from ALAN LORIMER @ Oriam
IT will be Ayr versus Boroughmuir in the Scottish Youth League Under-18 Cup Final this season after that pair secured victories over Hawick Youth and Stirling County, respectively, in the semi-final double-header at Oriam yesterday afternoon.
This was the first time that the semi-finals had been staged indoors and judging by the quality of rugby on display the decision to move out of the cold was fully vindicated.
Hawick Youth 9
First up was the Hawick versus Ayr match and in the event it proved, ultimately, to be a comfortable win for the Millbrae side. But it took a strong second half, in which Ayr stepped up the physicality of their play, to hit back at Hawick who had looked the more comfortable of the two teams before the break, and who led 6-0 at that stage from two penalty goals by their stand-off Bailey Donaldson.
Ayr’s greater physicality in the second half, however, quickly turned the game in their favour, and tries in quick succession by their strong-running centre Dylan Wilson and their stand-off Andy Morrison, both converted by Murray Thomson, establishing a 14-6 lead.
Hawick threatened briefly when they upped the tempo only for Ayr to finish strongly when Morrison laid on a perfect pass for wing Chris Easton to score in the corner for the final points of the game.
“I thought we had the better of the first half and when their heads went down a bit I thought we could win the game.” suggested Rocky Johnstone, the Hawick coach. “But in the second half their ten controlled the game very well. We gave him too much time on the ball. Their forwards started to dictate the game in the second half. In the first half we were stopping them getting over the gain-line but in the second half we didn’t. Our younger boys began to tire in the second half and so we had to sub.”
“We’re having to rely on a lot of young boys. More than half will be back next season. We’ve got a small base to choose from and maybe if we combined with another club for the Cup, success might return to the Borders.”
Ayr’s coach, Stuart Fenwick, thought that his side reacted better in the second half. He said: “I don’t think we changed our tactics, we just started doing things better. We had a lot good ball carriers, but the key skill was that we supported the ball carrier. We worked harder to get to the ball.
“We have a young squad. It’s a real team, not a bunch of superstars. We missed a couple of stronger players today but the guys who came in worked really hard.”
Hawick Youth: C Welsh; F Gordon-Woolley, M Bannerman, J Delaney, A Antonacci; B Donaldson, B Scott; R Toogood, M Silveira, J Grant , S Frizell, B Murdoch, D Clark, B McNeil, B Chelley Subs C Sutherland, P Porter, R Borthwick, M Forbes, L Graham, A Jones, J Chelley.
Ayr: R Maiden; J Easton, D Wilson, B Jackson, C Easton; A Morrison, C Doolan; M Lafferty, R Ward, B Cree, E Bulloch, C Lynch, D Tucker, O Mossie, M Leatherbarrow Subs M Crossan, C Mcluckie, S Mclaerty, J McGuinness, D White, M Thomson, N Monaghan.
Premiership Match Reports:
Stirling County 7
In the second semi-final, Boroughmuir produced a top class display to defeat Stirling County 31-7, the third win this season for the Meggetland men over the Bridgehaugh side.
Boroughmuir might have been favourites to win but not by this margin. On the day, however, they played with real dynamism and physicality, and crucially took their chances; helped, admittedly, by the individual skills of the Firhill High School wing, Jeke Canakaivata.
Aside from Canakaivata, the Meggetland side had impressive performances from: open-side flanker Gavin Inkster, who sadly had to retire after picking up a head knock, second-row Derry McConnell, number eight Paul Bogie and hooker Grant Stevenson among the forwards; while in the backs, scrum-half Ethan McVicker and centre Ben McIntosh were influential.
For Stirling: their Scotland under-18 squad prop, Ben Mace, played with power; stand-off Euan Cunningham showed he is returning to form after an injury-interrupted season; and, in the back-row, Tomoki Hayashi carried ball well.
Boroughmuir effectively had the game won by half time when they led 19-0 from a try of individual brilliance by left wing Canakaivata, an interception score by the same player and then a third touchdown, this time from Inskster, plus two conversions from stand-off Calum Anderson.
Stirling looked more threatening at the beginning of the second half and were rewarded with a close range try by Mace and the conversion by Cailean Lindsay. Mace then had a spell in the sin-bin and during his absence Boroughmuir hit back with a try by Stevenson.
Then, with injuries taking their toll, County went further behind when McConnell crashed over for his side’s fifth try, with Anderson’s conversion signing off a fine win for the Meggetland youth side.
“We knew it was going to be tough against Stirling because in the previous games against them it was very close,” said the Boroughmuir head coach Scott Anderson.” Today I thought we nailed it in the backs. We tried to get the ball wide because we knew the game Stirling try to play. I thought, too, that our forwards fronted up. And in defence we were up in their faces all the time. I was pleased too with our game management.”
Stirling County’s head coach, Stewart Milne, admitted that Boroughmuir had most of the answers. “I think they played very well,” he conceded. “From a County point of view, we gave them chances and didn’t play an attacking game. They certainly handled the occasion better. We let the pressure tell a bit. The interception try in the first half was a critical score. We were just getting back into the game and then that score. We’ve got to take it on the chin. But the positive is that half the squad will be back next season.”
Boroughmuir: J Dewar; F Devine, S Dobson, B Mackintosh, J Canakaivata; C Anderson, E McVicker; G McDevitt, G Stevenson, C MacGregor, D McConnell, L Thompson, M Crawford, G Inkster, P Bogie Subs C Ritchie, C Farmer, M Roy, S McDowall, C Ledingham, A Jacques, C Hogg
Stirling County: E Muir; J Nixon, C Lindsay, K Singleton, J Isgrove; E Cunningham, F Craig; B Mace, C Hunter, G Ratcliff, S Lang, R Hughes, L Kesson, O Yarrow, T Hayashi Subs H McKenzie, K Crainey, N Teahan, C Cunningham, P Collins, R Reid-Kay, C Davie.