WHILE Boroughmuir have not always helped themselves this season, with loose kicks at key moments and other lapses in concentration costing them dearly in tight games, they have also suffered more than their fair share of bad luck along the way.
Losing their captain and talismanic stand-off Chris Laidlaw to a hamstring problem for most of the first half of the campaign was a major blow; and during this period stand-in skipper Johnny Matthew was whisked off on a mini-tour of South Africa as emergency cover for the Edinburgh squad, meaning he missed the team’s daunting trip to Melrose.
Meanwhile, the SRU performance department’s decision to send second-row Callum Atkinson off to develop his game in South Africa meant he has only played five league games all year.
In more recent weeks, BT Sport Academy props Dan Winning (ACL) and Ross Dunbar (fractured cheekbone and now hamstring) have been unavailable through injury.
This level of player churn is perhaps not dissimilar to every other club in the league, but the timings of these set-backs and the identity of the missing men does seem to have been particularly cruel for a team which has shown flashes of inspiration but generally struggled to establish real forward momentum.
The brothers Ure
Another figure who missed the start of the season is Jamie Ure and it is surely no coincidence that Boroughmuir have started to build up a head of steam since the turn of the year, after the rambunctious back-five forward had returned from shoulder surgery undertaken last summer.
And if the return of the 21-year-old has been an anticipated boost to the Meggetland men as they look to scramble away from the relegation quagmire, then the emergence of his little brother Rob has been a wholly unexpected bonus. After earning his spurs playing for the 2nd XV, the 18-year-old got his first chance in the top team against Hawick at the end of January.
“He came on in the 2nd half against Hawick and made 28 tackles in 40 minutes without missing one. Not a bad first appearance in the 1st XV,” reveals an impressed big brother.
“I had sore shoulders after that,” laughs junior, self-consciously. “I’m just trying to make the most of the chances I get – work hard to put in a good shift and see where that takes me.”
“There’s some quality players in the back-row at the club, and they are experienced players as well, so they kept their places while I had to prove myself. Tom Drennan was injured and Dan Marek was away with the Under-20s, so I got called up to the bench for the Hawick game and came on at half-time, then started the next two games after that.”
The pair grew up in East Grinstead, near Crawley in West Sussex, and were introduced to the game by their father, Rick, a former semi-pro basketball player turned PE teacher.
“My dad is Scottish – proper Scottish – he’s from near Falkirk. Someone in his PE department persuaded him to come down and try rugby, and he just fell in love with it,” says Jamie.
“So, we started playing when we were about three, initially with boys a year or two above us, then when our age-group started we joined in there and went through the system.”
“It was always about Scotland. My mum is English so there is a connection, but it was always the dream to run out at Murrayfield. Growing up, Chris Paterson was my favourite player and it is pretty surreal now that he is coaching sessions I am taking part in.”
“I started the exiles stuff when I was 16 but there wasn’t that much opportunity at that time, you maybe had a training camp once a month when they could see your progress.”
Things started to accelerate for the older Ure boy when he left school and was awarded a scholarship to travel to New Zealand for five months, during which time he played for Bay of Plenty in the Jock Hobbs Memorial National Under-19 Tournament involving the best young players in the country.
After returning home he linked up with Worthing Raiders to play National 2 League South [the fourth tier of English rugby] and was selected to play for Scotland Under-19 against Japan National Schools in March 2016.
Peter Blackhall, the Boroughmuir team manager, was at the game and had a word afterwards about trying his hand in the Scottish Premiership, and the SRU were offering an unpaid stage two academy slot for the 2016-17 season. “After that it was just about finding a place in Edinburgh to live,” says the player.
Over the course of last season, he battled his way into the Boroughmuir 1st XV and came off the bench for Scotland Under-20s in all five of their matches during the 2017 Six Nations. He didn’t initially make the squad for last summer’s Junior World Cup in Georgia, but was called up as an injury replacement, although he didn’t get any game time.
At 6ft 4ins, his future perhaps lies in the back rather than the middle row of the scrum, and that is an avenue he is keen to investigate.
“That’s a big talking point. All the way through my career I was a second-row, but when I made the Under-20s squad last year there was talk of making me a six, and I had a couple run-outs off the bench in that position, which I really enjoyed. I think, going forward, I would like that to be my permanent position,” he says.
“I’m used to playing second-row so I know where I need to be, but more and more they are looking for the big mutant second-rows and at 6ft 4ins I am never going to be that.”
‘He’s a little mouthy one. Got himself into trouble, didn’t he? So, I had to go calm it down’
Meanwhile, Rob – who had spent some time as part of the Harlequins academy – left school last summer and decided to head north to study International Business Management at Heriot Watt University.
“Jamie was already up here and playing for Boroughmuir, but even before that I loved Edinburgh as a city from coming up here to watch Six Nations games with my dad, so I knew I wanted to come to study here,” he explains.
He doesn’t have his brother’s height or bulk, but has the energy and attitude to be a very effective old-fashioned open-side dog, as his impressive stats against Hawick demonstrate. Since that memorable debut, he has cemented his place a key figure in the 1st XV by being top tackler in his two subsequent appearances, against Stirling County in the league at the start of February and Watsonians in the cup last weekend.
“The way I play, I just try to bring energy and work-rate to the team. Effort in defence is a big part of my game – a high tackle count. I carry when needed but I’m more of a defensive player,” he says.
This combative style perhaps contributed to his minor spat on the pitch with Watsonians captain Craig Borthwick last weekend. The Boroughmuir man was at a significant weight disadvantage, but fortunately there was somebody nearby who will always have his back.
“He’s a little mouthy one. Got himself into trouble, didn’t he? So, I had to go calm it down,” chuckles Jamie.
Rob is not currently a member of the SRU academy set-up but has been invited along to a national Under-19 squad session on Sunday.
Before that, however, there is the small matter of a re-match against Watsonians at Meggetland tomorrow – this time with vital league points up for grabs.
“We’ve done our reviews and analysis, and identified a few things we could do better and a few of their areas we can really exploit. We’re going to come out all guns blazing,” says Jamie, who is clearly confident that his team can turn around the agonising 29-24 loss they suffered last Saturday.
“It’s going to be a big push to see us safe. Then onwards and upwards for next season – with a new slate and a new chance to show what we are capable of as a squad.”