: 15. Stafford McDowall (Merchiston); 14. Rory McMichael (Wellington College/Harlequins), 13. Fraser Dingwall (Bedford School/Northampton Saints), 12. Cameron Hutchison (Heriot’s/North Berwick), 11. Ben Appleson (Edinburgh Academy); 10. Grant Hughes (Dollar), 9. Charlie Gowling (Sedburgh/Newcastle Falcons); 1. Ross Dunbar (Stirling County/Linlithgow), 2. Paul Cairncross (Kelvinside Academy/East Kilbride), 3. Euan McLaren (Dollar), 4. Archie Erskine Uppingham School/Leicester Tigers), 5. Ruairi Campbell (Earlston HS/Melrose), 6. Andrew Horne (Preston Lodge), 7. Callum Cruikshank (Dollar), 8. Dan Marek (Richard Huish School/Bath).