TITLE-holders Stewart’s-Melville College will face their Edinburgh rivals George Watson’s College on Saturday in the Scottish Schools U18 Cup semi-final at Inverleith, with the psychological advantage of having already beaten the Myreside team earlier in the season.
“We played Watson’s in Myreside in the opening round of the Conference and won by a late score in a close game.” remembers Stuart Edwardsthe head coach of Stewart’s-Melville, whose team enters the penultimate round of the cup this season with an unbeaten record.
Edwards is hoping for a repeat of their last Conference game from last month, when they pressed past the Dollar Academy in front of a packed stand in Inverleith. “Our under-16s are also at home in the Cup [v Dundee High School at the quarter-final stage]so it could be a big day in Inverleith,” he added. “We want another big crowd at the games.”
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Watson’s may not have enjoyed the same stellar record as their opponents this season, but given their performances in the Cup over the years, it’s unlikely their desire to reach another final will diminish. However, on Saturday they will be without four protagonists, but still head coach Mike Ker believes that his charges will be brought on the occasion.
“The boys are excited about the opportunity to play in a cup semi-final with a big crowd and I’m sure we could cause a shock if we execute our game plan and be smart on the day,” he suggested.
The other semi-final is in Colinton, where Merchiston Castle School is home to Dollar Academy. When the two sides met in the East Conference, the result was a 24-24 draw: Saturday’s game will therefore also be a sort of decider.
“There’s a real buzz around the school that we’ve really missed in recent years,” said Merchiston’s head coach, Roddy Deans. “These guys have seen a few semi-finals at home in their time at school, so they are well aware of the added pressure.”
Dollar trip to Merchiston buoyed by their 61-0 win over Hutchesons’ Grammar School in the quarterfinals and after Stewart’s-Melville College came desperately close in their last East Conference game at Inverleith.
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Meanwhile, the U18 National Youth Cup semi-finals will see similarly exciting matches, particularly in Meggetland, where Boroughmuir, unbeaten this season, will face Stirling County, a club with a long history of success in this competition.
The two clubs experienced wildly different quarter-finals, Boroughmuir dragged on to a 50-0 win over Ellon and Stirling County only held back a rough Kelso Quins side to take a 19-16 result. “We expect a very tough game against Stirling County. We know we have to be at the top of our game if we want to reach the final,” Boroughmuir head coach Scott Anderson warned.
He added: “The match is on the main pitch of the stadium ahead of the Senior 1st XV match against Ayr so it should be a great day of rugby in Meggetland and hopefully there will be a good crowd to watch both matches “.
Stirling’s director of youth rugby, Stewart Milne, knows that the task of his indictment has not been made any easier by the absence of a number of protagonists. “It’s a shame that a few players are missing, but the depth of the squad shows well. I think the effort to win at Kelso has definitely focused the players,” he said.
The other semi-final will be between Hawick Youth and West of Scotland on the 3G pitch at Volunteer Park in Hawick. The home side, who play an attractive sort of rugby, are undefeated in the Borders Semi Junior League and after their quarter-final victory against a tough Biggar side, the young Greens will have gained more confidence as Hawick’s manager. Paul McDonald confirmed.
“There is a positive feeling in the camp, especially because it is a home game for us and we have such great support,” he said. “We have some doubts about injuries to key players after the hard-fought win against Peebles last week, but we are closely monitoring their progress and hopefully they will be fit for Saturday’s big game.
“On the game side, if we stick to our game plan and keep up our usual pace, I’m confident our boys can go through to the final.”
The West of Scotland reached the last four by beating Livingston in the quarter-finals, but despite that stunning away win, Burnbrae’s side are not making hasty predictions about their chances on Saturday, as expressed by their head coach. Millan Browne. The former Scotland A-prop said: “If we win by playing Hawick at home, we fully deserve to be in the final. It’s a big challenge for the team.”
Also in the semi-final are the Scottish Schools and the National Youth U18 Shields. In the Schools competition, after a 22-20 away win over St Columba’s in the quarters, Morrison’s Academy makes the short journey across the A9 to face Queen Victoria School. When the two schools met in the Caledonia Conference game in Dunblane earlier in the season, Morrison ended up winning 22-14. The other U18 Shield half will take place next Wednesday when Loretto Preston Lodge High School plays.
Two Borders teams, Melrose Wasps and Gala Wanderers, have home field advantage for the semi-finals of their National Youth U18 Shield. Wasps take on Whitecraigs, while Gala Wanderers take on Dumfries Saints.
This is also a big weekend for the U16 Cup and Shield matches in both the Schools and Clubs sectors. This ag class is one stage behind their seniors and all matches this weekend are quarter finals.
While East Conference Schools dominated the U18 quarters, this is less likely to repeat at the U16 level. West’s hopes will rest with Conference winners Glasgow High School, who are home to Dollar Academy and St Aloysius College, who travel to Colinton for their game with Merchiston.
The other quarters are in Inverleith, where the East Schools Conference winners Stewart’s-Melville College will face Dundee High School, and in Aberdeen, where Robert Gordon’s College, the Caledonia U16 champions, will face George Watson’s College.
In the Schools U16 Shield this Saturday, St Columba’s are home to a revived North Berwick High School, Strathendrick/Balfron High School faces Berwick RFC, and Queen Victoria School is compared to Linlithgow Academy. The remaining quarter will be played on Saturday for a week, when Loretto is at home at Howe or Fife/Bell Baxter High School.
The standout match in the National Youth U16 Cup is in the Gytes, where home team Peebles Reds will face Ayr/Wellington. The other Borders club in the cup competition is Gala Red Triangle, who have home advantage in their draw against Stirling County. Meanwhile, Boroughmuir is at home with Dumfries Saints, as is GHA going up against Ellon.
At Shield level in the U16 competition, the north east clubs Deeside/Garioch and Aberdeen Wanderers have to make long journeys for their quarter-final matches, with the former traveling to the south side of Glasgow to play Whitecraigs and the latter heading to Borders for their match with Kelso Quins. The other two quarters in the Shield are Dundee Rugby vs Dunfermline and Hawick Youth vs Cartha QP
All National Youth U16 Cup and Shield matches are played on Sundays.
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