George WATSON’S COLLEGE under-18 captain Matthew Poole hailed his side’s spirit after they scored a late try to secure the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Cup title for the first time ever.
Despite producing some great rugby players over the years and having won the under-15/16 event three times since 2007, the school had never got their hands on the under-18 trophy until last night at Murrayfield.
It looked like they were heading for more disappointment when a fourth penalty of the match by Merchiston full-back Gavin Parker put his side 17-15 up against their Colinton Road rivals.
But George Watson’s, refusing to panic, worked their way into a try-scoring position with stand-off Adam Hastings the player to cross in the corner with two minutes remaining.
Hastings, the son of former Scotland skipper Gavin, also held his nerve with the conversion as his side came through 22-17 after a hugely entertaining encounter.
Second-row Poole said: “The key thing for us was not to panic after Merchiston went 17-15 ahead because we knew we still had time to get up the other end and score again.
“It means a lot to us to be the first George Watson’s team to lift the under-18s trophy.”
George Watson’s head coach Ally Donaldson added: “I thought we deserved it, but it was made hard by the superb way Merchiston defended. Our attack wasn’t as cohesive as it might have been, but the character the team showed to score the winning try at the end just sums them up. They are a great bunch of kids and I am really pleased that all their hard work has come good.”
Penalties from Hastings and Parker saw the sides tied at 3-3 until 27 minutes when George Watson’s got the night’s first try.
They turned over the ball in the Merchiston ‘22’ and when it was shipped flying left winger Ben Robbins finished things off.
A second Parker penalty for Merchiston made it 8-6 to George Watson’s at the interval before the latter got their second try of the evening.
They pounced on a loose ball in midfield in the 38th minute and centre Chris MacBeth hacked it on before Robbins finished off to score under the posts with Hastings converting.
At nine points down it seemed a long way back for Merchiston, but a try by back-row Ben Flett and two more penalties from Parker suddenly saw the match turned on its head.
That was of course until Hastings rescued his side with time running out.
The skipper of Merchiston Castle, winger Matthew Flett, was gutted at the end having seen his team give their all and said: “In the end we didn’t get the ball enough to play the game we wanted, but when we went ahead we thought we might just sneak home.
“It wasn’t to be, but I am proud of the players.”
And that pride was especially for his twin brother Ben who picked up the man of the match award despite the back-row being on the losing side.
Other players on the pitch who deserved praise were Robbins, Hastings and the whole back-row unit for George Watson’s while, in the Merchiston camp, Parker looked a tidy footballer and centre Patrick Kelly caused problems.
Scorers: Merchiston Castle: Try: B Flett. Pens: Parker 4. George Watson’s College: Tries: Robbins 2, Hastings. Pen: Hastings. Cons: Hastings 2.
Merchiston Castle: G Parker; J Barton, P Kelly, H Slater, M Flett; A Ibbetson, D Crawford; S Usada, A O’Riordan, J Gibson, H Turner, A Sinclair, A Wauchope, B Flett, M Bradbury. Subs: D Voas, J Chan, D Cox, C Coutts, M Craig, D Balfour, C MacLean.
George Watson’s College: C Cash; J MacDonald, F McKay, C MacBeth, B Robbins; A Hastings, J Bedford; M Gillespie, H Campbell, D Berezford, W Brown, M Poole, N Irvine-Hess, J Kerr, A Miller. Subs: L Di Rollo, E Irvine, A Watts, P Halliday, F McMillen, C McLauchlin, C McMillen.
Referee: J van der Merwe.