Schools/Youth round-up: National Youth Under-18 Cup pool rankings take shape

West of Scotland and Gala Wanderers book their place in last eight

Mackie defeated Hawick in Stonehaven in the pool stage of the Scottish Youth Cup.
Mackie defeated Hawick in Stonehaven in the pool stage of the Scottish Youth Cup.

THE third and final round of the National Youth Under-18 Cup group stage is not until a week on Saturday, but already two clubs, West of Scotland and Gala Wanderers, have booked their place in the quarter finals of the competition after harvesting maximum points from their first two matches in Group Three.

West, who have lost only one competitive game this season –  a reverse in their opening Conference outing against Boroughmuir – continued their strong form by defeating Perthshire 50-0 at the Inch, eventually producaing a dominant performance of power and panache after a subdued opening spell, as their coach, Gavin McGreish, confirmed.

“After a poor start West found their rhythm, playing a very wide game, with tries coming from the speedy back three,” he said. “Winger Ethan Reilly had been out injured for three weeks. His four tries and hunger on both sides of the ball was a welcome return.

“Calum Beckers joined us from Strathmore to study in Glasgow. He’s a great addition to the squad, scoring a try in his first outing wearing the red and yellow.” he added.


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The other try scorers for a rampant West of Scotland side were full-back Rory Caldwell, who ran in a hat-trick, scrum-half Cameron Louden with a brace, together with wing Owen Lai, front-row Calum Cairns, second-row Calum Beckers, stand-off Euan Collins and centre Cillian McQuarrie.

At Canal Field in Inverness, Gala Wanderers finished winners by 19-12 against Highland in a tight match that was very evenly contested. Wanderers’ coach, Bruce Chalmers, suggested that the Borderers were below their best form, saying: “Performance wise, maybe not at the same levels as previous weeks but we’re very happy with another win away from home.”

For Gala, Jamie Bell scored a brace of tries, the other touchdown coming from Omar Darwish. Rory Wilson kicked two conversions. Highland’s tries meanwhile both came from full-back Struan O’Neill.

Highland coach  John MacLennan said: “It was a close competitive match with Gala finishing on top.  We were missing a few key players, but our scrum was really strong … not so much our misfiring line-out. however, which Gala dominated.  We also need to improve our continuity through the phases.”

Gala Wanderers and West of Scotland will meet at Netherdale in the final round of the group stages a week on Saturday, the winner of which will top the pool and secure a home quarter-final tie.

 

In Group Two  Dumfries Saints are in a strong position to qualify for the quarters and can confirm their entry to the last eight with a home win over Dunfermline in the final round on 7th October. Currently, the south-west club lead their pool with two wins from two rounds, their latest success, a 38-5 home win over GHA.

“It was a really pleasing performance against a good GHA team,” reflected Euan Mack, the Dumfries coach. “We moved the ball really well and caused them problems in the wide channels. However, we were only able to do that due to the good platform set by strong carries in the forwards.”

In all, Saints scored six tries, a brace apiece from Alex Bryden and Innes Magee, and single contributions from Oliver Clanachan and Asher Thomson.

Sitting behind Dumfries Saints are GHA and Melrose Wasps with one win from two matches. Wasps returned to better form with an away victory by 28-15 over Dunfermline, to inject some confidence into the Greenyards side after a dismal start to the season.

Nick Alston, the Wasps’ coach, praised his side for displaying a will to address the weaknesses of recent displays.

“We played some really attractive rugby and fronted up well against a much bigger and physical Dunfermline side,” he said. “With injured players returning in the next few weeks we are hopeful of building on Saturdays success”.

Wasps’ tries were scored by Caspar Denne, JJ Burgess, Rory Anteobus and Ross Christie, the latter converting all four touchdowns.

Also poised to progress to the quarters are the defending champions, Boroughmuir, who are outright leaders in Group Four. Muir will complete their task if they can overcome Ellon when they travel to the north-east a week on Saturday. Last weekend the Meggetland side looked unstoppable as they romped past Ayr/Wellington for a 50-0 win, much to the satisfaction of head coach, Richie Lockhart.

“The boys were on fantastic form and played some outstanding attacking rugby with huge energy in support,” he said. ‘ The strength in depth and desire to perform in the whole squad is huge for us this year, and with eight lads missing through injury, we need it. We look forward to the rematch away next week [in the Conference]”.

Muir’s tries were scored by Hugo Stewart, Will Lockhart, Fergus Jones, Alex Boldor, Ollie Deane, Scott McCann, Alex Grohmann and Gregor Hoole with conversions by Kyle McMillan and Murray Armstrong.

Ayr’s coach, Colin Duck, conceded that Boroughmuir were irrepressible. “Muir were very impressive, powerful and sharp for the whole game and smart in their decision making at the ruck,” he said. “We kept trying, but did not play as we’ve trained either in attack or defence, which was very frustrating and we could not get away with it against ‘Muir as we have in other games. Next weekend we play the again so it will be interesting to see how the boys respond”.

Meanwhile, Peebles secured a 72-17 win over Ellon, with tries from Callum McRobert (4), Kell Maciver, Aiden Hinks, Dylan Greens, Fraser Ingram, Innes Cormack (2), Cameron Grant and Ross Wolfenden, who also converted six of the visitors’ touchdowns.

“I was very pleased with a very well executed game plan,” commented Peebles coach, Njord Maciver. “Our attack was very sharp which resulted in some well worked tries. It was a great achievement for second-row Callum McRobert to score four tries in loose play.”

Peebles will play Ayr/Wellington at the Gytes a week on Saturday to decide which of the two clubs will advance to the last eight in the Cup.

 

Group One, led by Stirling County, is also delicately poised, with Currie Chieftains and Mackie tucked in behind the Bridgehaugh side, each with one win from two rounds. Last Saturday, County kept their record perfect by defeating Currie Chieftains at home in a 30-14 win with tries from Alastair Banks, Layton Bryce, Fraser Dempsey, Calum Clayton and Kieron Mooney and a penalty and conversion by Lewis Roskilly.

“It was an excellent game with both teams trying to play positive rugby. We gave an improved defensive display and the boys really took pride in their efforts,” was how County’s coach Stuart Imrie summed up his side’s performance.

For Chieftains, No 8 Fergus Brady and outside-centre Jamie Morton scored tries both converted by Aiden Dow. “With a number of changes to our line-up we were pleased with the performance of some of our young players who moved up from last year’s under-16s against a strong Stirling side,” said Currie coach Neil Bruce. “After a shaky start and a couple of injuries the team grew into the game and really enjoyed the flowing match –  hugely enabled by excellent refereeing”

Chieftains have the same number of group points as Mackie, who returned to winning ways with a narrow win over Hawick Youth at Stonehaven in a high scoring match that finished 45-38 in favour of the north east club.

Mackie, who face Stirling County in the final round, started well by scoring a couple of early tries. But then the pendulum swung towards Hawick, before Mackie came good in the final quarter.  “The lads showed real fight in the last 20 minutes scoring four unanswered tries.  I’m really proud of the attitude. This is great confidence boost heading into the next league match,” stated Ross Foubster, the Mackie coach, whose side scored tries by Hugo Freeman (3), Daniel Duncan (2), Gregor Veitch and Lee Officer.

For Hawick, who played some excellent rugby to go 28 points clear early in the second half, the final result was a disappointment, their ultimate defeat down to costly ill-discipline in the final stage of the game as their team manager Paul McDonald explained.

“We simply imploded and our lack of discipline and very poor game management cost a penalty try against us then two yellow cards in rapid order,” he said. “With four tries to Mackie in just 15 minutes we were left chasing the game.

The try scorers for Hawick Youth were winger Filip Kubicki and centre Luke Scott, each with a brace, while stand-off Riley Muir, flanker Mikey Swailes and scrum-half Arran Common touched down once each, with four conversions by Greig Cartner.

In schools rugby, round two of the Cup is currently being played but the focus this weekend will be on the third round of the inspire Conference. The top match at under-18 level will be the clash between joint leaders Strathallan and George Watson’s College at Forgandenny. Dollar Academy are at home to Merchiston while Stewart’s-Melville College face Edinburgh Academy.


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About Alan Lorimer 352 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.