Young blood has it all to prove

The under-16 local teams clashed again in their Pathway Matches across the country as the next crop of Scotland’s talent was keen to impress selectors. 

Having already faced off against teams within their region the week before, local teams clashed against other rivals in their region for a place in the National U16 Player Development Camp.

Held at Kinross Rugby club, the two matches of this windy day saw two very different games. Again, like week one, there was a high level of skill on show, some great attitudes and work-rates demonstrated, which bodes well for the future of Caledonia and age-group rugby.

Central Crusaders 12 – 15 Highland & Islands
Central started the game with more determination and structure following last week’s defeat by playing through the phases and attacking space out wide. This was limited by pressure applied by the H&I pack at the breakdown resulting in Central giving away costly penalty infringements at the ruck.

Despite this, good hands from the Central backs put winger Martin McNee into space where fancy footwork was rewarded with the opening score after nine minutes. Fly-half Gregor Haldane couldn’t convert due to the strong cross wind. H&I rallied and Central couldn’t cope with strong running in the middle of the park. H&I found themselves parked on their opponents line before number eight, John Grant, crashed through the central lines to level the scoring. Alex Murray failed to convert leaving the score at five points apiece. Central fly-half Haldane soon brought them back into the game as he orchestrated some strong attacking play, putting McNee in for his second try of the game. On the 16th minute mark, Haldane converted the try despite the prevailing winds leaving the score 12-5.

However, unrelenting work at the breakdown by the H&I forwards soon took its toll as Central lost territory due to repeated breakdown infringements. Grant again stepped up for H&I as he crossed the line, Sam Croy this time, failing to convert. The rest of the half saw Central unable to finish some excellent scoring opportunities as H&I held on to leave the score 12-10 to the Central at half-time. As the coaches from both teams took the opportunity to rotate all the subs- the second half lost some of its shape. Some sustained attacking play from H&I was rewarded when replacement scrum-half Cameron Munro sniped over the line after 30 minutes. Cameron Grant failed in the conversion attempt. Central attacked straight away from the re-start and with seconds remaining of the game, replacement flanker Iain Wightman was unlucky to knock the ball on over the H&I line, leaving H&I victors 15 - 12.

North East 10 - 50 Tayside & Fife
The first-half of the match saw the T&F forwards carry ball and clear rucks with far more purpose and accuracy than NE denying them of virtually any ball. Despite NE scrum-half Callum Addy and blindside Adam Taylor working tirelessly to turn over much T&F ball, the players were isolated and more often than not the ball was stolen straight back. With such dominant security of possession T&F fly-half Euan Fox showed composure in his running, passing, and kicking game to work five tries in the first-half. Only NE centre Bruce Sorbie could muster a try in answer. The second-half was a closer contest despite T&F still coming out on-top scoring three tries to one. Tayside & Fife’s performance was defined by their unyielding defensive pressure which was only breached for a second time at the death when the Aaron Booner’s power and pace finally broke through. All tries were well worked efforts by both teams with Kieran Grieve, Simon McGarry, Ross Pellow, Matt Fagerson, Ruaridh Leader, Ross McFarlane, and Euan Fox on the scoreboard for T&F. Fox slotted five of his eight conversion attempts in tricky wind conditions.

The crowd filled the stands and touchline at GHA as the weather held for some excellent rugby.

Hurricanes 15 – 0 Chiefs
Hurricanes started the stronger making regular line breaks deep into Chiefs territory led by Aaron Purewal and Ryan Sweeney. Failure to score was due in part to limited support options but also due to the good scramble defence exhibited by the Chiefs. Once the line breaks began linking with support players the tries soon came with Ryan Sweeney, Martin Calvalho, and Craig McCall all scoring for the Hurricanes. Chiefs finished the match the stronger of the sides but powerful surges, notably from Paul Cairncross, could not be converted as they failed to cross the line.

Warriors 20 – 5 Giants
This game was fast paced and flowing due to the efficiency of the breakdown area. The difference between the two teams came from the Warriors’ mid-field with Stafford McDowell, Gregor Paxton, and Aaron Tait proving to give Warriors that cutting edge characterised by Tait’s elusive running. Tries for the Warriors came from Jamie Roberts, Thomas Watkins, Anthony Hall, and Ryan Underwood. Giants only try of the match came from a superb solo effort from Tom Grewar. Charlie Lonegran and Michael Manning put in solid performances for the Giants but it was not enough to stop the Warriors.

Giants 15 – 5 Chiefs
A good game to watch as the Giants wide attack and passing came up against the narrow driving play from the Chiefs. It was the Giants continuity and speed in the wider channels that would eventually break the Chiefs resolute defence. The Giants tries were all quick and lengthy and it was Jack Leslie, Campbell Gibson, and Michael Manning who got their names on the scoreboard. Captain Paul Cairncross lead the Chiefs well and it was his good work that set up Lloyd Clark’s powerful try from out-wide.

Warriors 15 – 0 Hurricanes
The Warriors front five took control of the set piece and they dominated against a lacklustre Hurricanes performance. Warriors’ dominance up-front was directed through fly-half Stafford McDowell and his centre Aaron Tait’s powerful running. Good continuity from the Warriors resulted in tries for TJ Bunten, Aaron Tait, and Gregor Paxton. Despite line-breaks from Aaron Purewal and a strong drive by Ryan Sweeney, their team-mates couldn’t support them as the Hurricanes never truly threatened their opponent’s line.

Lasswade RFC hosted all three games drawing a large crowd which included the under-16’s national coach, Gary Mercer, casting his eye over potential recruits. In blustery yet sunny conditions the 148 boys managed 18 tries between themselves.

East Lothian Falcons 26 – 22 Capital Crusaders
Both sides started the game physically as the teams remained undefeated up to this point. Capital through set-piece dominance opened the scoring through Ben Appleson when he took an inside ball cutting the drift defence apart. The Falcons responded as Cammy Hutchison’s direct running saw him over the line, the try converted by Lewis Berg. After a period of excellent rugby producing try-scoring opportunities for both sides it was Thomas Hamilton and Josh Stewart’s converted tries that saw the Falcons go into half-time 21-5 ahead. The response from the Capital was immediate as turnover ball was put to good use in the counter with beautiful off-load putting Ross McCann in the corner. McCann added to his tally when the ball fell kindly for him following a strong kick-chase, this time Ben Appleson converted. Under-the-cosh Falcons produced a stunning length-of-the-field try showing good handling, pace, and off-loading play that was finished in the corner by Elliot Glynn. Hope was given to Capital when Appleson gathered an interception to out-pace the defenders and score between the sticks but with time running out the Capital side were unable to steal the win.

Western Chargers 19 – 5 Western Warriors
Chargers set the tone following their defeat last week with dynamic running which was rewarded when number eight, Nathan James picked from the back of the scrum and crashed over the line. Chris Pringle added the conversion. A failure to clear their lines saw the Warriors concede again as prop Ross Dunbar was brought down over the line, Pringle again converting. Just before the half Dunbar added his second from a driven line-out leaving the Chargers in a commanding 19 point lead at half-time. Although playing with the wind, Warriors were unable to dominate possession or territory and had to settle for a single try scored by Alasdair Gray.

Eastern Eagles 27 – 5 Eastern Stormers
With the prevailing wind Stormers used it to their advantage by gaining a strong field position which was used as a foothold deep in Stormers territory. From the lineout Gary Munro broke down the wing to score. With the game becoming scrappy thereafter, the Eagles took control and developed some good phases and after an excellent off-load allowed Angus Harley to level the score at half-time. The second-half was an even match with both teams having good opportunities to score. It was the Eagles who drew first blood through centre Andrew O’Neil when he finished off a well-worked phase of possession. Harry Gladstone converted the try. The Eagles soon stuck again with good pace shown from winger Finlay Martin to score in the corner. Dominance prevailed for the Eagles as they scored two more tries, from prop Murray Baxter and Cameron MacDonald’s break from the scrum.

With the selection matches complete and the players having stated their claim for the under-16 player development camp, Grant McKelvey, Senior regional academy manager, has tough decisions ahead of him.

McKelvey said: “We now have the task of selecting around 55 players for the national under-16 player development camp in October.

“We also have the job of completing player feedback reports on all the players who have taken part over the past two weeks. On completion by our volunteer coaches, these reports will then be sent to the players and we encourage all our players to take on board the feedback that will be included & encouraged to share it with their club and school coaches.

“We wish all the players who have been involved over the past two weeks of games and preparation sessions all the best for their club and school seasons and we hope we see a continued improvement in the key national themes of hand-catch, ball presentation, off-load and tackle during the coming weeks."