The Nicolson Institute U18s became the first junior rugby team from the Island to win silverware for over 30 years to further demonstrate the steady development of rugby over recent years.
Back in the late 1970s and early 80s The Nicolson was running teams in up to five different age groups. With support from Stornoway Rugby Club and the Scottish Rugby Union there are now four boy’s teams and two girl’s teams participating in rugby on the Island.
Following a convincing victory against Nairn and a tie against Fortrose Academy, Grantown Grammar School travelled over to Stornoway last Friday to take on the Nicolson Institute U18s in the final of the Brewin Dolphin Highlands and Islands Bowl.
The Nicolson set the scene early on with their more powerful forwards taking the game to the opposition, forcing defenders to commit to breakdowns and leaving more space for their backs to operate. Grantown looked well organised throughout but struggled to win enough quality ball to work with to allow them to build any pressure.
The home side opened the scoring after 10 minutes following a period of pressure near the Grantown line.
The forwards drove for the line after securing possession from a lineout 30 metres out. Forwards and backs charged at the line, repelled by some brave defence, before Paul Afrin finally broke through for a hard earned score. Alan Farrell converted.
Euan Mackinnon was having a fine game, growing in confidence in his new role at stand-off.
He was varying his game well and it was through his well placed kick that The Nicolson scored their second try.
Euan spotted the Grantown back three out of position and kicked into space, the ball was allowed to bounce and Paul Macdonald benefitted to run clear to touch down near the posts for the first of his two tries. Farrell again converted.
There were no further scores in the first half and the game became fiercely competitive, with both teams cancelling each other out mainly due to some committed tackling.
The Nicolson continued to dominate possession, mainly through a solid scrum and aggressive rucking, with Grantown playing with a quick tempo looking to run at every opportunity from much less ball.
In the second half The Nicolson continued to dominate possession and the constant defending eventually began to take its toll on the Grantown players.
The home side scored a further four tries through Sandy MacNeil, Ross Morrison, a second for Jeff Macdonald and a deserved try for the impressive Coinneach Smith, with Farrell adding one conversion.
Following the match skipper for the day Alick Graham was presented with the trophy to the delight of his teammates.
Difficult to pick out anyone for special mention from what was a terrific performance by all involved, but Coinneach Smith and Paul Afrin showed up well throughout and young Mitch Thompson continues to impress.
This was a well deserved win for The Nicolson boys, who are further rewarded with entry to the knockout stages of the National Bowl competition where they travel down East Renfrewshire to play against Williamwood High School in the quarter finals.
Nicolson Team: Alick Graham (Capt), Paul Afrin, Peter McNeill, Mitchell Thompson, Ross Morrison, Coinneach Smith, Sandy MacNeil, Ali Macleod, Alan Farrell, Euan Mackinnon, Jeff Macdonald, James Morrison, Ali Morrison, Colin Wood, Jason Guilmartin, Calum Mackinnon, Ruaridh Macleod, Jamie Martin, Gregor Forsyth, Michael Macleod.
Nicolson Institute U18s 36 Grantown Grammar School U18s 0