There was snow on the hills but spring in the air as a crowd of nearly 500 gathered in sunny Selkirk this Sunday (14 March) to watch Scotland under-18 take on their French counterparts in their first fixture of the season.
Captain Murray McConnell led out the home side and the game kicked off at a brisk pace. Stand-off Harry Leonard had an early chance to put the Scots ahead but hoofed the ball wide.
The pace was then dictated by the visitors but early problems with the scrum led to a second penalty attempt from inches short of the halfway line. Leonard’s colossal kick had the distance but not the direction and a further penalty some minutes later was also wide of the mark.
Following a run of unsuccessful scrums, the Scots had another chance to put points on the board however Jamie Urquhart’s kick, also lifted by the breeze, was unlucky not to see the other side of the posts.
A good break from the French, midway through the half, resulted in the first score of the day, a try from full back Jean-Bernard Pujol, duly converted by scrum half Jules Lebail.
Barely five minutes later, however, the Scots drew level thanks to a glorious intercept from centre Stuart Hogg, duly converted by Leonard.
The score spurred the home side on to a great burst of play, resulting in a try for lock Mitch Eadie on thirty minutes; the awkwardly-angled conversion was booted successfully over the bar by Leonard again, to put Scotland ahead 14-7.
As the French pressed ahead, the ball was turned over and kicked away by Leonard however, seconds before the half-time whistle, the French lock, Andrew Chauveau, broke down the wing and found he faced no defence, to go over the line for France again. The conversion was unsuccessful.
Half time: 14-12
There was a raft of substitutions for the French at half time though Scotland emerged unchanged. A penalty after two minutes put the visitors ahead by one point: 14-15.
Less than five minutes later an intercept ball led to another try for France, by centre Fabrice Catala, duly converted by Lebail; 14-22.
On the ten-minute mark, however, a determined, weaving run from Scotland centre, Mark Bennett, who outmanoeuvred at least six opposition on the way to the try line, added five points to the home side’s score, Leonard adding a further two with his conversion; 21-22.
As the action moved to the other end of the pitch, a scramble near the line led to a French body grounding the ball, the unconverted try increasing the French lead to 21-27.
A lapse in concentration led to another French score less than five minutes later, the converted score pushing the visitors thirteen points ahead by the 30-minute mark.
Scotland took advantage of the sin-binning of France’s fullback, Pujol, four minutes short of the whistle as substitute Ryan Hood touched down, the unconverted try giving a final score of 26-34.
After the game head coach Grant McKelvey said: “These boys have never played internationally before and I think it was a really positive performance. We have a strong midfield and a highly competent pack. As a management team, we were really excited about watching these boys play, and that’s a great thing to be able to say.
“We’ve a lot of work to do but this is a good starting point – it’s just a shame we didn’t get the victory.
“The boys have had a taste of international rugby and now we’ll regroup, refocus and meet up again next Friday to prepare to take on Wales next Sunday (21 March).”
Martin Currie Man of the Match: Stuart Hogg (Heriot’s)
Scotland under-18 v France under-18 at Philiphaugh, Selkirk on Sunday 14 March
15 Jamie Urquhart (Stirling County)
14 Doug Day (Paviors RFC)
13 Stuart Hogg (Heriot’s) **
12 Mark Bennett (Cumnock RFC) *
11 Aidan McCall Hagan (West of Scotland)
10 Harry Leonard (Brighton College)
9 Murray McConnell (Lenzie Academy / West of Scotland) *
1 Robin Hislop (Hawick Wanderers / Langholm) **
2 Fergus Scott (Currie)
3 Fraser Watt (East Kilbride)
4 Andrew Redmayne (Kilmarnock)
5 Mitch Eadie (Filton College)
6 Lawrie Seydak (Edinburgh Academy)
7 Ben Johnstone (Stewart’s Melville College)
8 Andrew Nagle (Jed Thistle)
16 Ryan Hood (Strathallan)
17 George Turner (Stewart’s Melville College)
18 Gavin Robertson (Earlston HS / Melrose Wasps)
19 William Kay (Boroughmuir)
20 Adam de Ste Croix (Boroughmuir)
22 Jamie Stevenson (Whitgift)
23 Jack Bradford (Worksop College)
24 Sam Knudson (Aberdeen GS)
25 Michael Crawley (Stewart’s Melville College)
26 Andrew Hall
(all substitutes used)
* member of National Academy supported by AIS (Area Institute of Sport)
** member of National Academy supported by Scottish Rugby
Scotland under-18 fixture dates 2010
14 March Scotland under-18 v France under-18, Selkirk RFC (kick-off 3pm) Free entry
21 March Scotland under-18 v Wales under-18, Melrose RFC (kick-off 3pm) Free entry
28 March Scotland under-18 v Leeds Academy, West Park, Leeds (kick-off 2.30pm)
2 to 10 April - International Festival in Wales
Friday 2 April Scotland under-18 v England under-18, Llandovery (kick-off 4pm)
Tuesday 6 April Scotland under-18 v Italy under-18, Llandovery (kick-off 4pm)
Saturday 10 April Scotland under-18 v Ireland under-18, Llandovery (kick-off 4pm)