200 PLAYERS making up eight teams playing in four matches. These were the numbers for the FOSROC under-17 and under-18 district championship finals last Sunday at Melrose. Certainly quite a lot to assess, so much so that you almost felt pity for the national under-18 coaches/selectors trying to process what amounted to information overload from the games viewed.
The immediate task for the coaching teams in the aftermath of these games was to pick the Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors sides for what is effectively a Scottish under-18 trial match, being played this coming Sunday, again at The Greenyards. Edinburgh Rugby will be selected from Edinburgh and Borders and East Lothian u18s while Glasgow Warriors will comprise players from Glasgow & West and Caledonia u18s. Both teams are expected to be announced on Friday.
For the record, Edinburgh were crowned under-18 champions after defeating Glasgow and the West 33-7 in the final of a competition that played over just two rounds and not the full round robin format. Edinburgh had the game won by half time when they led 28-7 with two tries from the multi-skilled flanker Liam McConnell (Boroughmuir) and one each from centre Jamie Littlefield (George Watson’s College) and the impressive scrum-half Conor McAlpine (George Watson’s College), who converted all four touchdowns.
Glasgow threatened with a try and conversion from stand-off Charlie Greaves (West of Scotland) but a second half try by second-row Euan McVie (BATS) sealed the win for the Edinburgh.
Speaking after the Edinburgh win, the capital side’s head coach, Chris Laidlaw, said: “It was a massively pleasing performance. We took in the learnings from last week. I thought the group really stepped up especially in the first half to score some great team tries. There was also a really good defensive effort, real intent around the collision area.”
Outstanding for Edinburgh were McAlpine, McConnell andMcVie, while there were eye-catching performances from full-back Jack Brown (George Watson’s College) and hooker Elliot Young (Stewart’s-Melville College), all of whom should be named in the Edinburgh Rugby team for Sunday while centre Kerr Yule and No 8 Finn Carden (both West of Scotland) look good bets to make the Warriors team from Glasgow and West.
In the other under-18 match, ostensibly for 3rd and 4th places, Borders and East Lothian harnessed the pace of their outside backline to achieve a 31-15 win over Caledonia with two tries from full-back Finn Douglas (Melrose Wasps), and one each from prop Ross Brown (Loretto), centre Kerr Johnstone (Gala Wanderers) and wing Finlay Douglas (Hawick Youth). Luke Townsend (Melrose Wasps) converted three of his side’s tries.
For Caledonia, stand-off Aminio Bogidrau (QVS) converted his own try and kicked a penalty goal, the other points coming from a touchdown by prop Bartek Brylak (St Leonards/Madras) .
In terms of Edinburgh Rugby selection for this weekend’s match, Borders and East Lothian can expect a number of players to be named and if pace is required then Finn Douglas and Finlay Douglas have it in spade loads. Also putting their hands up for selection were Johnstone and scrum-half Hector Paterson (Jed Thistle) and of course Townsend, carrying on the family tradition at stand-off.
Amongst the Borders and East Lothian forwards, the front row of Brown, Marcus Brogan (Hawick Youth) and Robbie Robinson (Earlston) showed up well along with second-row Hamish Reynolds (Duns) and blindside flanker Scott Brown (Preston Lodge RFC).
Caledonia players in contention for Glasgow Warriors selection for Sunday’s match at The Greenyards should be blindside flanker Jonny Morris (Strathallan), openside Sam Wallace, winger Lyle Hunter and outside-centre Angus Hunter (all Dollar) and Bogidrau (QVS) while from Glasgow and West, the West of Scotland pair Kerr Yule and Finn Garden will surely come into contention along with second row Ruairidh Hart (The Glasgow Academy) and scrum half Harrison Lang (Biggar).
The coaches will not be restricted to selecting players from the under-18 and will have the freedom to look at a number of under-17s, some of whom played up an age group last Sunday. Among the under-17s to perform well were centre Jack Craig (Wellington/Ayr) and full-back Fergus Clannachan (Dumfries Saints) from Glasgow and West, hooker James Glendinning (Gala Wanderers), second-row Rory Anderson (North Berwick) and centre/stand-off Russell Kerr (Gala Wanderers) from Borders and East Lothian, wing Oz Canacaivata (Boroughmuir) and hooker Louis Aris (Royal High School) from Edinburgh, second-row Murray Oliver (Kirkcaldy), back-rows Carlos Aija (Strathallan) and Alfie Kinsella (Highland) and full-back Wilfie Timney (Dollar Academy) from Caledonia. A mention must be given to Caledonia replacement stand-off Jackson Fraser (St Leonards/Madras) who came off the bench to produce some defence beating running. One certainly to keep an eye on in the future.
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Glasgow took the under-17 title after defeating Borders and East Lothian 18-10, the Glasgow and West points coming from tries by wing Yeadon Davie (Wellington/Ayr) and centre Johnny Ventesi (St Aloysius College), a penalty goal from stand-off Gregor Lang (Biggar) and a further penalty goal and a conversion from replacement stand-off Matthew Urwin (St Aloysius College). For Borders,Glendinning and stand-off Ethan Wilson (Dunbar) scored unconverted tries.
The highest scoring match was the 3rd/4th place under-17 decider between Caledonia and Edinburgh that resulted in a 33-26 win for Caledonia with tries by scrum-half Ryan Mellon (Kirkcaldy), centre Andy Clark (Morrison’s Academy), Timney and replacements Jay Richards (Stirling County) and Alfie Grant (Robert Gordon’s College). Four of the tries were converted by Timney.
Edinburgh’s tries were scored by wing Eddie Murray (2) and centre Charlie Lamond (both Edinburgh Academy), and stand-off Jamie Cain (Stewart’s-Melville College), who also kicked three conversion goals.
After the soggy story at St Andrews a week earlier, The Greenyards was similarly damp overhead but the huge difference between the University venue and the Melrose ground was the 3G surface, which invited the players to display their skills fully without fear of being hindered by inhospitable underfoot conditions, a reminder, perhaps, that all such games being played at this time of year should go ahead on artificial surfaces.
The result of playing on a 3G surface was four high quality matches producing skills that might not have been seen a few years back: very much, the trickle down from professional rugby. How many youngsters of previous eras would have had the range of passes on show, from back door to long 25m transfers? Impressive, too, was one-on-one tackling, scramble defences and more generally the organisation required to close down the attacking side.
Viewing all four games was Scottish Rugby’s Director of Academies, John Fletcher, who praised the use of the 3G pitch at Melrose. He said: “All the games were a step-up from last week. The pitch definitely helped. We also had very good referees today. There was lots of exciting rugby: the ball was moved around and that’s the way we want to play in Scotland. We want to play fast and we want to play with skill – and that’s both sides of the ball.”
Caledonia U17: 15. Wilfie Timney (Dollar) 14. Charlie Waterworth (Dunfermline RFC) 13. Andy Clark (Morrisons Academy) 12. Jo Townshend (Strathallan) 11. Logan Riley (Strathmore/AngusColts) 10. Andrew Storie (Dunfermiline RFC) 9. Ryan Mellon (Kirkcaldy RFC) 1. John Cadden (Mackie) 2. Seb Stephen (Glenalmond) 3. Alexander Hough (High School of Dundee) 4. Archie Jaffrey-Smith (Dollar) 5. Murray Oliver (Kirkcaldy) CAPTAIN 6. Ruari Anderson (Strathallan) 7. Carlos Aija (Strathallan) 8. Alfie Kinsella (Highland RFC)
Replacements: 16. Archie Inglis (Dollar) 17. Jay Richards (Stirling County) 18. Cole Stirling (Howe of Fife) 19. Ramsay Scott (Stirling County) 20. Angus Cook (Howe of Fife) 21. Alfie Grant (Robert Gordon’s College) 22. Jackson Fraser (St Leonards/Madras RFC) 23. Connel Burgess (Deeside) 24. Finn Spurway (Glenalmond)
- Head Coach: Andrew Hamilton
- Assistant Coaches: Mike Blackie, Graham Smith and Andy Cummins
Edinburgh U17: 15. Thomas Russell (Stewarts Melville) 14. Oz Canakaivata (Boroughmuir RFC) 13. Charlie Lomond (Edinburgh Academy) 12. Max Clark (George Watsons) CAPTAIN 11. Eddie Murray (Edinburgh Academy) 10. Jamie Cain (Stewarts Melville), 9. Thomas Whyte (Edinburgh Academy); 1. Angus McGregor (Merchiston School) 2. Louis Aris (Royal High School) 3. Finlay Gillgrass (George Heriot’s School/Boroughmuir RFC), 4. Oliver Duncan (Edinburgh Academy) 5. Oliver Sebra Dunlop (Merchiston), 6. Toby Edwin (Edinburgh Academy), 7. Henry Teall (George Watsons) 8. Aiden Barry (Edinburgh Harlequins).
Replacements: 16. Gordie Stephen (Merchiston) 17. Mac Khurana (Edinburgh Academy) 18. Mark Fyffe (George Watsons) 19. Eddie Waugh (Stewarts Melville) 20. Finlay McIntosh (George Watsons) 21. Hugo Alderson (Royal High School) 22. Thomas Robertson (Merchiston) 23. Cole Mapara (Merchiston)
- Head Coach: Stevie Leckie
- Assistant Coach: Alex Toolis, Ross Hanning and Thomas Johnson
Glasgow & The West U17: 15. Fergus Clannachan (Dumfries Saints) 14. Pat Spence (West of Scotland RFC) 13. Johnny Ventesi (St Aloysius College VICE CAPTAIN) 12. Jack Craig (Wellington/ Ayr RFC) 11. Yeadon Davie (Wellington/ Ayr RFC) 10. Gregor Lang (Biggar RFC) 9. Leo Reid (Cartha Queens Park RFC) 1. Scott Roden (Wellington/ Ayr RFC) 2. Angus Cameron (West of Scotland RFC) 3. Finlay Wheelar (Hutchesons Grammar School) 4. Callum Hamilton (Wellington/ Ayr RFC CAPTAIN) 5. David McDonald (St Aloysius College) 6. Lewis Ferguson 7. Craig Nolan (Whitecraigs RFC) 8. Jake Shearer (Wellington/ Ayr RFC)
Replacements: 16. Caleb McCracken (GHA) 17. Angus Rintoul (St Columbas School) 18. Myles Macauley (GHK/ Kelvinside Academy) 19. Connor Jess (Biggar RFC) 20. Paddy Baume Kennedy (High School of Glasgow) 21. Mathew Urwin (St Aloysius College) 22. Kwesi O Hare (High School of Glasgow) 23. Mark Henry (St Columbas School)
- Head Coach: David Mitchell
- Coaches: Ewan Clark, Gary Strain and Chris Reid
Borders & East Lothian U17: 15. Oliver Craig (Knox Academy/Haddington), 14. Fraser Falgate (Preston Lodge High School/ Peebles RFC), 13. Russell Kerr (Gala Academy/RFC), 12. Henry Thomas (Loretto School), 11. Mark Glen (Jedburgh Grammar School/Jed Thistle), 10. Ethn Wilson (Dunbar GS/ RFC), 9. James Hastie (Loretto School); 1. Hamish Derrick (Earlston High School/Melrose Rugby), 2. James Glenndinning (Gala Academy/Gala Rugby), 3. Ben White (Peebles High School/Peebles RFC), 4. Fraser Wilson (Gala Academy/Gala Rugby), 5. Rory Anderson (Dunbar Grammar School/North Berwick RFC), 6. Joss Arnold (Loretto School/Haddington RFC), 7. Lachlan Graham (Preston Lodge High School/ Preston Lodge RFC), 8. Dylan Cockburn (Earlston High School/Melrose RFC).
Replacements: 16. David Campbell (Ross High School/Ross High RFC), 17. Jamie Currie (Dalkeith High School/Ross High RFC), 18. Fergus Bell (Hawick Youth), 19. Jake Snozeberg (Hawick HS/ Hawick Youth), 20. Finlay Yule (Ross High School/RFC), 21. Rex Condie (Loretto School), 22. Eli Hamilton (Hawick HS/ Hawick Youth), 23. Rory Stnger (Hawick HS/ Hawick Youth) 24. Cameron Boak (Peebles HS/ RFC)
- Head Coach: Scott Tomlinson
- Assistant Coaches: Max Outram, Karl Main and Jerry Brett
Borders U18: 15. Finn Douglas (Melrose Rugby), 14. Finlay Wheelans (Selkirk RFC), 13. Justin Tait (Hawick Youth) 12. Kerr Johnstone (Gala Rugby), 11Finlay Douglas (Hawick HS/ Youth), 10. Luke Townsend (Earlston High School/Melrose Rugby), 9. Hector Paterson (Jed Thistle); 1Ross Brown (Loretto School), 2. Marcus Brogan (Hawick Youth), 3. Robbie Robinson (Earlston HS/ RFC), 4. Ben Weir (Melrose Rugby), 5. Hamish Reynolds (Berwickshire HS/ Duns RFC), 6. Scott Brown (Preston Lodge RFC), 7. Munroe Job (Selkirk High School/Selkirk RFC), 8. Douglas Weir (Gala Academy/ RFC)
Replacements: 16. Ally Renton (Earlston High School/Melrose RFC), 17. Andrew Kirk (Earlston HS/ Melrose HS), 18. Ashton Asante (Kelso Quins), 19. Hughie Donaldson (Langholm Academy/ Hawick Youth) 20. Luke Henderson (Ross High School/ RFC), 21. Angus Williams (Dunbar Grammar School/Preston Lodge RFC), 22. Frey Maciver (Peebles High School/Peebles RFC), 23. Patrick Cannon (Peebles HS / RFC).
- Head Coach: Robert Grigg
- Assistant Coaches: Jason Riley and Craig Dods
Caledonia U18: 15. Archie Rankin (Strathallan), 14. Amena Caqusau (Queen Victoria School) 13. Angus Hunter (Dollar) 12. Alex Thom (Strathallan) 11. Lyle Hunter (Dollar) 10. Aminio Bogidrau (Queen Victoria School) 9. Adam Anderson (Strathallan/Perthshire RFC); 1. Ewan McDonald (Morrison Academy), 2. Struan Reekie (Strathallan) 3. Bartek Brylak (St Leonard’s/Madras RFC) 4. Benjamin Nehring (Mackie RFC), 5. Archie Clarke (St Leonard’s/Madras RFC), 6. Jonny Morris (Strathallan) CAPTAIN 7. Sam Wallace (Dollar), 8. James Brown (Lathallan/Mackie)
Replacements: 16. Lachlann Forsyth (Morrisons Academy) 17. Robert Cromar (St Leonard’s/Madras RFC), 18. Zac Jones (Dollar) 19. Nicholas Torkington (Stirling County), 20. Roddy Walker (Dollar) 21. Fraser Gallagher (Dollar) 22. Murray Johnstone (Stirling County) 23. Ross Birnie (RGC)
- Head Coach: Colin Sangster
- Assistant Coaches: Sam Mountain, Andy Henderson and James Greenwood
Edinburgh U18: 15. Jack Brown (George Watsons), 14. Alastair Holmes (George Watsons), 13. Jamie Littlefield (George Watsons), 12. Ben Somerville (Boroughmuir RFC), 11. Nick Alder (Boroughmuir RFC), 10. Rory Cockburn (George Watsons), 9. Conor McAlpine (George Watsons); 1. Aaron Steel (Livingston RFC), 2. Elliot Young (Stew Mel), 3. Robbie Deans (Merchiston), 4. Charlie Burns (Stew Mel), 5. Euan McVie (BATS Rugby), 6. Liam McConnell (Boroughmuir RFC), 7. Mark McKay (Boroughmuir RFC), 8. Gregor Thomson (Stew Mel).
Replacements: 16. Jerry Blyth-Lafferty (Boroughmuir RFC), 17. Rory MacAulay (Fettes College) 18. Cameron Cartwright (Edinburgh Academy), 19. Jonathan Blair (Merchiston), 20. Liam Habib (Boroughmuir RFC), 21. Ross Cadzow (Edinburgh Academy), 22. Guy Kirkpatrick (Geroge Heriot’s) 23. Callan Wilson (Royal High School).
- Head Coach: Chris Laidlaw
- Assistant Coaches: Dougie Thomson, Luis Arolla and Jamie Graham
Glasgow & The West U18: 15. Fergus Watson (Biggar) 14. Ross Nolan (St Aloysius College) 13. Logan Jarvie (Stirling County) 12. Kerr Yule (West of Scotland) 11. Euan Muirhead (Dumfries Saints) 10. Charlie Greaves (West of Scotland VICE CAPTAIN) 9. Harrison Lang (Biggar) 1. Adam Old (Newton Stewart) 2. Aaron Burgess (Kelvinside) 3. Eben Cairns (Ardossan Academicals) 4. Ruairidh Hart (The Glasgow Academy CAPTAIN) 5. Jared Ebowemen (Kelvinside Academy) 6. Finlay Davidson (St Columba’s) 7. Ben Skinner (St Columba’s) 8. Finn Carden (West of Scotland)
Replacements: 16. Dylan Maxwell (Boroughmuir) 17. Kieran McCurdie (Carrick) 18. Ewan Brannan (Kelvinside Academy) 19. Josh Reed (GHA) 20. Theo McKenna (St Aloysius College) 21. Stewart Black (West of Scotland) 22. Harris Mitchell (West of Scotland)
- Head Coach: Euan Clark
- Assistant Coaches: David Mitchell, Jamie Dempsey and Gary Strain