George Watson’s College confirmed their current pre-eminence in Scottish Schools rugby by retaining the Brewin Dolphin under-18 title with an impressive victory over Dundee High School last night.
In front of a crowd of 5,600 Watson’s blended power in the pack with pace out wide and skilful midfield play to put on a display of thrilling and entertaining rugby to earn a deserved win, and a double success last night for the school, whose under-16s also won.
Outstanding for Watson’s were hooker Jake Kerr, who two years ago played on the flank in the under-16 Cup winning team, back row Ally Miller, stand-off Calum Young, and full-back Jamie Cousin. Add to that the exhilarating pace of winger Ben Robbins and the slightly different style of Robbie Nairn and it is easy to see why Watson’s are where they are.
Watson’s had gone into the final as clear favourites but, in the event, in spite of building up a 17-3 lead by half time, the Myresiders were given a tough match by Dundee High School, who shook off their underdog tag to produce a magnificent defensive display and arguably their best performance of the season to make the final a competitive match.
Watson’s coach Ally Donaldson said: “They made it difficult for us at the breakdown and forced us to concede penalties. But I thought that we showed immense character after they come back at us in the second half.”
Alan Campbell, Dundee High’s director of sport added: “We paid for a slow start but we did well to get back on terms”.
It took Watson’s just three minutes to register their first points from a try by their New Year Sprint-winning and winger, Ben Robbins from a slicing break by centre Ronan Kerr and support from full-back Jamie Cousin. It soon became a ten-point lead in as many minutes after right wing Robbie Narin claimed try No 2.
If Watson’s had thoughts of cruising to victory, Dundee High quickly disabused the Myresiders of that notion with trenchant forward play, jabbing breaks by scrum-half Henry Sampson and good use of the ball in crowded traffic.
It all but produced a try by Adam Powrie, only for the referee to rule that the big prop had been held up. But, from the ensuing scrum, Dundee High were awarded a penalty, allowing their Scotland under-18 squad centre Duncan Leese to kick a goal for his side’s opening points. Inspired by that, Dundee High repeated their forward driving play and again earned a penalty after Watson’s were force to bring down a driving maul. Leese again put made a good attempt at goal but this time the centre was out of range.
Watson’s quickly composed themselves and produced some excellent attacking rugby that had Dundee High’s defence stretched to the limit. Then, from a scrum, Watson’s used decoy runners effectively to give stand-off Calum Young room to break the Dundee cover but it took the assistance of his forwards to ground the ball.
Young, who had enjoyed a good first half, converted his own try to put Watson’s into a 17-3 interval lead.
Two minutes into the second half, Watson’s increased their lead from clever handling in their backs and a forceful run from Cousin. The full-back was stopped a metre short but his superb off-load to Young in support gave the Watson’s stand-off his second try of the night and again converted.
At 24-3 down, Dundee High School still had considerable fight left in them but, for the third time in the match, their forwards were held up over the line. At the ensuing scrum Watson’s were penalised and, instead of kicking for goal, High took a tap penalty that resulted in a try on the charge for No 8 Brewster White, Leese adding the simple conversion. From the restart Dundee High School struck again with a break down the left touchline by Marshall MacLeod, whose finely weighted pass gave flanker Ollie Davidson an unopposed run to the line, Leese’s kick narrowing Watson’s lead to just one converted try.
Stung by the erosion of their lead Watson’s returned to the offensive and looked to be on course for a second try by Robbins until the intervention of Leese with a superb saving tackle. High School again defended well, both when Watson’s worked a move at a five-metre line-out and when Robbins showed his genuine pace and skipper Ally Miller his power.
Inevitably the dam had to burst as Dundee fought off wave after wave of attack and it was full-back Cousin who found the gap to race in for his side’s fifth try, converted by Young to conclude his side’s points accumulation and seal an impressive win.
Scorers: George Watson’s College - Tries: Robbins, Nairn, Young (2), Cousin. Cons: Young (3). Dundee High School - Tries: White, Davidson. Cons: Leese (2). Pen: Leese.
George Watson’s College Under-18: J Cousin; R Nairn, H Ferguson, R Kerr, B Robbins; C Young, F McMillan; E Irvine, J Kerr, D Berezford, P Halliday, A Coull, Calum Davidson, Connor Davidson, A Miller Subs J Urquhart, G Rostron, C Chalmers, R Lind, C Davies, K Stoddart, C McMillan.
Dundee High School Under-18: J Clarkson; S Lothian, E Fox, D Leese, R Joy; M MacLeod, H Sampson; A Powrie, A Milne, A Hussain, C Sinclair, J Mather, O Davidson, C Jollands, B White Subs P Kidd, C Bennett, A Ashworth, C McCrimmon, C Archibald, C Hedigan, R Paterson.
Referee: A McMenemy.