Merchiston Castle School 22
George Watson’s College 17
ALAN LORIMER @ Colinton
MERCHISTON CASTLE SCHOOL completed the line-up for the Scottish Schools Under-18 Cup Final on the international pitch at Murrayfield a week on Wednesday after defeating George Watson’s College in a tense and closely fought penultimate round match at Colinton.
In miserable conditions of constant drizzle and a total non-appearance of any sunshine, Merchiston’s better tactical awareness in the second half was what made the difference, most notably from Scotland Under-18 scrum-half Jamie Dobie, whose kicking from hand put Watson’s under pressure.
“I thought in the second half we took control of the game well. We went to a tighter game and used the aerial battle quite well. To be fair, we got a few lucky bounces and came out on top. We ground that one out. I thought our discipline was better.” said Merchiston coach, Roddy Deans.
“This was an extremely close game between two very good teams. Over the last five years we’ve been on the receiving end of things. This is a talented group of players playing against a talented Watson’s side. We’re proud of the boys. We actually played Watson’s a couple of weeks ago and lost. That was perhaps the kick in the backside we needed,” he added.
Watson’s did not make it in any way easy for Merchiston to win and actually held a seven point lead at one stage in the second half. The Myreside team, however, lacked the kicking game needed for the conditions and found it difficult when Merchiston deployed their aerial tactics.
“At the end of the day there wasn’t much in it,” suggested the Watson’s coach, Ally Donaldson. “We possibly made more mistakes than them. We maybe sat back a bit too much when we got ahead at 17-10, but it came to one or two mistakes. I’m proud of this group. They’re hurting because they were a breath a way from winning. They’ve made a huge improvement in a short time. The good thing is that we’ve got five or six coming back next year.”
Merchiston almost made the perfect start when their full-back Rory Stewart-Cox was put in the clear in the opening minute, but a try-saving tackle by Watson’s lively scrum-half Corin Macdonald prevented an immediate score.
However, from a driving maul, Merchiston did draw first blood with a try by prop George Kyriazi, although that was answered quickly by a try in the corner by wing Ewan Evans after Angus Hoffie had gained ground with a run through midfield.
The home side again took the lead when wing Dean Anderson powered over for his side’s second try, but just before the break Watson’s levelled the scores again with a touchdown from back-row Ewan Henderson, following a period of forward pressure on the Merchiston line.
Watson’s looked the livelier side at the beginning of the second half and were rewarded with a close range try from their second-row Andrew Hoggarth, with Hoffie’s conversion giving the Myresiders a 17-10 advantage.
Merchiston responded by deploying a kicking game with valuable contributions from Dobie, and the change of tactics produced a try for Stuart-Cox and then a match winner from back-row William Harper, with Rory Thain’s conversion sealing vit.
Merchiston will face St Aloysius College in the show case final on Wednesday 5th December.
Merchiston Castle School: R Stewart-Cox; D Anderson, M Currie, O Ashley, D Taylor; R Thain, J Dobie; R Ewing, D Tidy, G Kyriazi, H Skipworth, J Laing, W Harper, W Smith, F Stewart. Subs: J Dun, A Geddes, H Henderson, H Chapple, O Flannigan, A Fraser, M Cornelius, A Spencer.
George Watson’s College: R Daley; A Hoffie, J Stephen, R Stephen Evans; A Harley, C Macdonald; E Craig, E Rhodes, G Scougall, O Taylor, A Hoggarth, C Robertson, H Morris, E Henderson Subs R O’Brien, L Hutchinson, J Roberts, M Raitt, O Snodgrass, F Kinloch, A Cousin.
Referee: S Grove-White
Merchiston: Tries: Kyriazi, Anderson, Harper, Stuart-Cox; Con: Thain.
Watson’s: Tries: Evans, Henderson, Hoggarth; Con: Hoffie.
Scoring Sequence (Merchiston first): 5-0; 5-5; 5-10; 10-10 (h-t) 10-15; 10-17; 15-17; 20-17; 22-17.