Belmont make little go long way

BELMONT Academy have been drawn at home to holders Merchiston Castle in the Scottish Schools Cup, and while the Edinburgh school will be odds-on favourites to progress, the game might help generate some much-needed interest in rugby in Ayrshire.

According to Bill Murrie, a PE teacher at the Ayr secondary school, rugby is having a hard time surviving because of "the football mentality here" and it’s only due to his efforts, and those of fellow PE teacher Dougie Blake, that boys who want to play the oval-ball game can do so.

"We normally field four teams a season," said Murrie, a former Ayr flanker, "but because of the lack of numbers interested in rugby in the first and second years we cannot, at the moment, turn out XVs at those age groups.

"If that continues, then it will obviously have a knock-on effect in the senior age groups, where we are quite strong."

While Belmont Academy get some assistance from Ayr RFC and Graham Kilgour, the SRU’s development officer for the area, it looks as if rugby’s governing body needs to address this problem, given that Marr College and Belmont are the only two schools in the Ayr region providing rugby.

Murrie stresses that the lack of fixtures is a real worry, Belmont having played only three games this season, a cup victory over St Patrick’s (Coatbridge) and two defeats at the hands of Marr and Jordanhill CS.

Prior to meeting Merchiston, Murrie’s boys have only one more match pencilled in, hardly the best preparation for playing a school which fields around 20 teams.

However, Murrie is confident his side will rise to the occasion, and it could be that the national first-round tie, to be played before 5 November, could take place midweek under the floodlights at Millbrae, if Merchiston are agreeable.

At the moment, Belmont have centre Stephen Manning and lock Ross Nisbet in the Glasgow Under-19 squad, while no fewer than five are in the district under-16 group, namely stand-off Ross McMath, flanker Adam Kemp, locks Jamie Mathieson and Neil Hamilton, and No8 David Hornell.

Most of those boys will be hoping to be included in the Belmont squad of 28 who will head for a four-match tour of Vancouver next Easter.

North Berwick’s mini teams did their club proud on Sunday when they won the primary 4, 5, 6 and 7 age groups at the Glasgow Accies mini festival. In addition, Dougie Laidlaw and Thomas Brown won playing awards, handed out by Scotland full-back Glenn Metcalfe.