Unbeaten Caley U18 take Regional Championship title
Caledonia regrouped after losing an early try to claim an excellent victory over Borders & East Lothian in the U18 Regional Championship Final in Galashiels.
In a blistering start despite heavy conditions, Borders & East Lothian’s winger Mason Cullen latched onto a kick through without missing a beat and, from the ensuing breakdown, stand-off Christian Townsend waltzed over to cap a breathless start. He missed the conversion, but the tone was set for a highly entertaining match.
From a Caledonia high tackle penalty, Borders & East Lothian built pressure from the lineout and went through several phases but staunch defence allowed the pressure to be relieved as Caledonia battled to get some possession and gain some ground of their own.
As a slight wind began to add weather insult to injury, both sides found it increasingly difficult to get any momentum going, although the game was played with the intent of expanse. And the hardy crowd appreciated it.
Caledonia finally got their opportunity in the Borders & East Lothian half after 20 minutes but by this stage the downpour was dominating every set-piece and an expected feature of the day – repeated knock-ons – came into play.
They did get their reward for patience when second-row Max Williamson finished off from short range after a cracking break from his centre, Thomas Glendinning.
The conversion missed and so scores were tied at 5-5, but Caledonia had weathered the literal storm.
Glendinning showed his pace late in the first half to canter over from halfway inside opposition territory, with Adam Wight adding the conversion to give Caledonia a lead they would not squander.
In a first half that truly ebbed and flowed, Borders & East Lothian enjoyed sustained territory as the whistle beckoned, opting for a quick tap-and-go as they eked towards the line, but it was to no avail and they trailed 12-5 at the break.
Half-time: Caledonia U18 12-5 Borders & East Lothian U18
The second half opened with a searing break from Caledonia winger Ross McKnight as the attacking intent continued. After gaining a penalty, they again went quick with number 8 Caleb Jack notching his side’s third try, converted by Wight to leave the score 19-5.
A blistering counter from Borders & East Lothian, during which the ball changed hands six times, almost brought them back into the contest until it was knocked-on in the final stages with the try-line just about in sight.
Caledonia stretched their lead after Michael Gray’s brilliant lung-bursting run evaded chasing tacklers and Wight confidently slotted over the extras to stretch the lead to 26-5.
Borders & East Lothian hauled themselves back into late contention when outside centre Ben Pickles bounced over after good link-up play from Townsend, whose conversion hit the upright to make the score 26-10.
A galloping McKnight rounded things off for Caledonia after chasing a kick through and calmly collecting in time, with substitute Tom Meyer obliging the extras to put the game to bed, before Borders & East Lothian nabbed a late consolation.
Full-time: Caledonia U18 (12) 33-17 (5) The Borders & East Lothian U18
CALEDONIA: Gabe Smith (Dollar Academy); Ross McKnight (Dollar Academy), Thomas Glendinning (Kirkcaldy RFC), Michael Gray (Dollar Academy), Callum Stephen (Deeside RFC); Adam Wight (Merchiston Castle School), Finlay Troup (Robert Gordons College); Dougal Sands (Dollar Academy), Joe Halliday (Strathallan School), Louis Woods (Highland RFC), Alex Samuel (St Leonards/Madras), Max Williamson (Dollar Academy), Jack Duncan (Ellon Rugby), Tim Brown (Montrose RFC), Caleb Jack (Ellon RFC). Replacements: Daniel Brown (Ellon RFC), Owen Brown (Dunfermline RFC), Kevin Crainey (Stirling County RFC), Charles Wall (Strathallan School), Niall Doherty (Highland RFC), Hamish McWilliam-Gubbins (Highland RFC), Tom Meyer (Mackie), Oliver Davidson (Howe of Fife RFC).
THE BORDERS & EAST LOTHIAN: Matthew Reid (Galashiels Academy/RFC); Mason Cullen (Biggar HS/Jed Thistle), Ben Pickles (Dunbar GS/RFC), Roly Brett (Earlston HS/Melrose), Lewis Smith (Jedburgh GS/Jed Thistle); Christian Townsend (Stewart’s Melville College/Melrose), Ben Lynch (Earlston HS/Melrose); Logan Kirk (Melrose), Patrick Harrison (Peebles), Archie Bogie (Duns), Calum Folan (Earltson HS/Melrose), Ruaridh Lindsay (Earlston HS/Melrose), Andrew Syme (Knox Academy/Haddington), Taylor Wilson (Dunbar GS/RFC), Rowan Armatage (Dunbar GS/RFC). Replacements: Ewan MacRury (Dunbar GS/RFC), Moray Haldane (Selkirk HS/RFC), Ben Howe (Jedburgh GS/Jed Thistle), Henry Sykes (Preston Lodge HS/RFC), Nick Henderson (Earlston HS/Melrose), Cameron Thompson (Kelso HS/RFC), Archie Williams (Dunbar GS/RFC), Jamie Crooks (Galashiels Academy/RFC), Murray Wilson (Galashiels Academy/RFC), JP Cutting (Merchiston Castle School/Kelso Quins).