by ALAN LORIMER
TITLE holders Stirling County take on the Conference winners Boroughmuir in the second of the Scottish Youth Cup Under-18 semi-finals being played at The Oriam indoor centre in Heriot-Watt University’s Riccarton Campus on the western outskirts of Edinburgh this afternoon. Preceding this match will be the first semi-final which brings together Hawick Youth and last season’s beaten finalists, Ayr/Wellington.
It is a welcome move by the competition organisers to hold the semi finals at The Oriam, not least because it removes any uncertainty of the matches going ahead on the scheduled date, and moreover it guarantees that the teams will enjoy dry and windless conditions.
Given their form earlier this season, both Stirling and Boroughmuir were being tipped as potential Cup winners. The draw, however, has put paid to the prospect of both appearing in the final but it adds spice to the penultimate round.
Boroughmuir, who played Stirling twice in the Shogun Conference, winning both matches, will certainly know all about County’s heavy weaponry and their skill behind the scrum. “We are aware of the physicality they bring and we can only play our own game,” said Scott Anderson, the Meggetand side’s coach. “Hopefully it will be a fantastic game of rugby.”
The Edinburgh team have shown that they have serious firepower in the shape of winger Jeke Canakaivata, scrum-half Ethan McVicker and back-rows Paul Bogie and Gavin Ingster, who captains the side.
For their part, Stirling are eager to make amends for their two previous defeats this season to today’s opponents. “We’ve come up short twice against Boroughmuir so far this season, in both games we should have done enough but we let them take control and ultimately win,” said Stewart Milne, the Stirling coach. “The players feel they have a point to prove but they know they’re going to have to battle for 70 minutes to get the result.”
County demonstrated their forward power in the quarter-final against Melrose Wasps at Bridgehaugh three weeks ago when their pack, among them Scotland squad prop Ben Mace, paved the way for a sizeable win. Behind the scrum, inside-centre Keir Singleton is a district player in a fast backline, suggesting that Stirling are well equipped to take on Muir.
Before the clash of the big two, Hawick Youth take on Ayr. The Borderers reached the last four with a big victory over Ellon the in the preliminary round at the Volunteer Park and then a comfortable win over Perthshire at the North Inch. Hawick’s game is based on quick handling and clever backplay, orchestrated by their stand-off and skipper, Bailey Donaldson.
Hawick are the only one of the four semi-finalists not in the top tier Shogun Conference. The young Greens play in the Borders semi-junior league but such is the extreme variability of the standard of rugby experienced week to week in this competition that they could be at a disadvantage when they face Ayr in this one-off, winner-takes-all match.
Ayr come into the semi finals having scraped through their quarter final against GHA by the narrowest of margins with a 32-31 win at Auldhouse. This result will have scared Ayr, who this season are described by their coach Stuart Fenwick, as “a young side”.
Young or not, they were the only team in the Shogun conference to achieve a win against Boroughmuir (in the final round of the competition) and that surely is an indicator of strength. Moreover, they have a number of quality players, including their Scotland Under-18 hooker Scott Clelland.
Meanwhile on Sunday, the two Under-16 semi finals will be played beginning with Currie Chieftains facing Biggar and finishing with a repeat of the under-18 semi, Boroughmuir v Stirling County.
Scottish Youth League U18 Cup semi-finals (both matches being played at Oriam on Saturday 26th January) –
- 1pm – Hawick Youth v Ayr/Wellington
- 3.30pm – Stirling County v Boroughmuir
Scottish Youth League U16 Cup semi-finals (both matches being played at Oriam on Sunday 27th January) –
- 1pm – Currie Chieftains v Biggar
- 3.30pm – Boroughmuir v Stirling County