A FOUR month gap between the semi and the final of the National Youth boys under-18 Cup might be of record-breaking proportions, but the lengthy wait will certainly not blunt the appetite for success of defending champions Boroughmuir and challengers Peebles Colts when they meet tomorrow on the international pitch at BT Murrayfield in the pinnacle stage of the competition.
The final was originally scheduled for 10TH December, three days after the equivalent Schools Cup event, only for adverse winter weather to force a postponement and, so that the international pitch could be used, an inevitable delay until after the Six Nations Championship matches had been concluded. Not that this should upset those whose body clocks are set by the date of these finals; March has been the time of year for this event ever since its inception in the early 80s.
The meeting of two such successful teams as Boroughmuir and Peebles has the making of a classic final and one which genuinely deserves to be played on the international pitch. Boroughmuir come into the final as title holders but more relevantly as the National Youth under-18 Conference winners having swept through the pre-Christmas competition unbeaten.
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The problem for the Meggetland side is that not a lot of youth club rugby has been played between then and now, which could affect team cohesion. Alex Toolis, the Boroughmuir Academy manager, however, is confident that recent hard work has put his side in the right frame of mind. “We had a hit-out against Currie last weekend and came through that comfortably,” he explained.
“The main thing is that we haven’t played Peebles before so there’s a lot of unknown about what they’re going to be like. I’ve no doubt they’re a tight-knit group and will have some really talented players. We’re expecting a really good match-up tomorrow and hopefully a good game of rugby, regardless of the result,” he added.
Like Peebles, Boroughmuir have a number of talented players, well mentored by head coach, Richie Lockhart, whose son, Gavin Lockhart, will certainly be one to watch. The stand-off, in the words of Toolis, having “come a long way in the past 12 months and having done well in the Bears Academy.” Toolis points to many more, not least Scotland under-18 squad front-row Ollie Blyth-Lafferty, full-back Jamie McRae and No 8 Aidan Barry.
For their part, Peebles look to be in a much better position to contest a major final, having been battle-hardened by playing Borders Semi Junior League matches since the turn of the year, culminating in the club’s 52-34 victory over a strong and physical Morpeth side at the start of the month to take the regional championship title for the first time in their 100 year history.
It’s little wonder that the Gytes-based side has been so successful this season, such is the high number of talented and skilful players within its ranks. On its day, Peebles can play elegant and free-flowing rugby thriving on a desire to run the ball and adding up to a massive points tally this season. Peebles have all-round strength in the team and strength in depth throughout the whole squad. It all starts in the front-row where Scotland under-18 loose-head Ben White and hooker Ruaridh Smith form a formidable duo, behind which Peebles have mobility in second-row Ollie Furness and voracious back-rows in Kell Maciver and Ewan Hunter.
Behind the scrum, Ross Wolfenden at stand-off has looked the part while outside him Callum Burnett-Godfree has had a good season at centre and on the wing Louis Whyte has shown exceptional pace.
Peebles are coached by the former back-row Njord Maciver, who is aware of the magnitude, and the timing, of what his team has delivered this season. “To reach the [Cup] final for the first time is a fantastic achievement for all the players, and to do it in the club’s centenary year is very special,” he said.
“If the players can continue to play with the pace and width they have to get to this position then they will give themselves every chance of enjoying the game. We have our strongest available squad, including our new Scotland under 18 prop, Ben White. Our success this season has been founded on a large and very enthusiastic squad.”
Maciver, however, recognises that Peebles’ opponents are a class act, saying: “We know that Boroughmuir have also had a great season and have many boys who have been involved in regional and national squads so they are obviously a quality team. It promises to be a great game, and whatever happens Peebles Rugby Club and the wider community are hugely proud of this group of players” .
Boys’ under-18 Cup Final teams –
Boroughmuir: J McRae; L Veitch, L Bisset, A Grohmann, L Whitaker; G Lockhart, B Clark; B Malcolm, Z Griffiths, B MacGruer, L Calder, C Potter, J Sobey, J Visser, A Barry Subs E McGeoch, O Blyth-Lafferty, S Calder, C Gemmell, O Hollins-Kirk, C Thomson, S Webb
Peebles Colts: L Forsyth; C Boak, C Burnett-Godfree, J Hodgkiss, L Whyte; R Wolfenden, Alec Sellar, R Hardie, Ruaridh Smith, A McDowell, C McRobert, O Furness, K Maciver, R Smellie, E Hunter. Subs: B White, Junior Burquelle, R Johnson, A Duncan, Rio Bhatia, Max Maciver, J Thomson.
The under-18 boys Cup final will be the final event of a programme that starts at 11am, when last season’s beaten u18 Shield finalists, Earlston HS/Melrose Wasps, take on Ayr/Wellington. Rather disappointingly, what could be another quality match again pitting a Borders League club against a National Conference side, has been cast out to Back Pitch 2, meaning that supporters will have no protection from the elements in the event of rain, while for the players, there will not sense of a special atmosphere on what, for all taking part, is a special day. A spokesperson for Scottish Rugby explained that the use of Back Pitch 2 was necessary for logistical reasons in a congested running order.
In the under-16 Cup boys final, GHA return to defend the title they won last season, albeit with a very different team. The Braidholm side, National Conference winners at under-16 level, face Ellon, who carry the flag for the North East.
No finals day would be complete without the presence of serial trophy winners, Stirling County. The Bridgehaugh club are in the under-16 boys Shield final where they face Peebles Colts, whose presence in the last stage of the competition underscores the strides being made by the Gytes club. Stirling are also in both of the girls Cup games, facing Edinburgh Harlequins in the under-18 final and Biggar in the u16 final.
Biggar are also represented in the girls under-18 Shield final where they play Tayside Girls, who are returning to Murrayfield for a second successive season for a tilt at a trophy.
Girls’ under-18 Cup Final teams –
Edinburgh Harlequins: D Reid; K Hoggan, A Pringle, S Archer, A Beetham; I Fouya, A Parkinson; S Crossan, L Lawrie, K Conn, A Williamson, R Dellal, R McLennan, C Gibson, R Watson. Subs: N Connachan, S Beukes, W Wydro, I McMullan-Gabbot, N Gale, E Smith.
Stirling County: M Walker; R Turnbull, H Howland, J Fletcher, H Messer; F MacColl, N Roy; L McCulloch, A Hannigan, M Lidbetter, C Russell, M Devlin, Z Pike, R MacKenzie, M Harrop. Subs: E Fleming, E Gibbons, L Methven, N Flynn, L MacRae, O Izon, K Grieve.
Order of play –
- International Pitch
- 11am: Girls U18 Cup Final: Edinburgh Harlequins v Stirling County RFC
- 1pm: Boys U16 Cup Final: GHA RFC v Ellon RFC
- 3.30pm: Girls U16 Cup Final: Stirling County RFC v Biggar RFC
- 6pm: Boys U18 Cup Final: Boroughmuir v Peebles RFC
- DAM Health Stadium
- 3.30pm: Boys U16 Shield Final: Peebles RFC v Stirling County RFC
- 6pm: Girls U16 Shield Final: Dumfries Saints RFC v Murrayfield Wanderers FC
- Back Pitch 2
- 11am: Boys U18 Shield Final: Earlston HS/ Melrose v Ayr/Wellington
- 1pm: Girls U18 Shield Final: Tayside Girls v Biggar
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Good luck to both U18 teams and those playing in the other finals n what I hope is a keenly fought final and a showcase for young club rugby talent.
Director of Youth Rugby
Good luck to all involved. Whilst there is plenty to criticise the SRU over, I can say honestly that they put a massive effort into making the youth finals day something that the kids will remember and treasifir the rest of their lives win or lose. It’s a special event and is treated as such by everyone involved.
Thank you for pointing out the disappointing venue for the 18s Shield Finals. What better way to attract more players into the game than by allowing our 18s Shield players to play in the Main Bowl or Dam Health. Youth rugby is where there is more potential for growth in numbers. The Schools Shield final was played in the Main Bowl. Seems there is still a way to go for our youth players to be afforded the same privileges as the schools’.