School sport: Fixture backlog may force cup final date switch

The prolonged period of arctic conditions that have put most of under-18 rugby in Scotland into cold storage these past few weeks may force a change of date for the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Cup finals at Murrayfield, scheduled for Saturday, 29 January.

It is understood schools have been alerted to a likely revision of the timetable and that a statement by the SRU will be made early in the new year.

The impossible playing conditions have meant that the two remaining pool games in the tournament, Merchiston v Robert Gordon's College and North Berwick High School v Hutchesons' Grammar School, will not be played until next month, but it is believed that Saturday 15 January is the proposed deadline date for these games to be played.

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North Berwick had hoped to play their match against Hutchesons' last Saturday but, like virtually all other rugby in Scotland, it fell victim to the winter weather.

Luckily, the match between Stewart's-Melville College and Heriot's went ahead last Tuesday and Stewart's-Melville, last season's beaten finalists, proved too strong for their Edinburgh rivals in a 26-11 win. Try scorers for Stewart's-Melville were winger Leo Bargery and back rows Justin Duncan and Ross McPhail, the remainder of points coming from the boot of stand-off Alex Haggart. For Heriot's, winger John Rae scored a try and stand-off John Polson kicked two penalties.

The result means that Stewart's-Melville will face either Merchiston or Dollar Academy or Robert Gordon's College in the quarter-finals, while Heriot's will be matched against Merchiston or Robert Gordon's. In the other last-eight ties, Edinburgh Academy will play the losers of the North Berwick v Hutchesons' game, while George Watson's College are drawn against Loretto.

With the pool matches extending into the middle of next month, the quarter-finals deadline looks likely to be 22 January with the semi-finals a week later. Finding another date for the finals day will be difficult, not least because of the proximity of Scotland's first home match in the Six Nations Championship.

That, of course, raises doubts about the possibility of using the national stadium and it may be that the organisers will be forced to move to another venue with possibly a mid-week date. The idea of using a Saturday for finals day was to make the whole programme inclusive - the cup games played on the main pitch and plate and bowl finals on the back pitches. However, given that the plate and, in particular, the bowl competition rarely follow a tight timetable, this plan seemed rather ambitious.

Another consideration is that the under-17 district representative programme of matches is due to begin in early February, which would be likely to affect a number of players from both finals teams.Later that month, the under-16 district games go ahead, and at the end of February it is the turn of the under-18s.

It looks as though organisers will spend a white Christmas pondering potential solutions.