by ALAN LORIMER
SCOTTISH SCHOOLS’ CUP FINALS DAY is well established as one of the glamour events on the rugby calendar and the 2017-18 event on the international pitch at Murrayfield is expected to attract a sizeable crowd.
While the main focus will be on the two Cup Finals at Under-16 and Under-18 age levels, there are six other matches being played to determine the winners of the Shield, Plate and Bowl trophies in both age categories. The Under-16 Shield, Plate and Bowl matches will kick-off at 2.30pm, while the corresponding Under-18 games kick-off at 6pm, with all six contests being played on the back pitches at Murrayfield.
But it is the Cup Finals that will attract the main attention and as always expect a large contingent of youngsters cheering on their own schools.
This year there are two newcomers to the Under-18 Cup Final [which kicks-off at 7.45pm] in Strathallan School and Glenalmond College, who are close neighbours in Perthshire. The two schools met in last year’s Under-18 Shield Final, which Strathallan won 36-19. Strathallan were also in the Under-16 Cup final last year, where they lost to St Aloysius College.
These days, schools’ rugby is played in conferences which streams school in accordance with their overall strength at all levels.
Strathallan are a tier one side against while Glenalmond would be classed as tier two, so the former should be clear favourites to win the title, but neither side is taking that assumption for granted.
“We are the obvious underdogs in this fixture against a very strong Strathallan School but one of the good things about the game is that a lot of the players in both teams know each other well,” suggested Graham Smith, the Glenalmond coach.
“This won’t detract from the intensity of the game, I am sure, and we are obviously hoping to cause an upset on the night. We know we are up against some strong regional and international players who have been recruited by our opposition, however, I hope the boys enjoy the experience of playing on the National Pitch and their time at Murrayfield.”
Strathallan had a comfortable win over Glenalmond earlier in the season [60-10] but their coach, Andy Henderson, insisted that this is not a guide to Cup matches.
“We are clearly guarding against any complacency. We have a group of players who have really come together as a team and have worked hard all season in achieving their goals. One of the goals was to win the Schools Cup and we now find ourselves with just the final part of the job to be completed,” he said.
“The confidence is high amongst the players although they know only their best effort will give them what they deserve. The players will have the opportunity to produce a performance that will thank their coaches, parents and friends for all the support they have received through their rugby journeys.”
“We have some players who played in the Under-16 Final so some of this will be familiar to them, but for others the magic of running through the tunnel has still to happen for the first time. For all of the boys it is going to be a very special occasion.”
Strathallan have made it to the final the hard way, finding themselves in the much trickier half of the draw, which pitched them against not only defending champions, Stewart’s-Melville College, but also George Watson’s College, who were undefeated this year at Under-18 level in the top tier Colt Conference this season and who had beaten Merchiston Castle at the quarter-final stage.
Glenalmond, for their part, had a less arduous route to the final beating fellow tier sides, Glasgow High School and then Fettes College in a tight semi-final that went to the wire before a last-minute penalty from full-back Ben Morrison gave the Perthshire school a 6-3 win.
Strathallan, who have produced some top level professional players of late, among them Zander Fagerson, Jamie Ritchie and Murray McCallum, have some very promising players in their side, not least their skipper Murphy Walker, a strong and mobile tighthead prop, who sadly is too old for the Scotland under-18 squad this season.
The Strathallan pack also contains the highly promising second-row Cameron Henderson, and back rows Alex Marsh and Yannick Sutcliffe who have all represented East under-18s. Behind the scrum Strathallan are also well equipped with classy backs in Calum McKeown, Ollie Smith and Angus Vipond, the latter a very efficient goal kicker.
For Glenalmond, keep an eye out for Morrison at full back, Rafe Houston at stand-off and in the forward pack, back-row Jock Stodart.
The Under-16 Final has a familiar ring to it with George Watson’s College squaring off against their city rivals Stewart’s-Melville College. Watson’s have the better form this season having topped the Colt Conference table and crucially having beaten the Inverleith side when they met earlier this season.
Under-18 Schools’ Cup Final teams –
Glenalmond: B Morrison; T Roynon-Brown, B Porter, W Laird, M Kinge; R Houston, T Godfrey-Faussett; R Orr Ewing, F McCarthy, G Breese, J Houldsworth, A Fitzpatrick, T Porter, C Bullard, J Stodart. Subs: W Weir, J Morrison, J Denton, H Marlow, L Kinge, R Leader, W Arnot.
Strathallan: C McKeown, T Clark, O Smith, A Vipond, F Laird; R McCorkindale, A Brennan; H White, G Clunas, M Walker, S Robertson, C Henderson, L Webster, Y Sutcliffe, A Marsh. Subs: C Ramsay, E Murray-John, R Bayne, L Louden, J McCaig.
Under-16 Schools’ Cup Final teams –
Stewart’s-Melville College: A Morris; N Hussain, A Cross, D Hood, J Grant; J Thompson, R Johnston; C Affleck, J Wilson, K Davidson, A Robertson, A Douglas, D Gray, A Harte, F Peet. Subs: H Bennet, E Sawyer, W Ogilvie, F Campbell, H Stevens, A Boyle, O Rees.
George Watson’s College: D Brown; A Hoffie, R Stephen, A Cousin, R Daley; A Harley, O Snodgrass; G Scougall, L Milligan, H Doppel, M Raitt, A Watters, C Robertson, T Holmes, L Hutchinson. Subs: C Tucker, C Robertson, J Ryan, B Reilly, C Milligan, E Maguire, G Lawson.
Under-18 Schools’ Shield Final teams –
Hutchesons’ Grammar School: D Nairn; F Mathers, A McFarlane, J Stewart, F Meighan; H Miller, L Boyd; E Ramage, M Paton, E Rakhra, F Belmore, F McLean, A Gerry, M Conroy, J Plumridge. Subs: A Swankie, H Hanif, E Law, R Dickie, L Chen, N Welsh.
Kelvinside Academy: E Brady; A Stewart, R Wilson, G McKirdy, J Houston; F Jackson, H Brown; C Brown, L Rowand, B Hastie, R Dempster, J Campbell, H Bottomley, F Harvey. A Geddes. Subs: C Shelton, G Cleary, A Mahmood, Z Stringfellow, O Wilson, B Geary, L Howison.
Under-18 Schools’ Plate Final teams –
Lomond & Helensburgh: B Farrar; R Court, N Fish, C Fletcher, J Dunn; J Bull, A Guy; G Byrne, F Fletcher, L Ashdown, C Calderwood, C King, J Fraser, A Macleod, C Simmons. Subs: M Roy, F Gray, J Ormiston, M Ormiston, J Chapman, W Adam, B Davies.
Marr College: G Paterson; E Light, L Fraser, S Morgan, M O’Leary; S Nicholl, K MacDougall; I Renucci, K Gaw, J Anderson, J Bray, E Reilly, M Smith, K McCulloch, R Press. Subs: A Scoular, S Butchart, A Wallace, R Elliot, R Bell, A McCormack, A McDonald.
Under-18 Schools’ Bowl Final teams –
Linlithgow Academy: A Grant; A Veitch, R Stewart, J McNair, D Mitchell; G Findlater, S McLean; A Bennie, M Fairbanks, L Di-Mascio, C Nicholls, L Park, L Walker, J Martin, N Timlin. Subs: L Ure, C Millar, M Box, S Quinn, C Byrne, E Edwards.
Ross High: S Scanlon; J Dunlop, A Marrison, L Reid, V Kacori; T White, A Baines; J Smith, R Muir, S Cuthbertson, G Davidson, C Clough, A Taylor, C McLeod, S Fleming. Subs: L Allan, G Shillinglaw, S Miller, S MacLeod, D Byars, L Gibson, J Mackay.
Under-16 Schools’ Shield Final teams –
Earlston High School: K Clark; R Lile, N Henderson, R Brett, M Bertram; C Townsend, H Makowski; J Clark, L Kirk, A Gunn, W Catteral, C Folan, R Lindsay, R Tullis, T Andrews. Subs: A Daunas, P Gillan, A Paterson, M Miller, B Lynch, Z Ramage, T Richardson.
Marr College: R Brown; D Craig, S McDonald, G Beckwith, N Headland; C Inglis, S Grassom; D Fleming, B Nicholl, S Rodger, C Mackenzie, L Paterson, S Toner, N Calder, J Affleck. Subs: M Christian, C Morton, K McCann, T Miller, S Stirton, S Smith, L Cotter.
Under-16 Schools’ Plate Final teams –
Hawick High School: M Newman; A Jones, A Antonacci, E Stanger, A Beattie; C Welsh, B Scott; L Graham, S Cook, E Cameron, W Young, C Garden, S Frizzel, D Murphy-Clark, R Tait. Subs: H Scott, M Brogan, C Tait, J Chelley, J Tait.
Royal High School: C Thores; R McArthur, L Trundle, B Preston, D Campbell; R Grant, B Grainger; G Stevenson, J Akugbo, F McAslan, R Henderson, J Shaw, B Watson, R O’Donnell, E Henderson. Sus: R Cameron, D Leech, A Husain, C Scott, C Paterson, R Japson, H Chan.
Under-16 Schools’ Bowl Final teams –
Auchinleck Academy: R Watson; K Owens, L Cameron-Cooper, K Van Der Leest, L Young; A Houston, J Lorrimer; S Hewitt, A Rodger, N Brown, R Roberts, F Littlejohn, A Rogers, C Askin, J Drummond. Subs: J Paterson, K Makin, I Stobbs, L Murray, C White, K Robson.
Oban High School: J Norman; K Clark, B MacFarlane, C Taylor, E Hunter; A Neil, B Findlay; T McQuade, J MacLeod, R McCaskill, H Johnston, N McCulloch, A McCall, K Gray, C Dott. Subs: M MacKay, F Ritchie, G MacDonald, C Campbell-Roberts, F Dunne, J Binnie, A MacKay.