A penalty goal on the stroke of full-time by scrum-half Fraser Peters gave George Watson’s College victory over Dollar Academy and with it a record-breaking fourth successive title in the Scottish Schools under-18 Cup at BT Murrayfield last night.
In front of a sizeable crowd Watson’s and Dollar produced an exhilirating final in which the pendulum swung dramatically, Watson’s seemingly in command midway through the first half and Dollar dominating in the second and third quarters.
“We played well early on but fell off our game when Dollar hit back. I thought we weren’t at our best tonight” said Ally Donaldson, the Watson’s coach.
His opposite number Don Caskie added: “Dollar had a shaky start but we dug in and came back. These were two evenly matched sides.”
Outstanding for winners Watson’s was full-back Callum Martin. Something of a modern-day Gavin Hastings, the strongly-built Martin scored two first-half tries and helped in a third score. For Dollar, red-hot favourites for next season’s Cup with 11 of their starting XV back, stand-off Grant Hughes posted an impressive performance with two tries.
Watson’s were quickly into their stride, pressuring their opponents and scoring through Martin who ran back a kick-out from defence before powering over for an unconverted try.
Dollar replied with a penalty goal by Ben McIlwraith but Watson’s quickly resumed their points-gathering exercise and again it was Martin who claimed the try after twisting out of several tackles.
The Martin show continued with a strong run from the full-back that brought play to the Dollar line, prop Michael Calder finishing off the approach work with a close-range try which was converted by scrum-half Peters.
Trailing 17-3, Dollar seemed out of the game only for stand-off Hughes to change that view of the game, the No 10 evading two tackles to race in for a try converted by McIlwraith.
Hughes then produced a searing break to send full-back Andrew Graham on course for the line. Graham was stopped but minutes later Dollar got their reward with a second try for Hughes, which was again converted by McIlwrith to level the scores at half-time.
After the break, Dollar struck again with a surge by scrum-half Harry Warr from a tapped penalty finished by flanker Callum Cruickshank, McIlwraith making it four from four with the conversion kick.
Peters and McIlwraith then exchanged penalty goals before Watson’s staged a late fightback, using their forwards to go through nine phases with pick-and-drive rugby that ended with lock Kenny Drummond forcing his way over for a try converted by Peters to tie the scores at 27-27.
Then, from the restart, Watson’s made ground through replacement wing Ewan Evans giving the Myresiders a further chance to deploy the pick and drive game. This time there was no try dividend but instead a penalty award, allowing Peters to kick the winning points and leaving Dollar dejected.