Scotland under-17s made it two wins from three at the Millfield international festival as they defeated a strong and physical French side in Somerset on Saturday. The French got off to a good start with a penalty in the first minute and continued to dominate the first half with typical aggression and physicality combined with good handling and fine offloads. The turning point for Scotland came when stand-off Gregor Hunter (Gala Wanderers) showed good vision to chip the ball into the opposition 22.
The exposed French full back was quickly turned over and the Scots moved the ball to Grant Sommerville (George Watson's College) who scored his third try of the tournament. Gregor Hunter stepped up to slot the conversion on the stroke of half time.
Half time: 7-3
Scotland started the second half well and a penalty from the boot of Gregor Hunter extended the Scots lead to 10-3. However Scotland, as we have seen on occasion in the tournament, were again guilty of trying too many passes and offloads, and allowed the French back into the match when they scored a try to make it a nervous 10-8.
The French then began to exert the kind of pressure seen early in the first half, particularly through the rolling maul, and were back in the lead through a penalty awarded for a Scottish infringement at the ruck; 10-11.
But despite losing the lead, the young Scots regained their composure and were determined not to let the match slip out of their hands. A scrum on the French 10 metre line provided the ideal attacking platform. Quick ball form consecutive rucks at opposite sides of the pitch scattered the French defence until third phase ball found inside centre, Courtenay Morrison (Dollar Academy), mismatched by a French prop who he rounded to score.
Duncan Weir (Cambuslang) converted to make it 17-11 before sealing the match with a penalty kick three minutes from time.
Final score: 20-11.
Scotland under-17 coach, Bryan Easson, said: "The French were a typical good French side, by far the best side we’ve played in the festival.
“It’s a brilliant result. Overall in the first half we were again guilty of trying to force the game – it’s important to attack teams with fast play and quick offloads but they learning to attack in the right way at the right time.
“This group, particularly when they show their composure, are capable of playing some very good rugby and scoring very good tries - which they showed today. The fact that they’re developing is the most important factor they’ve learned a lot from playing these internationals, not just about rugby but about themselves; physically, mentally and emotionally."
The under-17s players next travel to Spain in the summer for a fortnight’s strength and conditioning in Valladolid before qualifying for the under-18 age bracket.
“This is not the end of this development squad but the start of these players’ careers. They’ve now seen what’s needed at this level. It’s important that they can take that on board at the next level and push on.”
15 Glenn Bryce (Stirling County)
14 Grant Sommerville (George Watson’s College)
13 Danny Gilmour (Stirling County)
12 Henry Oliver (Merchiston Castle School),
11 Craig Robertson (Gala Wanderers)
10 Gregor Hunter (Gala Wanderers)
9 Sean Kennedy (Clackmannanshire Colts)
1 Ross Turner (Fettes College)
2 Richard Ferguson, (Melrose Wasps
3 George Hunter (Aberdeen Wanderers)
4 Robert McAlpine (Glasgow Academy)
5 Callum Evans (George Watson’s College)
6 Andrew Kirkland (Greenock Wanderers)
7 Duncan Finnie CAPTAIN (George Watson’s College)
8 Grant Runciman (Melrose Wasps)
Courtenay Morrison (Dollar Academy) on for Henry Oliver
Duncan Weir (Cambuslang) on for Gregor Hunter
U17 management Team
Rob Charters - team manager
Bryan Easson - head coach
Gordon Henderson - assistant coach
Mark Appleson - assistant coach
Iain Cleland - conditioning coach
Kate Morris - physiotherapist
John Turvil - doctor