As many as nine buses full of Blairgowrie fans and many more by train and car will descend of BT Murrayfield tomorrow as the Perthshire club aim to make history with their first national trophy.
The first XV – consisting entirely of local players with the majority having been developed from their own youth system – will face Portobello on the international pitch at the national stadium in the curtain raiser for Finals Day, the BT National Bowl.
It marks the culmination of a fabulous season for the Rams, just a year after they were struggling to avoid relegation from BT Caledonia League Two Midlands.
“It’s a historic day for the club, because we’ve never been to Murrayfield and it’s our first national final,” said president Fraser Bissett. “We met with the SRU about the number of fans we have going and they told us we’d sold 200 more tickets than any other club involved on Finals day, which includes Ayr and Melrose in the Cup Final.
“Maybe those clubs have been to finals day many times before and there’s not such much of a novelty for them, but this is a huge thing for our club and so many people want to come and cheer them on.”
Blair broke their long trophy duck last month when they took their regional version of the Bowl by beating Dundee University Medics in the Caledonia final at Panmure’s Forthill ground. That acted as a “quarter-final” for the national competition, and they defeated Strathendrick from the West league in a nail-biting semi-final at JJ Coupar Park three weeks ago.
“I think what helped us that day was the heat, of all things,” added Fraser. “Strathendrick were definitely the most physical side we’d faced all season and we had to defend pretty well for much of that game.
“But they ran out of gas because it was a warm day and our fitness told in the final few minutes, then Dave Malloch got the all-important try in injury-time after a driving maul. Fitness is something we pride ourselves on and we’re hoping it helps us on the big Murrayfield pitch in the final.”
Blair had a slow start to this season as new coach Craig Ormiston bedded in, but the team have been outstanding in 2017 which has included much of their Bowl run.
“Craig’s background was at Perthshire Colts but we approached him last summer to ask him to take on the first XV,” continued Fraser. “A lot of our juniors went to Perthshire for colts and secondary age group rugby and he’s worked with a lot of them before.
“We’ve had five or six guys come back to the club from Under-18s rugby including Craig’s son Finlay, Fraser Black and Euan Constable our big prop and they’ve gelled really well with the guys who’ve been here for a while and bleed for the club, like our captain Andy McOuat.
“All our players are local or from neighbouring areas like Dunkeld. We pride ourselves on the fact that we try to develop our own players, and it’s not always easy because we don’t get players gravitating to us like happens in the cities.
“But numbers at training have been fantastic this year and everyone at the club has worked so hard to get to this final, we’re really lookin forward to enjoying the whole day.”
The club has helped produced two major recent stars for Scotland, as both Sean and Rory Lamont first played the game with Blair’s mini section.
“We have one of Sean’s shirts in pride of place in the club, the boys’ Mum Jean served as a secretary to the club before they moved to England, and they still keep in touch with us,” added Fraser.