Scotland U18 lost out 31-17 to a physical English outfit at Preston Grasshoppers RFC on Sunday afternoon, despite a valiant effort from the squad.
The Scottish age-grade side scored two tries against the talented hosts and the squad will take heart from their performance as they now build towards the upcoming U18 International Series, which begins in April and will also feature Ireland, Wales, Italy and Canada.
Scotland U18 Captain, Euan McLaren, said: “We fell down on the set-piece today but there were some promising signs in attack and we will look to build on these positives going forward.
It’s a huge honour playing for your country at this age level and as a squad, we are now looking forward to our next challenge at the International Series.”
England came out firing during the early exchanges and despite Scotland’s effort to stop a series of back-line interplays, the home side took the lead with a try from second-row Joe Tunney who charged through the defence to go over left of the posts in the sixth minute.
However, it wasn’t long before Scotland found their stride from a scrum metres out with hooker Angus Fraser taking it from the base and coming up just short, before second-row Harry Butler gathered and crashed over after 15 minutes. Scotland out-half Ross Thompson added the extras to send the visitors into the lead.
The momentum of the match continued to sway between both sides with some effective kicking from Scotland’s Thompson keeping England’s charge at bay.
The hosts then made the most of a line-out on the half-way line, Charlie Wright popping a clever ball to Aaron Hinkley who showed both power and pace in attack to secure England’s second try of the match with stand-off Tom Hardwick converting to claim back the lead.
Scotland showed signs of promise in the final stages of the first-half with forwards and backs combining effectively before going in at the break within a score of the hosts.
An early line-out for England deep inside Scotland’s 22 led to several attacks down Scotland’s left flank before the ball was moved wide to the right through Tom Hardwick, who later danced his way over for the first try of the second-half before converting.
Minutes later, England found themselves under pressure in the 22 and with Thompson standing tall, the out-half charged down Hardwick to collect and score Scotland’s second try. The Stewart’s Melville captain also added the points after 47 minutes.
England continued to probe in Scotland’s 22 and a responsive kick through from Hardwick enabled centre Cameron Redpath to gather and touch down in the 50th minute.
Scotland reacted with some fine play in England’s half and sustained pressure eventually led to a penalty opportunity for Thompson, who guided the ball through the uprights to edge closer to the hosts.
However, England soon located an opportunity down the left and with forwards gathering momentum, a driving maul found its way towards the Scottish line before Tom Seabrook drove over for their fifth try. Hardwick converted the score in the 60th minute.
Scotland continued to defend hard in the final stages of the match and showed glimpses of their strength in attack, however England managed to see out the game in possession.
Scotland U18: Jack Blain (Stewart’s Melville College); Josh Eagers (Merchiston Castle School), Andrew McLean** (Stirling County RFC), Rory McMichael* (Wellington College), Jacob Lineen (Stewart’s Melville College); Ross Thompson (Stewart’s Melville College), Gus Warr (Dollar Academy); Andrew Nimmo (Biggar RFC), Angus Fraser** (High School of Dundee), Euan McLaren** CAPTAIN (Dollar Academy), Harry Butler* (London Irish), Callum Bell (The Glasgow Academy), Rory Darge** (North Berwick High School), Connor Boyle (Stewart’s Melville College), Callum Cruikshank** (Dollar Academy). Replacements: Finlay Scott** (Jed Thistle RFC), Murphy Walker (Strathallan School), Daniel York** (St Aloysius’ College), Cameron Henderson (Strathallan School), Jack Hutchison* Sedbergh School), Roan Frostwick** (North Berwick High School), Matthew Davidson (Merchiston Castle School), Grant Hughes (Dollar Academy).**
** BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy Stage 2 player 2016/17 * Scottish Exile player
England U18: Iwan Hughes; Arron Reed, Oli Morris, Cameron Redpath, Cadan Murphy; Tom Hardwick, Ollie Fox; George Head, Nic Dolly, Joe Heyes, Joe Tunney, James Scott, Aaron Hinkley, Charlie Wright, Josh Basham. Replacements: Will Capon, James Kenny, Bevan Rodd, James Dun, Andy Christie, Cameron Kelemeti, Fraser Dingwall, Tom Seabrook.
Referee: Maikel English (WRU)