Schools/Youth Rugby: Stewart’s Melville clinch East Schools Conference title
IT was fitting that the under-18 title decider finale in the East Schools Conference between Stewart’s-Melville College and Dollar Academy was played in front of a packed stand at Inverleith. In the event, all who watched the game saw an exciting and high quality game that could have gone either way.
At the end of a titanic battle, Stewart’s-Melville College confirmed their strong form this season by taking the honours with a 24-21 victory over their close rivals, the result giving the Colleges the East Schools A Conference under-18 title.
Stewart’s-Melville had to overcome the temporary loss of two players to the sin-bin but did so through determined tackling as their head coach Stuart Edwards acknowledged. “We rode a storm in the first half by defending really well, then scored three tries after the break, but approaching full time with the score at 24-21 it was a nervy few minutes for us,” he said.
For the neutrals watching the game, the back-row battle was one of the fascinating aspects of the game with both sides fielding quality players. “I thought the two back-rows were immense, and for us our seven, Freddy Douglas, was exceptional, and he’s still only in S5,” observed Edwards, who reckoned that there was little between the two teams. “If we’d lost the game we couldn’t have argued. It was about fine margins,” he judged.
The other player for Stewart’s-Melville who was hugely influential was stand-off James Lewis. “I thought James kicked very well, he controlled territory beautifully with his boot. He was huge for us,” suggested Edwards
The game was a winners-takes-all situation and in achieving victory Stewart’s-Melville added this year’s title to their 2019 success. “This is the first time we’ve secured back-to-back titles,” Edwards explained [there was, of course, no Conference competition in 2020].
Dollar led 7-5 at half-time through a try by their outstanding open-side flanker Sam Wallace and a conversion by full-back Wilfie Timney, to an unconverted try for the hosts by winger Rob Henderson. Tries for Stewart’s-Melville by flanker Charlie Burns, replacement wing Isaac Johnston and Henderson again, plus two conversions from stand-off James Lewis, were replied to by Dollar with a try by centre Angus Hunter, a conversion by Timney and then a penalty try, leaving the visitors frustratingly short of victory.
“The boys were naturally disappointed but the beauty is that we have a second chance in the Cup which starts in January,” commented Don Caskie, the Dollar coach. “The game was nip and tuck and played in great spirit. It went right to the wire. I think that playing in front of such a large crowd was totally in keeping with the standard on the pitch. I think the standard at this level is increasing all the time.
“What made the Conference so exciting this year was that there was a real focus on getting through to the Cup and it was only the top four who progressed. So this created a really competitive environment.”
In the Caledonia A Schools Conference, Dundee High School pipped Queen Victoria School with a thrilling 29-27 home win, resulting in the Mayfield side tying for second place with Morrison’s Academy, whose game against Howe of Fife/Bell-Baxter HS last Saturday was called off because of Covid.
With only two from the Caledonia Conference to progress to the National Cup, and given that Morrison’s match earlier in the season against Dundee High resulted in a draw, just who goes through to the Cup as Conference runners-up presents a tricky problem for the Championship committee.
In club rugby, Boroughmuir under-18s signed off their 2021 National Conference season with a 39-7 victory against Mackie in Stonehaven to make it eight wins from eight matches, and with it claim the Conference under-18 title. Muir, missing six regular starters, scored six tries, four of them by hooker Dylan Maxwell and one apiece from centre Nick Adler and back row Euan Smart.
“Overall this has been a successful National Conference for the under-18’s, we managed to remain undefeated with eight wins from eight games played, scoring 341 points with only 51 against,” said Muir’s under-18 head coach Scott Anderson.
“The squad is going well and our players are progressing and developing well as we now look ahead to the National Cup in January,” he added.
For Mackie, with a smaller pool of players than their Meggetland opponents, and with a number of first choices injured, it was always going to be a difficult match. “It was not a good day for us,” confirmed the Mackie coach Andrew Buchanan. “We were beaten by a better team and our significant injury and Covid list had an impact on our squad.
“Boroughmuir played well and showed why they are the top team. We are happy with our progress for the first season and have learnt a lot from it. We will play in the Caledonia Cup in January and be back at full strength for that.”
Mackie’s only score was from a try by winger Douglas Shiach converted by Craig Strachan.
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Meanwhile, in the Borders Semi Junior League, Hawick Youth continued their uninterrupted winning sequence in the competition after defeating Carlisle Colts 55-0. The match proved a try treasure trove for Hawick Youth’s scoring-machine Finlay Douglas, who, in a switch to centre from his usual wing position, bagged another hat-trick. Hawick’s other tries came from full-back Eli Hamilton (2) and one each by wingers Sean McMichan and Martin Goldie, prop Brady Wilson, and flanker and club captain Marcus Brogan.
After experiencing the frustration of having their match against Alnwick postponed on the previous weekend, Melrose Wasps experienced the winning feeling last Saturday from their 31-22 victory over Selkirk Youth, with tries from Hamish Derrick, Robbie Robinson, Robbie Gunn, Finn Douglas and Mackenzie Power. Matthew Gaston had three conversions.
For Peebles Colts there was a 24-17 defeat to Tynedale at Corbridge, the Peebles points coming from a brace of tries by Finlay Collins and two conversions and a penalty from Frey Maciver.
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