Heartbreak for rugby teens

Brewin Dolphin National Bowl

Quarter Final

Williamwood HS 17

Nicolson Institute U18s 10

THERE was agony this week for the Nicolson Institute’s under 18 rugby side who came within five minutes of the final four stages of the Brewin Dolphin National Bowl.

With just minutes left on the clock following an ebbing and flowing clash at the home of current RBS Championship League A leaders, GHA RFC the Nicolson were holding Williamwood High School to a 10-a-piece share of the score.

Just five minutes remained on the referee’s watch when Williamwood’s inspirational stand-off player struck a late, fatal blow when he supported his scrum halfs snipping run from an attacking scrum to jink his way over to score between the posts. He then knocked over the simple conversion to open up a seven point lead with only minutes to play.

It was a bitter blow to the brave Niccy boys who, after a long trek down to Glasgow for the match, saw a possible semi-final clash against Peebles HS snatched away in such a cruel fashion.

Throughout the match the N.I forwards had dominated the Williamwood pack with all performing well, benefiting from training alongside the Stornoway senior side. Pick of the backs was Jamie Martin who subdued his opposite man, one of Williamwood’s main threats.

The day had started off with great promise for the travelling teens when Ewen Mackinnon kicked off on a pitch which was in excellent condition given the recent wet weather. The Nicolson started brightly and it was soon clear that their forwards were going to dominate the forward exchanges, but the Williamwood backs looked sharp.

Both sides were showing signs of early nerves but for the first 15 minutes the Nicolson side were camped in their opponents half and could, and possibly should, have given themselves well ahead, such was their dominance. As it was their only reward for all this early pressure was a try scored by Coinneach Smith after ten minutes.

Ali Macleod picked up from the back of a scrum and drove into the Williamwood midfield. A series of rucks took them close to the line before finally Coinneach crossed for a well deserved score. Alan Farrell narrowly missed the conversion.

After a nervy start the Williamwood halfbacks began showing signs that they could cause problems for the Nicolson defence. Two penalties in quick succession and two good kicks from the Williamwood stand-off and the home side were deep in the Nicolson half for the first time.

From a scrum five metres out from the Nicolson line the Williamwood stand-off created space for his inside centre who had a simple run to the line followed by a successful conversion.

It was now Williamwood’s turn to dominate possession and territory. They took every opportunity to keep the ball away from the forwards and looked more dangerous in open play.

Indiscipline by the Nicolson players also allowed them to keep play deep in the Nicolson half. Just before half time they were rewarded for their pressure with a sweetly struck penalty from 30 metres out to take a 10–5 lead into the half-time break.

The interval allowed the Nicolson players to regroup. They began the second half in determined fashion, taking the game to Williamwood through their powerful forwards.

Skipper Alick Graham led from the front with great support from the rest of the pack with Williamwood struggling to cope. One tremendous driving maul took them 25 metres up field.

The Nicolson maintained the pressure, continuing to keep the ball close to the forwards. Following another series of rucks close to the line Coinneach Smith and Peter MacNeil were stopped short but there was no stopping Paul Afrin, who borrowed over for the Nicolson sides second try. Farrell’s conversion attempt again drifted narrowly wide.

With the scores level with 15 minutes to go both sides raised their game in an effort to find the decisive score. The Nicolson side found themselves pinned back again by a skilful kicking display by the Williamwood standoff.

Perhaps inevitably it was he who struck the killer blow with his late burst between the posts.

Despite time running out fast, the Nicolson raised their game once more and twice came close in the dying minutes, on both occasions Williamwood managed to complete turnovers to prevent tries. In a final flourish Ewen Mackinnon slid through a grubber kick for Jamie Martin and Jason Guilmartin to chase, but desperate defence forced the ball into touch and sealed Willamwood’s place in the final four.

Squad: Ross Morrison, Paul Afrin, Peter MacNeil, Mitchell Thomson, Ruaridh Macleod, Alick Graham (Capt), Coinneach Smith, Ali Macleod, Alan Farrell, Ewen Mackinnon, Jeff Macdonald, James Morrison, Jamie Martin, Colin Wood, Jason Guilmartin, Gregor Forsyth, Calum A Macdonald, Iain M Macleod.