The High School of Dundee’s young team battled bravely on the big pitch at BT Murrayfield but eventually went down to defeat as George Watson’s College won the Scottish Schools Under-16 Cup for a second successive year.
Starved of the ball for much of the contest, High’s magnificent defence kept them in the game until the power of the big Watson’s side began to tell as fatigue inevitably took over in the dying minutes.
Malachy Keough’s early try for High had raised hopes but it was the opportunistic score by Watson’s scrum-half Brodie Young ten minutes into the second half that proved decisive, taking them into a lead they were not to relinquish.
The High team certainly left everything on the international pitch in their effort to wrest the cup away from Edinburgh, but Watson’s slicker setpiece earned them the lion ‘s share of possession ovetr the 70 minutes.
However High did strike early first blood as the day’s rain finally cleared over Murrayfield although handling remained tough throughout the final with a damp ball.
A knock-on from the opening kick-off by Watson’s gave Dundee a platform inside the 22, two penalties quickly followed and from the second quick tap prop Adam Flynn charged for the line, the ball coming back quickly for Keough to dive over for an unconverted score.
However a charge-down of Callum Findlay’s attempted clearance of the re-start by opposite number Matthew McMillan immediately gave Watson’s a scrum in the shadow of the Dundee posts and a chance to hit back.
High defended stoutly – not for the last time – to force another knock-on but lost the ball against the head in the scrum and Watson’s No 8 Michael Cantle broke off the back to squeeze over the line for the equalising score.
Watson’s enjoyed the majority of the ball for the next 20 minutes but never looked that convincing in the face of High’s swarming defence.
When they did get over the goal line they were held up, and more pressure by Dundee’s defence off the five-metre scrum forced a knock-on from centre Struan Ambrose when Watson’s seemed to have worked an overlap on the short side.
High’s defence continued to be the story of the half, as they scrambled back as Chris Hardie made a break off the back of a scrum, forced another knock-on, wing Rory Harrower smartly scooping the ball in his in-goal area and making a good clearance.
The Dundee defence kept forcing errors and their backs enjoyed a little more ball towards the end of the first half, but handling in the wet and cold remained at a premium.
High had their best spell of the match in the five minutes after half-time, a thrilling break by full-back Ross Clark from his own 22 to Watson’s getting their vocal supporters out of their seats but the pass didn’t come as the support queued up when he was finally felled by the retreating defence.
Then great hands in midfield produced a little space for Flynn down the line but the big tight-head ran out of room and was forced into touch.
Just as it seemed High were gaining control they were hit with a sucker punch, Watson’s wing Zack Neil making space and when the ball went to ground, scrum-half Brodie Young was quickest to react to hack the ball on, showing impressive speed to get to the ball on a 30 metre chase to score his side’s second try.
High had another courageous stand on their own line as the big Watson’s forwards worked up a head of steam, but it was the holder’s backs who broke through for the clinching score, a smart short pass from Euan Maguire sending centre partner Ambrose through a gap to sprint to the line with ten minutes left.
High tried to rally for a score to get within sight in the dying minutes but Watson’s held firm to take the cup.
High School of Dundee: R Clark; S Hargreaves, A Lothian, Z Boyd, R Harrower; C Findlay, H Findlay (capt); C Lyall, C Todd, A Flynn; J Hutcheon, A Neville; M Curnyn, D Smith, M Keough.
Replacements: E Henderson, R Tauro, K Zaldi, M Joss, H Chohan, I Chalmers, C Gunn.
George Watson’s College: S Cockerill; Z Neil, S Ambrose, E Maguire, S Cavens; M McMillan (capt), B Young; C Robertson, B Lynes, C Myles; B Gale, J Aspinall; A waters, C Hardie, M Cantle.
Replacements: C Lister, J Murdoch, M Curnow, J Clark, J Sandland, S Logan, C Elmslie.
Ref: D Young (SRU)