The pinnacle of the Scottish schools rugby calendar, the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Cup, is on the horizon, taking place on a week on Wednesday (27 November).
This year sees Edinburgh school, George Watson’s College, compete in both the under-16 and under-18 finals and, for the first time in four seasons, teams from outwith the capital will look to win a Brewin Dolphin Cup final with St Aloysius’ College looking to prevail in the under-16 Cup and High School of Dundee posing as the opposition in the senior competition.
The kick-off in the junior event is 6pm while in the senior competition it is 7.45pm.
The last time a school outwith Edinburgh won the under-18 Cup was six years ago in 2007, when Bell Baxter were crowned champions. For the under-16 competition, capital teams have rallied since 2010 when Glasgow side Hutchesons’ Grammar School were victors.
As defending champions of the under-18 Brewin Dolphin Cup, George Watson’s seem eager to defend their title, something that hasn’t been achieved since Dollar Academy retained the silverware in 2005.
George Watson’s director of rugby, Ally Donaldson, seemed excited at the prospect of a clean sweep for the capital school. He said: “Wednesday 27 November will be a great night for school and it is really special that we have both teams here.
”In terms of the under-18 defending their title, this is a new group of players and with the incentive to play on the Murrayfield pitch we’re all looking at it as this is a new team out to achieve something for themselves.”
His under-18 captain, Ally Miller, reiterated the point. He said: “The under-18 squad would love for both teams to win the Cup, I don’t think it’s ever happened before.”
However, they will be up against some stern opposition in the form of High School of Dundee, who have had some great wins on the journey to Murrayfield. The school haven’t reached the final since 2004 and are hungry to end their drought.
Dundee captain, Chris Jollands was complimentary of his team’s efforts to date but had a clear focus on the final. He said: “It’s a fantastic achievement to reach the final here at Murrayfield and something the whole school is excited about.
“We’ve been building towards the under-18 Cup final for two years and now that we’re here we want to go the whole way.
“Our school haven’t had this opportunity in years but we hope we can change that this time around.”
Meanwhile, in the under-16 Brewin Dolphin Cup final, Mark McKenzie, coach of St Aloysius’ and former Scotland A and Glasgow Caledonians stand-off said: “Our players have had a meteoric rise in their performances this season, we didn’t expect to be here when we started out.
“Every one of the players can’t wait to get a shot on the international pitch and the atmosphere around the school is electric. We’re hoping that this experience will ignite further rugby growth in the school.”
St Alyosius’ haven’t competed in a school Cup final since they won in 1996.
Oli Brown, captain of the under-16 George Watson’s side, said: “Every Cup game is tough but we know both teams will take it up a notch on such a big occasion.
“There’s a really good buzz in the squad just now but we know we need to work really hard to show what we can do and win the title.”
In the secondary schools competition, the Brewin Dolphin Shield, the semi-final slots are almost at capacity. In the under-18 competition Aberdeen side, Robert Gordon’s College will face the winner of Hutchesons’ Grammar School and Loretto School. In the second semi-final, Bell Baxter High School and Stewart’s Melville College will battle it out for the first place with St Aloysius’ College and Glasgow Academy playing to determine who will take the second berth.
The final four teams for the under-16 Shield competition are already confirmed. Glenalmond College will play Hutchesons’ Grammar School in the first semi-final as North Berwick High School host Fettes College in the second.
The semi-finalists will soon become apparent in both the under-16 and under-18 Brewin Dolphin Plate competitions.
In the under 16 competition, two of the forthcoming quarter-finals have been decided with Calderglen High School hosting Queen Victoria School and Gordonstoun away to St Columba’s School. In the other fixtures Dunbar Grammar School will play a Highlands and Island side yet to be confirmed. The final match will be either of Lasswade High School and Royal High School to play one of Morrison’s Academy, Buckhaven High School or Queen Anne High School.
Queen Victoria School also feature in the quarter-finals of the under-18 Plate, playing away to Kelvinside Academy. Edinburgh side Royal High School will host either Glenalmond College or Morrison’s Academy with Gordonstoun heading to either Millburn Academy or Culloden Academy. The final quarter-final fixture will be Hawick High School or Knox Academy matching up against a combined Marr College and Prestwick Academy side.
Quarter-final ties for both the under-16 and under-18 competitions have to be played before the Saturday November 30. For dates and times of these matches visit www.scottishrugby.org.