Alan Lorimer @ BT Murrayfield
Ayr Under-16 10
Hawick Albion 13
HAWICK ALBION struck a blow for Borders rugby by lifting the Youth League under-16 Cup with a hard-fought victory over Ayr on the international pitch at BT Murrayfield.
The Hawick side fully deserved their win over an Ayr side that appeared to hold the attacking cards but which found the Albion defence super-resilient.
Outstanding for the winners were centres try-scorer Mully Bannerman and man-of-the-match Andrew Mitchell; while in the pack, back-rows Billy McNeil and Rhys Tait impressed with their non-stop effort.
Hawick’s coach Rocky Johnstone, however, insisted the win was not about individuals. He said: “This was a squad effort. The boys who came off the bench played an important part in the win.”
Johnstone also revealed his side had received particular encouragement from two former players, Glasgow Warriors and Scotland star Stuart Hogg and Edinburgh and Scotland prop Rory Sutherland. “Rory was down with the boys and told them he had never won at Murrayfield when he played for Albion.”
For Ayr it was a hard-to-take outcome for the defending champions but on the day they came up against a side that knew how to defend.
“We are disappointed to not have won but I am very proud of the boys who kept it close with Hawick and showed a real effort throughout the match. Hawick were stronger at the breakdown and deserved the win in the end,” said Stephen Field, the Ayr under-16 coach.
After a promising start by Ayr, Hawick managed to establish territorial advantage, the initial gain sparked by a sniping run from scrum-half Paul Brunton.
Then when Mitchell burst through midfield the Ayr defence had to scramble quickly. Having stopped the Hawick attack , Ayr moved the ball crisply for wing Chris Easton to escape down the right flank, only for his kick ahead to bobble into touch.
But Ayr were not to be denied. From a penalty-created line-out they worked a clever move round the front before second phase possession allowed hooker Scott Clelland to barge over in the corner for an unconverted try .
Hawick, however, clawed their way back into Ayr’s half and profited with a penalty kick by full-back from Bailey Donaldson from 35 metres out. The Hawick points gain, however, was almost annulled by a surge from Ayr and close driving by their strong forwards.
Again Hawick hit back, this time with skilful handling in their own 22 and then a kick ahead that gained some 40 metres. From a good attacking position Hawick moved the ball wide giving Finnen Gordon-Woolley a chance to stretch his legs, but strong Ayr defence stopped the wing in his tracks.
Hawick then showed their defensive qualities as Donaldson made a successful mark before drilling the ball up the touchline for a 30 metre gain. That was the final action of the first half that ended with Ayr holding a 5-3 lead.
Both sides made threatening breaks at the beginning of the second half, the best a thrusting run by Mitchell for Hawick. Ayr, however, countered with an escape up the left touchline by wing Jonathan Easton but Hawick’s alert defence managed to quell that promising move.
Hawick then struck after putting pressure on the Ayr full-back Jake Jacobsen whose clearance kick was charged down, the bouncing ball then scooped up by Bannerman for the centre to dive over for a try.
Donaldson added the conversion points and then kicked a second penalty goal after some good driving play by his forwards to give his team a 13-5 lead.
Ayr set about clawing the game back with swift movement of the ball but a tendency to run laterally played into the hands of Hawick’s drift defence.
When Ayr won a penalty the Millbrae men kicked to the corner and from the resultant line-out the forwards drove over for a try attributed to prop Conlan McLuckie, the score again unconverted.
It was not enough, though, and it was Hawick Albion who celebrated a deserved victory to take the under-16 title.
Ayr u16: J Jacobsen; C Easton, C Bain, T Lanni, J Easton; A Morrison, C Doolan; C McLuckie, S Clelland, B Cree, E Bulloch, D Wilson, H Ledgerwood, O Mossie, S McLarty. Subs: M Field, C Lynch, M Brennan, M Glen, J McGinness, K McCartney, R Watson
Hawick Albion: B Donaldson; F Gordon-Woolley, M Bannerman, A Mitchell, J Delaney; E Alexander, P Brunton; N Murray, M Silveira, A Fletcher, B Murdoch, J Grant, M Walker, R Tait, B McNeil. Subs: D Palmer, R Middlemas, D Wyllie, P Goldie, B Chelley, B Graham, A Jones
Referee: M Todd.
Ayr: Tries: Clelland, McLuckie
Hawick Albion: Try: Bannerman; Con: Donaldson; Pen: Donaldson 2
Scoring Sequence (Ayr first): 5-0, 5-3 (h-t) 5-8, 5-10, 5-13, 10-13
Man-of-the-Match: Hawick centre Andrew Mitchell made a number of clean breaks in midfield and was at the heart of an organised backline in defence that contained Ayr efficiently
Talking point: Stuart Hogg, a former player, inspired the Hawick boys. Will they inspire him?
Image courtesy: Scottish Rugby/SNS Group