Youth round-up: West of Scotland flex their muscles against Ayr/Wellington

Big win for Glasgow side keeps the pressure on Boroughmuir at top of under-18 inspire National One Club Conference

Despite the big scoreline, it wasn't one-way traffic for West of Scotland versus Ayr/Wellington at Millbrae last weekend. Image: Douglas Connery
Despite the big scoreline, it wasn't one-way traffic for West of Scotland versus Ayr/Wellington at Millbrae last weekend. Image: Douglas Connery

WEST OF SCOTLAND extended their run of strong performances this season with a sizeable 69-22 win over Ayr/Wellington at Millbrae last weekend to maintain pressure on leaders Boroughmuir in the under-18 inspire National One Club Conference. Muir and West were due to meet this week at Burnbrae in something of a shoot-out, but priority has been given to Cup over Conference, meaning that the top two must reschedule this important match. 

Gavin McGreish, the West coach,  praised the Ayr club for allowing the youth teams to enjoy top playing conditions.  “With the Ayr 1st XV game being off they [Ayr] pulled out all the stops for under-18s match and played it on the big pitch at Millbrae with all the excitement of a premier fixture:  stadium announcers … the lot. It was a great experience for both squads,” he said.

McGreish, however, played down the winning margin, saying: “It was a much tougher game than the score would suggest. With a two-week break we had a full squad raring to play competitive rugby.


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“The first 20 minutes was a stuffy affair, until West found ways to breakdown Ayr’s well-drilled defence. West played a very fast game, with great support for the ball carriers giving us the opportunity to double offload and get in behind Ayr’s defence. Overall, very pleased with the squad’s performance which was arguably our best game of the season so far.”

In all, West ran in 11 tries, a hat-trick for man-of-the-match and second-row Elliot Weir, a brace each for pacy scrum-half Ewan Collins and full-back Rory Caldwell, and one apiece for wing Ethan Reilly, stand-off Ewan Russell, flanker Callum Cairns and replacement Finlay MacLaren. Collins kicked four conversions and Russell three.

For Ayr, who had completed a hard weekend of rugby at the Merchiston Festival six days earlier, Jamie McAughtrie, Dan McKinlay, Tom Campbell and Scott Cox scored tries with one conversion from Cole Graham.

Ayr’s coach, Colin Duck, was equally certain that West’s points total did not reflect the difference between the two sides.“There is not as big a gulf as the scoreline suggests,” he said. “There were a few good individual performances and when we retained the ball for a few phases we scored more often than not. The challenge for us now is refocusing and recovering confidence after a few tough results.”

In the other National One Conference match to go ahead, Boroughmuir were too strong for GHA, winning 45-17 at Meggetland. On a wet pitch, Boroughmuir followed up their good showing at the Merchiston Festival by running in seven tries through Harry Jackaman, Kyle McMillan, Hayden Leitch, Ed McAree, Will Lockhart, Fergus Jones and Lewis Calder, with conversions by Gregor Hoole and Murray Armstrong.

Muir, as their coach, Richie Lockhart, noted, were slow to get into their stride, understandable given the energy sapping schedule of six matches at the Merchiston Festival on the previous weekend and not helped by a pitch that had had to absorb much rainwater from Storm Bebet.

“The underfoot conditions were not idea but it was great to get the game played given the disruption elsewhere,” stated Lockhart. “We were pretty lethargic to start with but found a bit more energy toward the end of the game. GHA gave us a very hard contest and that along with sloppy handling and some poor decision-making meant we weren’t at our best. The final score of 45-17 flattered us, as we were boosted by three late tries when GHA were tiring a bit. That said, the work-rate that we always look for was ultimately there.”

The other scheduled match between Stirling County and Mackie -was unable to go ahead because of extreme weather.

 

Meanwhile in the Borders Semi Junior League programme, largely unaffected by the aftermath of Bebet, the top match was the clash between Peebles Colts and Hawick Youth, which resulted in a 26-22 win for the young Greens.

“Our defence won us the game,” explained Paul McDonald, the Hawick Youth team manager. “We were resolute and then took our chances when we got them. We didn’t start too well going 7-0 down in the first two minutes but our boys responded to take a 12-7 half-time lead. We then went 26-12 up with two tries from our flying centre Filip Kubicki, and from then on it was all about closing the game and holding out against a relentless Peebles onslaught.

“It’s rewarding to get a win but more importantly to see how far the boys have come in the last few weeks: there’s a real sense that there’s even more to come both in the National Shield and the Border Semi Junior League,” concluded McDonald.

Hawick Youth’s tries were scored by prop Jordan Wood, stand-off Riley Muir and Kubicki (2), three of them converted by Greig Cartner.

For Peebles, one of three club sides to play in the Merchiston Festival, there was a sense of frustration as coach Njord Maciver revealed, saying: “It was a disappointing loss: we were inaccurate in attack, giving up try-scoring chances, particularly in the first half. But credit to Hawick, who put pressure on us in defence and attack. Ultimately, we ran out of time to catch up on the scoreboard.”

Peebles’ tries were scored by Ben Martin, Kell Maciver and Aiden McDowall.

At Croft Park ,Kelso Quins, after losing to Morpeth a week earlier, achieved a massive win over Alnwick by 57-7 to hoist themselved into second place in the Borders Semi Junior League table.

“We were back to full strength after the holidays,” said team manager pleased with his side Keith Green.  “A powerful first half display from the pack in particular had the Quins 45-0 up at the break. The comprehensive win was cemented with a couple of further tries against a plucky Alnwick side.”

For Kelso, Kyle Jackson (2), Jack Utterson (2), Andrew Lawson, Max Reynolds, Dale Adams, Sam Wood and Fraser Murray scored tries, skipper Ben Burton kicking six conversions.

Elsewhere in the BSJL  Selkirk YC recorded their second win of the league season with a 34-19 result against Melrose Wasps at The Greenyards, while at Hexham, Jed Thistle were competitive against a strong Tynedale side, losing 5-26 to the Northumbrian team.

For Gala Wanderers, there was a walk-over result against Duns Colts but not what was wanted by the young Maroons and BSJL current leaders ahead of their Cup game against West of Scotland at Netherdale on Saturday.

This match, postponed from 7th October, because of a waterlogged pitch, will complete the group stages of the National Youth Cup. Both Gala Wanderers and West have already qualified for the quarter finals but both will be eager to top their group to secure a home draw in the last eight.


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About Alan Lorimer 360 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.