Schools prepare for crucial semi-final clashes

THE teams who have made it through to the semi-finals of the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools under-18 Cup are raring to go ahead of Saturday's matches.

Representatives from the schools – Edinburgh Academy, George Watson's College, Merchiston Castle and Stewart's-Melville College – were at Edinburgh's Calton Hill yesterday ahead of their last-four ties at the weekend.

Edinburgh Academy host George Watson's in the first of the semis on Saturday (Newfield, 11am) looking to carry on the form that has won them 14 of 16 matches this season.

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Captain Fraser Gillies said: "We have been frustrated, like everyone, by training indoors over the last few weeks, but we have a strong team spirit and we are going into the game in a good frame of mind. George Watson's are a good team and it is shaping up to be a really close encounter."

George Watson's defeated the Academy 18-7 before Christmas, but captain Malcolm Peacock believes that result will have no relevance come Saturday. He said: "When we defeated them previously, both teams were missing key players so this time will be different. We know they have some dangerous players, but so do we, and we will be doing everything we can to get to the final."

In the afternoon, Merchiston Castle will be looking to move a step closer to history when they take on Stewart's Melville College (Colinton Road, 2pm).

The Edinburgh school have won the event five times – only equalled by St Aloysius and Gala Academy – and are looking for their sixth title in 2010.

Merchiston's Myles Paterson said: "We were lucky enough to get a game in last Saturday against North Berwick HS which has helped our preparations. We won 15-0, but it was a good test ahead of Stewart's-Melville's visit."

Michael Crawley is one of a handful of Stew-Mel players involved in the team that lost in the 2009 final to Fettes College and that experience could prove vital. "Playing at Murrayfield last year was a great experience, so to get there again is the goal although I know we face a stiff test away from home at Merchiston," he said.

The under-15s semi-finals also take place on Saturday. The finals of both competitions will take place at Murrayfield on Thursday, 11 February.