IF ever there was a case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory it was in evidence at Murrayfield last night.
For the second season in succession, Dollar Academy were denied the silverware at the death in the final of the Scottish Schools Under-18 Cup.
Last year, they went down to George Watson’s College by the margin of a last-gasp penalty. Last night, Stewart’s-Melville College triumphed 36-32 in circumstances even more difficult to take for the Dollar boys.
Academy appeared to have scored the winning try two minutes from the whistle, and when they secured ball in their own 22 after the restart, scrum-half Gus Warr kicked the ball out of play, believing the clock was showing full-time.
He had, in fact, miscalculated by two seconds and so a lineout was awarded, from which Stewart’s-Melville worked a maul and scored.
“It was a fantastic game and a great advert for schoolboy rugby,” said Stewart’s-Melville coach Bryn Lockie, adding : “We really feel for the Dollar boys, who thought they had the game won but somehow we’ve managed to snatch the victory.”
It was, however, a deserved win for Stewart’s-Melville, who out-scored Dollar by six tries to four in a display of dynamic rugby worthy of the Murrayfield final.
Yet, Dollar had looked the more likely winners in the opening phases of the game, their non-stop pressure producing a try after 10 minutes, triggered by a tap penalty dart from scrum-half Gus Warr and finished from close range by flanker Reece McAllister, full-back Ben McIlwraith adding the conversion points.
Stewart’s-Melville, however, soon recovered, their latent confidence showing with a defence-splitting run from Jacob Lineen the prequel to waves of promising attacks that ended with Lineen sprinting over in the right-hand corner.
The conversion was missed but at the other end McIlwraith was on target with a penalty goal to stretch Dollar’s lead. Stewart’s-Melville responded with delightful handling, using the width of the field to give Lineen a second try.
Dollar’s reply was a bullocking run by prop Euan McLaren and a try for the supporting second row Jonathan Davies, McIwraith again providing the conversion points to give his side a 17-10 halftime lead.
Dollar’s lead was again stretched with a second penalty goal by McIlwraith but the advantage was quickly reduced as Jack Blain scorched in for his side’s third try, countered from the kick-off by a Dollar touchdown by wing Charlie Dineen.
The try fest continued as Lineen completed his hat-trick, this time Ross Thompson converting, and when flanker Connor Boyle went over from a metre out, Stewart’s-Melville were in the lead for the first time in the match.
Thompson again converted for a 29-25 advantage. But in a furious finish, Dollar hit back with a try by Dineen converted by McIlwraith. Then came Warr’s clock error, allowing Stewart’s-Melville to drive the ensuing lineout for prop Rory O’Hara to burrow over, Thompson’s conversion just adding to Dollar’s misery.
Earlier, St Aloysius College struck a blow for Glasgow rugby by winning the Scottish Schools Under-16 Cup with a 10-3 win over Strathallan, a historic event as the St Aloysius coach, Eric Urquhart noted. He said: “We’ve never before beaten Strathallan in competitive rugby at this level.”
St Aloysius were fully worthy of the title with a performance that blended physicality with some sublime running. The only try of the match came from second row Luke McCutcheon, converted by centre Tom Lonergan.
The other points for St Aloysius came from an Adam Scott penalty, while for Strathallan, centre Angus Vipond kicked a penalty goal.
Stewart’s-Melville College Under-18 : F Smith; J Blain, C Symes, R McPherson, J Lineen; R Thompson, C MacDonald; R O’Hara, E Kelman, T Petiau, F McIlwraith, C Murchison, B Dollery, C Boyle, C Rowberry Subs R Mountford-Smith, P Ritchie, F Fraser, A Douglas, N Brown, T Hughes
Dollar Academy Under-18 : B McIlwraith; C Dineen, F Fitzpatrick, A Citro, S Smith, G Hughes, G Warr; M Sharpe, A Cooper, E McLaren, J Skipper, J Davies, R McAllister, G McGregor, L Peterson Subs M Smith F Bennett, R Power, H Neil, L Kellly, J Millar, J Price
Strathallan Under-16 : L Louden; C Carracher, E Nicol, A Vipond, S Milligan; R Bayne, H Lapsie; R Walker, R Joyce, S Cameron, F James, A Kudehinbu, I Galloway, P Elliott, A Marsh Subs J Higginbottom, O Hamzeh, F Cleaver-Smith, H Allen, J Shepherd, C Paterson, P Wallwork
St Aloysius College Under-16 : N McAlister; L Bardelli, A Hughes, T Lonergan, A Scott; L Jack, J Kelly; L Patrick, P Norris, B McLean-Paton, L McCutcheon, T Mudotti, M Duffy, D Lizerri, L Campbell Subs D Sharkey, D Reda, JP Brawley, Z McKeown, E Darroch, I Mitchell, R Ross
Under-16 Shield Final : George Watson’s College 31 Glenalmond College 27
Under-!6 Plate Final : Earlston High School 26 High School of Glasgow 12
Under-16 Bowl Final : Lomond & Helensburgh 26 Hutchesons’ Grammar School 31
Under-18 Shield Final : Glenalmond College 19 Strathallan School 36
Under-18 Plate Final : High School of Glasgow 18 Hutchesons’ Grammar School 23
Under-18 Bowl Final : Morrison’s Academy 39 Bell-Baxter High School 13
Source : HeraldScotland