Stewart’s-Melville College ran in nine tries against Marr College to book their place in the final of the Scottish Schools under-18 Cup at Murrayfield on 4 December, when they will meet the winners of tonight’s semi-final between George Watson’s and Edinburgh Academy.
On a firm pitch and in dry overhead conditions, Stew-Mel put on a display of total rugby, retaining possession over long periods and showing the effectiveness of their back play under the baton of stand-off Christian Townsend, pictured, son of Scotland head coach Gregor.
Moreover Stewart’s-Melville’s defensive play was as sharp as their back play, the repertoire of which was extensive and, one has to say, potent in terms of creating tries. Outside Townsend, Matt Russell and Aidan Boyle formed a formidable centre pairing and on the wing Aidan Cross showed his finishing power with a hat-trick of tries.
The match, however, threw up the need to raise the standard of rugby outwith the top tier of the conferences, as the Stewart’s-Melville coach, Stuart Edwards, hinted in his post-match comments.
“Unfortunately there is a big gulf between the conferences and we’re lucky to be exposed to the likes of Watson’s, Merchiston and Dollar every week. That told a bit today. We were happy with our win. We challenged the boys to keep ball. Perhaps the start gave us extra impetus and we were helped a lot by the crowd,” he said.
For Marr the semi-final at Inverleith was too great a step up in level from their regular diet of rugby. “Ultimately it was a game too far for us. I was happy that the boys rolled up their sleeves in the second half. We had one or two opportunities we didn’t take, but it wouldn’t have made any difference – Stew-Mel were just too good,” reflected Gregor Ness, the Marr coach.
Stewart’s-Melville were quickly into their stride with a try by Cross from a set move and when the wing took an inside pass it was try number two for the Inverleith side. Thereafter in the first half, centre Russell, No 8 Robert Gordon, blindside flanker James Mather and wing Bruce McNulty ran in tries for a 38-0 interval lead.
Gordon bagged a second try at the beginning of the second half and when Townsend ghosted through for his side’s eighth try it was 50-0. A third try by Cross and Russell’s seventh conversion completed the scoring.