Scotland Under-18's campaign got underway with a 28-6 loss to their English counterparts at Dalziel Park in Motherwell this afternoon.
Despite good passages of play and pressure in the opening exchanges, the Scots went in 11-6 down at the break.
Unfortunately England grew into the second-half and, after defending well against the ball-playing Scots, showed composure to capitalise on counter-attacking opportunities offered by errors to make for a scoreline which poorly relfects the match itself.
I thought that the effort from the whole team was fantastic today.
-- Scotland under-18 head coach Eddie Pollock
"We put them under real pressure, but we were punished for making two errors in the last five minutes, where they turned over and scored at the other end.
“You have to give England credit for their performance, for their ambition and the way they can score from anywhere on the field, however those scores came off our errors today.
We played some really good rugby. I’m very proud of the players. We’ve got a decent squad here and I’m sure they’ll improve from this experience.”
England’s Jamie Mallinder and Scotland centre Adam Hastings exchanged a pair of penalties in the opening quarter of an hour (3-3).
The men in white then crossed the whitewash on the 20-minute mark after a bulldozing maul powered its way up to the five-metre line.
Scotland under-18 held out well against repeated pick and goes before stand-off Joe Marchant sent an inch perfect cross-field kick to the on-rushing wing Rotimi Segun who collected and dove to score (3-8).
With the conversion missed, a concerted effort from Scotland to hit back from the restart was rewarded almost immediately with a kickable penalty, which Hastings slotted once more to narrow the gap going into the interval (6-8).
It took a quarter of an hour for the scoreboard to be troubled in the second-half and it came in the form of an England sucker punch as Scotland piled on the pressure between the opposition 10m line and 22.
England back-row Sam Underhill capitalised on turn over ball to race 50 metres to score, before Mallinder converted (6-18).
Scotland contnued to threaten, with stand-off Rory Hutchinson and centre Josh Laird linking well to send the ball wide to replacement wing Reuben Norville who just couldn’t control the ball as he dove for the pass at the line.
Despite their late threat it was disappointment for the young Scots again as England crossed twice in the closing stages of the game, Charlie Thacker and Joe Marchant on the board, with centre Mallinder the creator once again.
Scotland Under-18: 15 Ruari Howarth; 14 Ben Robbins, 13 Adam Hastings, 12 Josh Laird, 11 Robbie Nairn*; 10 Rory Hutchinson, 9 Hugh Fraser*; 1 Murray McCallum, 2 Jake Kerr*, 3 Zander Fagerson, 4 Stephen Ainslie*, 5 Andrew Davidson, 6 Scott Burnside*, 7 Matthew Smith, 8 Jamie Ritchie* CAPTAIN. Substitutes (all used): 16 Lewis Anderson, 17 Gary Robertson, 18 Callum Sheldon, 19 Lewis Wynne, 20 Ally Miller*, 21 Andrew Manson, 23 Reuben Norville.
* Sportscotland Institute of Sport supported player 2013/14
England Under-18: 15 George Perkins; 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Lucas Slowik, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 Kai Little; 10 Joe Marchant, 9 Jack Maunder; 1 Lewis Boyce, 2 Jack Walker, 3 Jack Stanley, 4 Stanley South, 5 George Nott, 6 Sam Smith, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Will Safe. Substitutes (all used): 16 Ollie Adams, 17 Owen Hills, 18 Jack Spencer, 19 Huw Taylor, 20 Callum Clark, 21 Alexander Mitchell, 22 Charlie Thacker, 23 Taylor Prell.
Man of the match: Number 8, Jamie Ritchie
Scotland U18 6-28 England U18, Dalziel Park
Sunday 30 March – Ireland U18 v Scotland U18, Coolmine RFC, Dublin (kick-off 2pm)
Thursday 10 to Sunday 20 April – FIRA/AER U18 Championship, Poland