This wasn’t a classic final but it was never dull and was played with a palpable intensity from beginning to end. Nor was the result ever a foregone conclusion, with Watson’s scrapping right to the final whistle.
The Academy, unbeaten all year and starting as slight favourites, rarely looked like a side in control, as Watson’s harried them from first to last. Indeed, the Academy may not have won had Watson’s second row Matt Poole not been sin-binned moments into the second half, a decision which turned the game.
The Academy had been sluggish and fitful in the first half, trying to force the game. Neither side developed any continuity and both sides committed a seemingly-endless succession of basic errors. Watson’s had probably edged a nip-and-tuck first half and led 3-0 at the break thanks to a second-minute Andrew McMillan penalty.
Yet Poole’s sidelining seemed to galvanise the boys in blue and, by the time the Watson’s second row returned to the pitch, the Academy had scored two tries, taking a lead that would be whittled away but which they would never entirely surrender. The first of those tries came six minutes into the half when Alexander Muir, who to that point had performed like a nervous debutante, spun through two tackles in heavy traffic on the Watson’s 22, drawing full-back Fraser McKay and putting Robbie Orr over for the opening try.
Within four minutes the Academy had added another, Freddie Smith scooting into the left corner after some good work by Tom Salisbury. Crucially, Alex Swain, after a comedy attempt at the previous conversion, struck over the two extra points from the touchline. When things got tight later on, it was a crucial cushion as Watson’s stormed back.
Watson’s applied incredible pressure on the ball carrier throughout and the Academy were lucky not to be on the wrong end of a sin-binning themselves as they racked up penalty after penalty, especially in the last quarter. On such things do these matches turn.
Watson’s still almost made it though. Coach Ally Donaldson eventually got the message to them to kick one of the many penalties they were offered and McMillan brought them back to 12-6 down. Then Smith suffered a rush of blood to the brain and chucked a crazy ball deep in his 22, the ball going loose and Watson’s second row Neil Irvine Hess piling over the line, Swain’s missed touchline conversion leaving them just one point adrift.
Yet, despite a frenzied final ten minutes, the Academy held out. Skipper and man of the match Chris Deans was immense throughout but really stepped up during those dying minutes. Watson’s were driven forward by impressive little scrum-half and skipper Ramsay Young. The only pity was that one side had to lose.
Scorers:Edinburgh Academy: Tries: Orr, Smith. Con: Swain. Watson’s: Try: Irvine Hess. Pens: McMillan 2.
Edinburgh Academy: R Orr; T Salisbury, A Swain, T Grey, F Smith; A Muir, A Glashan; J Haining, A Lutton, A McWilliam, R Seydak (T Mitchell, 38), C Thomson, C Simpson, R Simpson, C Dean (c).
Watson’s: F McKay; D Johnston, A McMillan, J Broadley, C MacBeth; E McKean, R Young (c); M Gillespie, R Gregor, R Jack, M Poole, N Irvine Hess, M Horsman, N Hurn, W Brown.
Referee: J Van der Merwe.