MERCHISTON emerged as winners of the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Under 16 Cup final at Murrayfield last night at the end of an exciting and tight match on the international pitch.
In the end Merchiston’s better forward work in the technical areas of maul and ruck prevailed over Strathallan’s more adventurous and free-flowing approach to the game. But both sides deserve enormous credit for providing a skilful game of rugby in which tackling and handling were creditably accurate. “We knew that we had to play open rugby to break down Merchiston,” said David Barnes, the Strathallan coach. His opposite number Tom Bomplied admitted: “We were worried every time Strath moved the ball wide but we played to our forward strength and it worked”.
It was Merchiston who looked the stronger in the opening minutes, their structured approach resulting in territorial dominance and the first points of the match. A penalty kick to the corner allowed Merchiston to drive the ensuing line-out and then launch a series of close range drives that ended with flanker Benjamin Kenderdine squeezing over for an unconverted try.
Strathallan responded positively with some clever running from their midfield backs that seemed to bear fruit when a subtle kick by stand-off Josh Henderson allowed winger Johnny Rutherford to run on to the ball and canter over for what seemed a good try, only for the score to be disallowed because of an offside decision, leaving Merchiston with a 5-0 interval lead.
Merchiston began the second half as they had the first, by camping themselves in the Strathallan half and using their powerful pack to win good ball. It all but brought a second try when, from a driven line-out, Kenderdine forced his way over. The ball, however, was held up and no try was awarded.
Minutes later Merchiston reaped the reward for their second-half pressure with a try by Jamie Maran, the flanker bursting over from a ruck after a skilful backline attack. Strathallan were reduced to 14 men with the loss of flanker James Burdett to the sin-bin but, far from feeling the disadvantage, the Perthshire school reacted with a score, as lock Alfonso Ramos, latching on to a loose ball, showed a turn of speed to outstrip the defence.
Merchiston scrum-half Daniel Nutton was then shown a yellow card but, even restored to a full team, Strathallan were unable to find a way past the Merchiston defence.
Scorers: Strathallan: Tries. Merchiston: Tries Kenderdine, Maran.
Strathallan: C Nicol; J Rutherford, H Tyson, C Holborn, H Thomson; J Henderson, P Rumble; R Muir, J Waller, H Manos, F Buchan, A Ramos, C Hirst, J Burdett, G Meiklem Subs L Steele , C Gordon
Merchiston: J Gillan; A Ogilvy, T Harvey, T Bissett, A White; F Ellison, D Nutton; G Tarr, H Burn, J Lascelles, S Richardson, A Middleton, J Maran, B Kenderdine, K MacCormick Subs A Evans, M Oliver, L Tang
Referee: S Grove-White